Published on June 15, 2011
ARiver Runs Up It Bruce L. MasonCaught up in an elf’s quest, can the player characters reach a temple that holds the secret of purging chaos from theSyphon River and holds the key to rescuing them all from a collapsing myth?INFORMATION the initiation ceremony has become entangled with the elf’s quest and the candidate’s destiny is now linked to the elf. To save their friend and to possibly cure the river of itsThis was originally submitted as a Living Glorantha chaos taint, they must accompany the elf on a journey alongscenario. It has been presented on Mongoose Publishing’s the river that runs backwards to the very edge of one of theWebsite from where it can be downloaded without charge. foulest chaos nests in Glorantha while a God Learner teamLayout has been performed by the author, Bruce Mason, tries to get their first.therefore all mistakes are the author’s alone. There are nomaps or artwork associated with this scenario. I wish to The scenario is set in the north west area of the Savage orthank Loz and Pete for their assistance and Jeff Richards Steal Woods, approximately three days travel from thefor permitting me to use excerpts from the Stafford Library locale of Flowers in Her Hair. The recent expulsion of thecollection. Thanks also to Mongoose Publishing for hosting EWF from Dara Happa (see Dara Happa Rises) hasthis. emboldened Orlanthi traditionalists, and missionaries from the Dragonbreaker cult founded by AlakoringINTRODUCTION Dragonbreaker have started to arrive, preaching revolt. The king of the Hendrikings, Androfin the Defiant, is feted by his people for his role in the destruction of the ClankingThis is a scenario for 3-5 novice or seasoned level player City but is reluctant to engage in open warfare against thecharacters. The PCs are expected to be traditionalist EWF. So there is tension among the Hendrikiland Orlanthi.Orlanthi or sympathetic to their cause. This scenario can be Most follow their king but many wish to openly embracerun as a follow up to Flowers in Her Hair. Although there the Dragonbreaker cult. For this reason, initiationare no direct links in terms of recurring characters, players ceremonies such as the one that starts this scenario aremight notice certain thematic similarities. Both scenarios relatively rare and usually held either in friendly steads orexplore the relationship between myths and culture in in wilderness areas. Although initiates of OrlanthGlorantha. Both scenarios introduce agents of the two great Dragonbreaker are unlikely to be ostracised by their familyempires of the Second Age – The EWF and the God or clan, they may well be seen as extremists by many. If theLearners – to the player characters. player characters took part in Flowers in Her Hair it is likely that they have a reputation as dragon killers.It is set around about the year 920 ST, after the fall of theClanking City. It is possible to set the scenario earlier, in The scenario can be run in one of two modes. In the firstwhich case the God Learners are agents from the Clanking mode, the initiation candidate is one of the PlayerCity who are seeking water magic secrets in an attempt to Characters who wishes to join the Dragonbreaker cult. Infind a weapon they can use against the besieging forces. the second mode, the initiate is a Non-Player Character who is known to at least one Player Character. Games MastersThe scenario starts with the player characters taking part in should examine the Player Character Background eventsan initiation ceremony that is interrupted by an alim, a and family information for a good link in this case.freshwater elf. The elf summons the characters to aLightbringers’ quest. Before they have time to gather their The events of the scenario take place along the Syphonwits, a God Learner band arrive on the scene, attack and River. More detailed information about the river is given ingravely injure the presiding Rune Priest and steal some the appendix at the end. The river is considered to beprecious items belonging to the elf before departing. Once cursed. It runs uphill from the sea to the “Foot Print,”the dust has settled, the elf explains that he is on a life quest through Foul Blood Forest where it drains into a hole into heal the chaotic Syphon River and has discovered the existence. Most Hendriki consider the river to be evil andwhereabouts of a drop of “primal water” in an abandoned believe it was cursed when it failed to join the other rivertemple on the very edge of “The Footprint.” He needs the gods in trying to fill the gap left by the exploding Worldhelp of surface dwellers to get to the temple. Normally the Mountain, “The Spike,” during the Gods Time. Bringingplayer characters could choose to ignore this summons but the river to life is one of the key challenges of running thisA River Runs Up It 1
scenario. Imagine what it is like to see a river running You have been travelling for days now. Weary and footsoreuphill, to see water laboriously climbing up rocks which you accompany the great god Orlanth on his quest to defeatwould normally form rapids. Tributaries to the river snake the dragon. In front of you, his stern unbending figureoff to the sides and sometimes it seems as if the land itself strides ahead, allowing no rest, no respite.shuns the water’s touch. The water is salty and brackish andwhat it touches it seems to foul rather than cleanse. The Sometimes it feels as though you can hardly rememberonly thing worse than the river is its destination: the lost your homes, your family, the clan folk. You feel stretchedworld of Foul Blood Forest where petrified trees and out somehow, as though you might break asunder withanimals fight some unknowable war against armies of slime fatigue. The storm is blowing as Orlanth approaches theand pus. Despite all this, Orlanthi live near the river and it river yet for some strange reason you cannot feel the windis the best trade route to the sea so they deal with the river on your face. Everything is still.as best they can. Something is horribly wrong.This will not be an easy scenario for most Player Charactersand it is entirely possible that they may fail. They are likelyto be somewhat outgunned but the antagonists are over- A Perception roll reveals the water in the river bubbling asconfident and arrogant. Providing the Player Characters can if something is emerging. A Culture (Orlanthi) roll remindsdetermine when to act rather than attacking blindly, they them of the expected events of the myth of Orlanth’sshould prevail. slaying of the dragon Aroka. However it feels wrong somehow. It will be worth giving the players copies of the Orlanth and Aroka myth handout and briefly reprising it.OUTLINE Right now, Orlanth has reached the dragon’s lair and the rest of them are there to act as Orlanth’s loyal thanes. This1. PCs are at an initiation which is interrupted first by a is an initiation ceremony so it ought to be relatively safe. water elf performing the Lightbringers’ summons Orlanth starts to speak his ritual challenge but the water then by raiding God Learners. The presiding priest is erupts in front of him and then the sky cracks into two. gravely injured and the initiation ceremony has Lightning erupts around them. Characters who make a become entangled in a “This World” HeroQuest. The Persistence roll can stay on their feet and see what happens. PCs must accompany the elf on its mission to cleanse the Syphon River. Shockingly, what ought to be the head of the dragon2. The PCs get outfitted and hear about the elf’s quest appears to be some sort of kelp-encrusted elf in the water. to a long abandoned temple. The elf raises up until it’s half out of the water and then3. The PCs must raid a tomb to gain a key to the starts to speak. What it says in its stilted Theyalan (the local temple. language) is one of the oldest, most sacred passages in4. The journey up river continues. Orlanthi culture. It is the Lightbringers’ Summons.5. The edge of the “footprint.” The PCs must climb down a cliff to gain access to the temple. Chaos stalks my world.6. Encounter with a guardian of living water. Broos have bruised me, the Hand has pawed me.7. The heart of the temple. Can the PCs retrieve the I have taken up the impossible path, Tear before the God Learners? And seek those who must aid my task.8. Epilogue. If the PCs have succeeded they must You are not the first of my friends. decide what to do with the Tear Others walked with me to Heal. The Devil took them, they died.ENCOUNTERS I failed to save them, chaos grows. Give the players a moment to take stock. Instead of facing aEncounter 1 – An initiation dragon they are being summoned on a Lightbringer’s quest by a water elf. This is extremely dangerous because the elf’s intervention is causing the HeroQuest to break downThe scenario starts as the player characters are taking part around them, exposing them to the risk of a backlash.in a HeroQuest as part of an initiation ceremony. The quest Clearly they are in a tricky spot without a lot of answers.involves recreating Orlanth’s slaying of Aroka and is beingpresided over by Inthing Right Eye a Dragon Breaker RunePriest from Ralios. The candidate for initiation who is A quick thinking player can have their character recite theplaying the role of Orlanth is either one of the Player traditional response, “I hear and stand before you. WhatCharacters or a Non-Player Character named Devlan The would you have of me?” If the player doesn’t know theSmile from the Howling Wolves clan and is related to at response then a successful Culture (Orlanthi), or Loreleast one Player Character by ties of blood or friendship. (Orlanth) skill roll ensures that the character remembers. The hope here is that by accepting the summons they canA River Runs Up It 2
defer the next stage of the myth by going deeper into it. by a mercenary’s crossbow skill) or Shield Parry roll. AThis is dangerous because it intensifies the risks and successful missile weapon attack strikes one of therewards of the final stage. mercenaries. If it does enough damage for a Serious Wound then the mercenary falls off the vehicle and can beOther options may include attempting to attack the elf. That questioned later. If the Parry or Evade roll fails, the Playeris not a good idea. Before they take even a few steps the Character is hit by one quarrel with the Impale Combatground shakes and water to starts to spray up from the river Manoeuvre chosen. If the Evade roll succeeds but does notas if it is being sucked into the sky. They may try and beat the mercenary’s roll, then the character is hit but noignore the summons and hope it goes away in which case CM occurs.something starts to emerge from the river in order to devourthe elf. Finally they may try and end the quest themselves, If the skirmish is to be run properly then the followingat which point huge tears appear in the sky and they timeline occurs. There are 6 mercenaries on the main deck.themselves feel their bodies alternately squeezed and The other four God Learners cannot currently be seen.stretched. All of these wrong responses cost each PlayerCharacter who attempts them 1 Hero Point. Pre-combat. Each Player Character who failed their last Persistence roll cannot act for their next 1D4+1 CombatRegardless of their response, just a few seconds later the Actions. That includes reacting to attacks. Note thatHeroQuest is rocked again when the river water bubbles although the Player Characters were armed in the myth, inand foams. Each Player Character who makes a Persistence reality (where they are now), they are wearing simpleroll has time to cast one spell or ready one missile weapon. clothes. Most though will have weapons within a singleRemember that Common Magic cannot be case while Combat Action of movement.HeroQuesting. Combat Round 1. Three of the mercenaries have crossbowsThe dragon is surfacing. Eyes glow like twin suns while its loaded and ready to fire. They will aim but not fire unlessbrood of demons cling to its back. A monstrous groaning threatened. One of the archers, the mercenary captain,accompanies its rise from the water and the spray covers demands that all natives surrender. Three mercenaries whoyou. As you prepare yourselves to sell your lives dearly have already fired jump from the Marlin onto the river bankthere is a massive wrench in the ground. For a split-second and equip melee weapons to form a perimeter. Out of sight,it seems like you are in two places at once. You are here Jezry has located the flotation bags.facing the dragon while at the same time you are strugglingto your feet in the real world as some sort of … machine … Combat Round 2. Jezry retrieves the flotation bags with aemerges from the river, regarding you balefully. grappling hook. If the Player Characters show signs of fight then the mercenaries engage. Ishkari and Barrag will watchThen the Marlin-34A Propitious emerges from the water. activities. Both of them have their abdomen and legs inThe Glow spells on the front shine like two eyes. The squad cover. Barrag has a shield and will parry any missile attacks. Ishkari will be ready with Neutralise Magic andof mercenaries strapped in with their spell matricescovering their mouth and nose look like a troupe of aquatic may Smother anyone who shows signs of being a threat.demons on the back of a sea monster. They simultaneouslyappear in the myth and in the real world, collapsing the two Combat Round 3. Jezry confirms that the bags are whattogether. One of the mercenaries impales the Rune Priest they are after. The mercenaries continue to engage in awith a crossbow quarrel in the chest, causing a major fight if needs be.wound. The elf dives back below the surface of the river interror and each Player Character must make one final Combat Round 4. Ishkari engages in some gloating.Persistence roll in order to avoid losing their next 1D4+1Combat Actions due to the backlash from the collapsing Combat Round 5. The Marlin departs, flying over the trees.myth. If any mercenaries are still on the ground they are left behind. The elf resurfaces.The God Learners Strike! If anyone is being smothered, the spell ends when theThe God Learners have no current interest in the Player Marlin leaves; Ishkari doesn’t want to risk leaving a sorceryCharacters, they are simply following the myth echoes of spell in operation behind her as it’s always possible that itthe elf’s actions. Their goal is to snatch the floatation bags can be used against her and anyway, it’s not as if the localswhich the elf has left behind. The fight can be run in are a threat.summary form or as a full skirmish.Summary Form. Each Player Character can make onemissile weapon attack and must make one Evade (opposedA River Runs Up It 3
Wrap-up can deduce what is going on. The elf has interrupted a myth and the God Learners must have been watching. When theIt is possible though extremely unlikely that the Player sorcerous device surfaced, it merged with the figure ofCharacters may manage to defeat the God Learners at this Aroka and, in myth terms has either killed or taken captivepoint. In which case the elf is delighted. It is much more the unsuspecting Orlanth while stealing his bag of wind.likely that the God Learners have escaped with the goods The initiate is now poised between two worlds and if theand the elf is now making a thin, high-pitched wailing Player Characters cannot find a way to find Aroka andsound. rescue Heler then the initiate will not be able to find a way back to the mundane world.In addition, Inthing is suffering from a major wound to thechest with an arrow impaled in him. Once the arrow is What was Larry up to? He has been following a This Worldremoved. First Aid or Common Magic Healing can stabilise HeroQuest for many tides now. He is being guided by thehim for a while. Divine magic or getting him to a healer fragments of a myth of the “Cleansed One” which may holdwill heal him. The elf does know divine magic healing. If the secret of lifting the curse from the Syphon River.none of the Player Characters can save him and none of Recently however those sorcerers started tracking him. Hethem think to ask the elf then someone spending a Hero had narrowly escaped twice before and realised that hePoint can invoke a plot twist to allow him to live. would need help. He was drawn here because he felt the echo of their HeroQuest in the river’s current.If one of the Player Characters is the initiate he realises thathe is “feeling strange.” He feels as though he can see both What were the sorcerers after? Larry describes them asthe mortal world and the Hero plane. In truth he is caught bags of wind. They are floatation bags keeping his mostbetween myth and reality; he experiences everything in a precious possessions safe. He is reluctant to explain theirheightened manner. Although he does not yet know it, his contents unless he thinks it will persuade the Playerinitiation myth has become entangled with the elf’s quest. If Characters to help him. One contained scrolls andthe elf doesn’t succeed the Player Character will become papyruses detailing his research. The other containedlost on the Hero Plane as his body fails. If the initiate is a something he doesn’t know the words for in Trade Talk. ItNPC then his body is nowhere to be found: he is lost on the is a drop of blood containing the myth fragments that haveHero Plane without a myth to follow. guided him on his quest. It’s a bit like a blood drop that holds magic. The players do not need to know that this is a Mythic Insight Crystal (see the appendix) though some willAt this point the Player Characters should try to get some probably recognise it as that from the description. Larryanswers. will explain more at a later date if needs be.Encounter 2 – Elf’s quest What’s going to happen to us? Larry doesn’t really know though he can venture that crashing out of a HeroQuest is usually painful. As nothing bad has happened yet thenThe elf can speak Trade Talk passably and Theyalan presumably they are still on the HeroQuest. Inthing haspoorly. He is very nervous and also distraught about the more ideas. He tells them to look at their reflections in theloss of his bag. He will, however, answer questions. His river. When they do so they become aware that theirname is Larraviri in Illvolurum (“Larry” for short from here reflections are subtly altered. There is a faint glow of “Heroon) and he is on a holy quest to cure the Syphon River of its Light” around them and their arms and armour look,curse. Thing is, he can’t do it by himself. He needs people somehow, grander. When they turn away they are awarewith legs. He didn’t deliberately choose the Player that their reflections turn back to the Hero Plane. However,Characters but he was drawn by the power of their magic. if one of the Player Characters is the prospective initiate, he has no reflection: he is lost on the Hero Plane.Larry cannot leave the river and has to duck underwaterevery few minutes to breathe. If the Player Characters point Are we HeroQuesting or not? That’s the key question. Theout that Inthing is dying, Larry seems profoundly characters have crashed out of their original HeroQuest butunbothered about the prospect of death. After all we all die. ‘landed’ in Larry’s This World Quest. They can no longerIf pushed he will volunteer to look at the man if they bring follow their own myth but if they follow Larry’s myth thenhim to the river edge. If they do so he grabs the body and they ought to encounter fragments from their own myth. Ifdrags it below the water. After a tense minute he returns they can spot these fragments and complete them properly,having cast Heal Wound. they may be able to reach the end of their own HeroQuest by following Larry’s.If he is asked where the missing initiate is then Larryclaims not to know, however he ventures that the hero What if we just go home? Larry thinks that would be a badplane has broken into reality here so, logically, that must idea as they would probably all die painfully. The Playerhave something to do with it. If Inthing is able to talk he Characters may realise that was supposed to be a threatA River Runs Up It 4
however Larry isn’t very good at threats. Inthing can give plan. He has a bag full of shiny things that he knows leg-more details. If they don’t follow Larry’s HeroQuest then wearers like and he’ll share it with the Player Characters ifthey will be expelled from all the HeroQuests they are they ask. He retrieves a pouch made of some sort of weed.tangled up in and will have no way to succeed at the Anyone making Evaluate roll while sorting through the siltoriginal HeroQuest. The initiate will probably never return and muck in it estimates that it contains gold nuggets to thefrom the HeroQuest or (if he is a PC) he will have “lost his value of over 7000 silvers.hero breath.” In practical terms this means he can neverinitiate into any Storm Tribe Cult and will be perceived as At this point the Player Characters are exposed tokrjalki, “unnatural” by Storm Tribe members. Urox temptation. It is clear that Larry has absolutely no idea ofworshippers will treat that as meaning chaotic with all that the value of this bag. They could simply take the bag andentails. leave. If they do they are 7000 silvers richer between them, the scenario is over and the outcome should be noted onSo what happens next? Between Larry and Inthing, if he each character sheet. They could try to skim off some of thesurvived, the Player Characters should realise that the best excess or they could play it perfectly straight. Do notway to save the life of the initiate is to help Larry on his suggest any of these options to the players unless theyquest and hope that this helps them fulfil their quest. broach the issue first.Assuming they ask him, Larry will explain what he plans.He has discovered that there used to be a temple near the Encounter 3 – Ready to goend of the Syphon that was built around a great treasure: adrop of primal water. This water is pure of all sin and all This encounter starts in Miskos. Larry will provide a boattaint. After the Syphon was cursed for failing to try to fill and the Player Characters may spend as much or little ofthe hole at the centre of the world the memory of the temple the 7000 silvers worth of gold on whatever equipment iswas lost and it was thought to have been destroyed. available.However, Larry has been reading many scrolls about theFootprint and discovered intriguing comments about ruins Miskos itself is a busy trading town but unusually for adiscovered at the edge of the Footprint where the river falls town on a river, most of the buildings are a long way fromdown it and he thinks they refer to the old temple. If that is the river and face away it. Houses are also elevated despitethe case then maybe the droplet still exists. If it does, Larry the fact that the river is never known to have flooded. Oneis convinced that it can be gifted to the river and possibly building may attract the Player Characters’ attention if theycure the chaos taint. make a successful Culture (Orlanthi) or Lore (Orlanth) roll when a line from the myth of Orlanth and Aroka comes toThe problem is that he doesn’t exactly know where the mind. It is Ernan’s Bread & Brews. Prominently displayedtemple is but the scrolls make it plain that it is no longer is “Splendorbread” and jugs of “Widebrew.” It will cost 1connected to the river. This means that Larry needs air silver to have a slap-up meal there. More importantly thisbreathers with legs to get to the temple, probably having to counts as undertaking part of the Orlanth and Arokaclimb down some cliffs. What’s worse, the God Learners HeroQuest. The Player Characters will only ever find thishave just stolen all his maps and his crystal. On the other inn once and no locals will recall it existing afterwards.hand, he does know the rough location of the tomb of afirst age adventurer who apparently raided part of the Excerpt from Orlanth and Arokatemple and he believes that there is some sort of “key”buried with him. This information wasn’t in the maps thesorcerers stole. Even without the crystal, Larry believes he … ate of Ernaldas Splendorbread and drank crazy blackcan find an entrance to the temple. Widebrew.So all they have to do is to boat up a cursed, chaotic river, Once they are equipped, they head on the boat along theloot a tomb, find a key, climb down some cliffs into one of Syphon River. Larry stays outside the boat, occasionallythe foulest chaos nests in all the world to break into a helping steer the boat if the Player Characters lack anyruined temple which undoubtedly has defences to recover a obvious boating skill. At this point, aside from the fact thatdroplet of primal water and do it all before the sorcerers get it runs uphill away from the sea the river seems perfectlythere. What could possibly go wrong? normal. The current is quite gentle and the river placid. Larry thinks that it will take about a day to get to the tomb.Presuming the Player Characters go along with this, Larrysuggests that he will meet them in Miskos on the Syphon The Player Characters may wish to talk with Larry. At thisriver in one day. He can provide a boat but they will need to stage he is still shocked by developments, nervous of thebring everything else needed to go tomb raiding. Larry Player Characters and fretful about what the God Learnersdoesn’t really understanding the notion of buying and may be doing so he spends a lot of time in his nativeselling but he has watched it in action and come up with a environment: underwater. He will answer questions but anyA River Runs Up It 5
type of pressure causes him to panic and duck back down If the Player Characters search in that area then make ainto the water. All in all, he’s not that reliable right now. group Perception test. On a critical they find the entrance almost immediately. On a normal success it takes 1D6Playing Larry hours. On a fail it takes until late in the afternoon (1D6+5 hours). On a fumble they will not find it today. If the players have forgotten, remind them that Hero Points canTreat everything as a threat and realise that the safest place be used to make re-rolls. If the Player Characters are stillto be is 6 foot under the surface. looking by the afternoon, Larry starts to get very agitated.Obsess about legs. Legs are weird. Legs are strange. If he Assuming they find it, they find a large rock, overgrownwas brave enough, Larry would touch a leg. In the with mosses. A group Brawn test with a combined STR ofmeantime he’ll just stare at them. But only when he thinks 40 is enough to move it in short order, otherwise they willno one is looking. need to spend 1D3 hours digging and using levers. Once opened, a foul stench rises up from the opening and theyHave no emotion other than fear. Emotion is a distraction can see a tunnel going straight down. It’s time to get thefrom clear thought. ten-foot poles out.Fail to have no emotion. Larry’s quest has taken so long The Troll Tombthat has lost his sense of logic and detachment. 1. The opening to the complex is covered by a large rock. ABe fatalistic. You’re all probably going to die soon and it’s shaft about 2m in diameter leads straight down to a woodenprobably going to be painful. That’s just the way it is. floor some 3m below. This is false floor made from thin wood. 7 SIZ or more collapses it leading to a fall of aboutBasically, s/he’s an elf with issues. 4m.Larry has spent his life on this quest. The other alim have 2 Burial chamber. This grand vault is falling into disrepair.all but exiled him. He is rootless and none of them will help A sarcophagus with an off-centre lid is placed in one cornerhim. All of his life he’s felt that the Syphon is unjustly of the room. If the sarcophagus is explored a large,cursed and can be saved. He has travelled up and down deformed skeleton can be found. It is gripping a huge two-every river that ends in Choralinthor Bay. Talked to sprites handed maul and has a lead circlet on its head. Balancingand demons, seen streams die and even seen the Solthi river on its chest is a mildewed leather bag marked with Air andburn. He has been to the edge of the footprint and been Darkness runes. A Perception roll clarifies that the statue isscarred by gorp. And now, when he finally seems to have of a troll and that both legs look broken. The first person toeverything figured out, the sorcerers have turned up and touch the skeleton in any fashion must make a roll of theirstolen his greatest treasures. Persistence versus a skill of 80% or receive a troll curse. Any Player Character can freely take the Maul but will receive the troll curse certificate. Mark this on the playerEncounter 4 – Tomb raiding character sheet and give the player the appropriate certificate. A successful Sleight roll allows a Player Character to take the bag without touching the skeleton. AIt’s early the next day and Larry thinks the tomb is successful Lore (Orlanth) roll brings a line from the mythsomewhere on the eastern bank. The Syphon is heading into of Orlanth and Aroka to mind. “Orlanth was delayed on histhe uplands so the east bank is quite steep and heavily voyage, first by Krakos, the troll avenger, who was angryovergrown. Larry claims to recognise the are by the colour because Orlanth broke his fathers legs. Orlanth defeatedof the reeds on the river bank. That is unlikely to help the him, and took his Darkwind.”Player Characters but Larry still doesn’t understand surfacemeasurements. If the Player Characters try to press him forextra information he ducks down beneath the water again. 3. At the far end of he burial chamber a hole in the floorAfter a delay he resurfaces holding a lethal looking piece of about 1m in diameter opens into the ceiling of a large,bone the length of a shortspear, as thin as a needle and flooded cave. There is a short drop of about 1m to coldsharp as one too. He will point it in their direction. The water. The water contains two very hungry gorp. At itsPlayer Characters have time to react. Assuming that they deepest the water is about 1m deep and flowing fast.don’t hit him with a barrage of spells and missiles and do Anyone wading through the water is reduced to 1 Combatget out of the way, he starts a sing-song in his native tongue Action per round, gets no Combat Action bonus for dualthen throws the lancet. After a brief pause he indicates that wielding and has their Strike Rank halved (after anythe tomb is somewhere near where the lancet landed. Oh Armour Penalties).and by the way, he would like his lancet back.A River Runs Up It 6
4. At the fair end of the cave (some 10m away from the underground river. Realising that the tomb is probablyhole) a large room about 10m square has been hollowed out trapped she assumes that the barbarians will be easilyof natural rock. Faded charcoal drawings on the walls show fooled.a heroic troll facing off against all sorts of foes and tells astory of how he tried to overcome the trollkin curse byhunting for a great secret of clean water. More importantly, Encounter 5 – The river’s songthe room is occupied by the Broo Gorp. The player characters spend three days boating up river (or5. A secret door conceals the entrance to a corridor some down river depending on how you look at it). The15m long. The door is locked with a seized lock. It will take characters will be paddling the boat as Larry occasionally1D3 minutes to break through it with a successful Brawn helps by pushing and guiding it. As they journey they haveroll and suitable tools. Otherwise it takes 1D3 hours. a chance to speak with Larry and begin to observe the river’s ascent towards chaos. This is primarily a chance for6. At the end of the corridor is a small room. In the middle exposition and for a pause before the action starts again.of the room there is a plinth with a lead rock about the size The player characters can use the chance to heal and askof a bowling ball placed on it. This would appear to be the questions.key that Larry wants. It weighs about 30 kg and isunnaturally slippery: treat it as 30 ENC if held or 10 ENC if Speaking with Larrycarried in a pack. If it is moved off the plinth there is agroaning sound. The plinth slowly retreats into the ground Unless the PCs have done something odd, Larry becomesand the walls start to collapse. The collapse starts at the far more friendly. Although most player characters have noend of the room then moves out through the tomb at around way of knowing this, he is distinctly unusual for an alim.2m per combat round but stops at the entrance to the Most of his kind are ascetic, isolationist philosophers with aflooded cave (4). Simple athletics rolls allows the Player streak of fatalism. Larry though has always been fascinatedCharacters to keep ahead of the collapsing walls however by surface dwellers, by the leggies. This is the first time hethe person carrying the lead ball will need to roll under both has ever dared spend long with them and he will be full oftheir Athletics and their Brawn. The plinth trap can be naive, inconsequential questions about what it feels like toovercome by placing something weighing about the same walk or to breathe. What does air taste like? What do theyon the plinth while removing the ball at the same time. That do when they get dried out? Do legs feel like upside downwill require a Difficult (-20%) Sleight roll. arms? Why can’t they grip things with their toes? He will veer between questions like that into topics such as “areOn the way back “Larry” will appear in the water. He will you really afraid of death? What is the worst way to die? Isoffer to take the “key” so they can get out in a hurry. The it true that you don’t have buds? As for sex, any mention ofPlayer Characters ought to be suspicious and any amount of that and Larry is likely to pass out at the concept.checking ensure that it soon becomes obvious that this is adisguise. It is in fact Ishakri using a Phantom Sight There will be two notable incidents. Late afternoon of theillusion. If her disguise is rumbled she will let the illusion first day Larry will suddenly thrash and dive below thelapse and taunt the Player Characters about their surface. After a long time he will try to explain that there isuselessness before ducking back under water. Smart Player a God Learner in the myth. It’s hard for him to explain inCharacters will have tied a rope to something so that they Trade Talk but what has happened is that Ishkari hascan get back out of the water before the whole of area 4 successfully attuned the crystal. They are now both awarecollapses. of each other. Normally this isn’t possible but the fact that are many fragments means that they have found differentAssuming they survive they get a chance to look at the lead ways to attune the crystal. Larry will casually explain thatball. A lengthy inspection shows that it unscrews. Inside is this means he’s probably going to die.an antique key made out of some sort of shiny metal(aluminium) with prongs looking like a water rune. There is Later that evening they hear him making a wailing sound ina hole in the handle where a jewel may once have been set. his own language. If asked what’s going on he’ll escape beneath the water for about 15 minutes. Then having madeWhat was Ishkari up to? The maps they stole from Larry a decision he’ll tell them it’s his favourite story, “Theare less useful than she hoped and she has not yet been able Weeping Guardian.” He can’t tell it word for word in Tradeto attune the crystal. Like Larry she believes there is an talk but he can explain it.abandoned water temple that is central to the myth of thesinking of the celestial tower. The maps indicate a possibleentrance but she suspects there is more to be found. So hergroup are following the Player Characters to see where theylead. When they start looking for the tomb entrance sheconsults the map and finds a way to get into theA River Runs Up It 7
The Myth of the Weeping Guardian generally shunning the player characters. Switched on(Resonance 70%) players might realise that the interaction of the myths is warping their characters’ perceptions. In reality the villagers are surly but not nascent river demons. As theBack before time, in the dark days when the devil fouled villagers watch the boat pass by they will recognise thethe waters of the world the gods gathered in the celestial hero light enveloping it and sense the doom that follows it.home to make their last stand against chaos. The greatest of For this reason they attempt to ward off the evil.those gods was Magasta. Together with his purest son,Wachaza, they threw back the hordes of chaos over andover again. But even they couldn’t hold back betrayal and On the second day the river starts to climb into the uplands.chaos slipped in secretly under the roots of the mountain. Locals call this stretch “The Slows.” If the river wereWhen the world mountain exploded, the Sea gods leaped normal it would be rushing down over rocky rapids. As itinto the hole to sacrifice themselves before all the waters is, it is labouring up against the pull of the sea down below.drained away into unlife. The landscape has changed and the characters must boat through some steep canyons.Wachaza stood fast, holding off the devil while the godspoured in. He wept for each one that died and each tear he On the third day the water starts to get very choppy,wept doubled his strength. Until his lover, a goddess we no Whirlpools appear from nowhere and the current thrasheslonger know readied herself for sacrifice. Wachaza tried to around making the boat hard to handle. Larry looksfight off the chaos demons while reasoning and pleading exhausted as he attempts to guide the boat. Eventuallywith her. He loved her beyond all else but she insisted that someone will think to look over the side and when they doshe must join those gods dying in the attempt to save the they discover that the river is infested with gorp. It is as ifworld. At this point some say the devil touched Wachaza there is a war between the river and gorp. The gorp areand a boiling rage erupted in him. As she rushed past him trying to get to the sea, the river is trying to push themhe tried to stop her yet he slipped and his bloody trident back. Larry has his hands full directing the boat and needspierced her through the breast. His rage was such that he the characters to help with paddling. No rolls are neededkilled not just her but all our memories of her. Tears ran but the characters will be exhausted at the end of the day.down his face like fire down an undersea volcano blinding As they camp on the last night before they get to theto him to all but anger and despair and freeing the monster Footprint and Foul Blood Forest they realise why they can’tnature that had long lurked deep within him. see any of these strange animals making the sounds. The sounds are coming from the river itself. Bits of it hang glistening on branches or crawl onto the bank in puddles.His anger boiled away all love and tenderness in him. As it struggles along the ground it howls and shrieks. It’sHenceforth he would kill and only kill. Every surface likely the player characters will get little sleep this night.dweller dreads him, every water dweller knows not toenrage him yet without his boundless, frenzied destructionof the chaos demons that attempted to tear the world in half GM note. The experience of the river has been intensifiedthat day none of us would be here now. by the This World Quest. The Player Characters are seeing the essence of the river and the battle between water and chaos in a heightened metaphor.And so we call Wachaza the weeping guardian, the impurekiller, the rage of the deeps who saved us all that day andwho lost all that was good and pure. Encounter 6 – River’s edgeEncounters along the river It’s the final morning and the Player Characters have reached Larnste’s Falls at the edge of the Foot Print. TheAs they travel upriver the vegetation becomes progressively Syphon plunges over cliffs into the valley bellow. Lookingthicker and more verdant and the heat increases. PCs can at over the valley they see giant, stone ziggurats and thingshear strange, unnatural sounds. Describe it to players as with too many wings circling in the air. If the wind is in thesomething like howler monkeys, the chatter of parrots, the wrong direction they can hear the trees screaming. There iswhirring sounds of insects. All these things are new to the a petrified forest, the Stone woods weaving through theOrlanthi but none of them are ever actually seen except as a valley. There is also the Foul Blood Woods where the treessudden movement out of the corner of the eye. are glistening with slime. As they watch they’ll see parts of Foul Blood Woods dissolve and then reform. OccasionallyTowards the end of the first day they reach Backford. This there is a commotion and the sound of something beingis a small, miserable stead where locals work in brine ponds butchered, very noisily.fed by the river to extract salt. To the player characters thelocals will look malformed, their eyes bulging, a scent of Larry believes the entrance to the temple ought to be half-rotting fish about them. The locals will be way down the cliff just to the right of where the riverincommunicative, making superstitious gestures and plunges down. He will need to be carried so he can take theA River Runs Up It 8
key. First though he must perform a ritual to allow himself them back down the cliff. Sometimes the gorp slither pastto breathe air for an extended period. Someone will need to and the river moans in agony.carry him. He is fairly light and could hang onto acharacter’s shoulders while resting in a pack for example.While he does that, the Player Characters can plan their Encounter 7 – the guardianclimb. Looking down they can see a ledge about 40mdown. The cliff is steep but not vertical and there are While inside the temple the Player Characters are affectedhandholds. To climb down to the ledge takes a single by the remnants of a powerful Consecrate spell. All DivineAthletics Climb test at -20%. Magic Spells that are not from a water god suffer a -50% casting penalty. Any other kind of magic that is associated• On a critical or normal success the climb is completed with one of the non-water elements also suffers from a - without incident. 50% penalty. Examples might be Fireblade, Wrack (Earth)• Failure. Slip! The Adventurer must immediately make and so on. Finally anyone Rune touched by an element another Athletics, Brawn (-20%), or Acrobatics other than water loses the benefit of being Rune touched by (+20%) test. If that is a success the adventurer it. recovers. They have not yet made much progress so must make a new Athletics test to climb the rest of the Once they have entered the crack, the Player Characters way with the same risks. find themselves in a crazily tilted hallway, diving deep• Fumble. Fall. The Adventurer falls to their death. A down into the cliff. As the god stomped, the ground was good moment to spend a Hero Point. compressed and the cliff rose up. The middle of the temple was cut in half. Half was pulverised, the other half wasSpot Rules. An adventurer who has already made it to the twisted upwards by the rising ground. Now the Adventurersledge can coach the climber and add their critical score in must climb down a twisted, zig-zagging corridor that divesAthletics to the climber’s skill. Only one Adventurer can do at around 45 degrees. Providing they are careful this can bethis at a time. Using a rope that has been tied to a rock at done without need for skill rolls.the surface adds 20% to the climb skill. A tied climber whofalls and is tied to a rock will suffer the equivalent of a 1D6 The corridor is composed of what was once some sort ofmetre fall. If not tied to a rock one or more of the grand, blue-veined marble. Huge columns have broken offAdventurers may be holding the rope. If the climber falls, and careened down the slope. Various rooms and otherthese Adventurer’s need to make a group Brawn test. corridors run off it but have been crushed in theCompare the total STR to the SIZ of the climber. If their catastrophe. Just this one corridor, once the spine of theSTR is within 5 points of the climber’s SIZ it is a routine building remains. If the characters press their ears to theBrawn test. If STR is lower than this then the Brawn test is walls they can hear water running through it, as if theat -20% for each 10 (or fraction) points lower. If it is higher marble is somehow stone and water at the same time. Andthan this the test is at +20%. A success means that the if they think to look properly, the random veins of bluefalling character simply slips a small distance and then slowly move and shift, forming barely discernible imagesrecovers. Finally the Adventurers may decide to climb and what could be writing.down roped together. In this case ascertain the order. If oneperson falls, the one above must make a Brawn roll that is Larry is an awe of this. He could spend a life time studyingalso under their Athletics skill (with the same STR vs SIZ these patterns if only he had much of one left.comparison) to hold on. If they fail then they start to falltoo, adding to the total SIZ of falling characters. At the end of the corridor, a guardian awaits. A giant figure, shining and reflective. In his right hand a trident, in his leftThere are of course many other possible ways the PCs a net of hooks. He is standing on the floor, seeminglyattempt to climb down. Including, possibly, flight. unaffected by the steep slope. He speaks in words like the crashing of the sea but only Larry is likely to understand.Once on the ledge, after a brief period of searching, a crack Should an adventurer approach into the room he will movecan be seen behind the waterfall. Getting in will be to attack and he will fight to the death. He is an avatar ofawkward and damp but there is no need for further skill Wachaza, the water tribe’s god of war and he will let nonetests. past.The water really doesn’t want to fall into this valley. As the It is likely that this fight is unwinnable. The avatar isAdventurers approach they will see that the water is composed of living water that quickly regenerates anyhanging on to the cliff side. It is almost as if is falling in damage and is immune to any sort of magic with the Resistslow motion. Even worse, the Adventurers see gorp. (Persistence) trait. No fire can be summoned in this holyScores, hundreds of them, slowly climbing up the cliff, sanctum. Finally the guardian can dismiss magic of anytrying to migrate out of the valley. Sometimes the water lets magnitude as a Combat Action by spending 1 Magic Pointgo of its hold and crashes into a cluster of gorp, smashing per point of magnitude of the spell. The avatar can also useA River Runs Up It 9
this action defensively like a counterspell to prevent a spell being carried in the waters. Their HeroQuest has ended infrom taking effect. failure.Combat spot rules. Player Characters will need to balance Finally it is possible that the Player Characters are able toprecariously on broken columns and so on if they wish to defeat the Guardian. The nature of the interacting myths isstay on their feet. This prevents them from using Evade to such that a lot of flux is possible so they are rewarded foravoid an attack without falling. Any successful Bash or their success rather than punished. If defeated or destroyedTrip manoeuvres will result in a fall of 1D6 metres. in some manner the Guardian dissolves, unleashing aAlternately they can hold onto various items but this will raging torrent of pure water that washes them deep into thereduce their normal CAs by 1 and still prevents the use of mouth of the dragon. As the water takes them they see thatEvade. It will also prevent the use of dual wield combat Larry is untouched. His last words to them are “I muststyles. defend the temple. My quest passes on to you.” The last thing they see is Larry being transformed, reaching for theAs the avatar fights, tears roll down its cheeks. It weeps for Guardian’s trident. In his final moments as an elf, he hasthe death of the world and the gods who have died trying to legs.save it. It weeps because it must stay behind and fight. Encounter 8 – Waters FallShould Larry see this he gradually realises what he mustdo. After 1D3+2 Combat Rounds he makes a decision.Drawing on the mythic resonance of this place he steps However they get there the PCs arrive in a spectacularforward. He is able somehow to stand, almost as if location. They have been deposited in a hemisphericalswimming in the air. He takes his lancet and throws it at the room some 100 metres in diameter, the peak of the domeguardian. The guardian responds instantly, throwing his being 50 metres above them. The doom is constructed oftrident and impaling Larry, killing him instantly. some manner of translucent marble. The floor consists of a 3 metre wide strip of the same sort of marble running around the outer circumference. The central area is someAs Larry falls he drops the key (someone needs to make a sort of metal that is almost as slippery as ice and as shiny asquick-witted Athletics roll) and the myth of the crying a mirror; attempting to move in a hurry will require aguardian repeats itself. Water starts to flood down the walls Difficult (-20%) Athletics test or routine Acrobatics test.as if the marble itself is reverting to water. The guardian Around the outside of the room are 8 archways. The Playerturns black, its eyes burning the red of the hells of doomed Characters have just been washed into the room down onesouls and it howls as if dammed. Larry manages a few and the water has drained away through the other arches. Ifheroic last words “The way is open. And I go back to mud. they explore the arches they find that they can push theirSave the river for me.” hands through four of them but not the other four. They seem to be one-way passages; some are entrances to theThe Player Characters can see a hole opening like a room, some exits.dragon’s mouth in the room behind the guardian. Theguardian itself is dissolving. Really their only choice now is Any Player Characters who visited Ernan’s Bread & Brewswhether to try and resist the flow of water or to go in Encounter will find they have a piece of Splendorbread.willingly. If they try to resist they fail and take 1D6 damage Eating it now restores all fatigue lost and restores all hitto 1D3 random locations due to being tossed around. points to one injured location.Armour doesn’t protect. If they try to go with the water’sflow then a successful Athletics (or Acrobatics at +20%)test means they suffer no damage, otherwise they take If the Player Characters look closely at the walls they candamage as if they resisted. begin to determine patterns of light and dark moving somewhere through the walls. Should one press their face to the wall there is a sudden crash as if something huge justLarry took a major wound to a vital location and failed his flung itself against the wall from the other side; the playerResilience roll, killing him instantly. The last words were character is uncomfortably aware of something with toosimply flavour; if the players are the types who take events many teeth and too many tentacles that would devour himliterally then Larry has no time to speak at all. in an instant.The player characters may be able to resist being drawn After a short period to explore, the player charactersinto the mouth of the dragon; a Brawn test at -40% should become aware of a sense of movement in the floor. If theyenable that to happen. If all the Player Characters manage look down they can see lines in the floor snaking towardsto stay out they watch as the hallway seems to collapse into the centre where a small hole has opened. The floor isthe entrance, filling it. Now the only way is back up. They beginning to look like an iris. Providing they act promptlywill be able to get back onto the cliff ledge just in time to and without panic they can make it back to the edge of thesee half the cliff fall into the river and will spot the Marlin room without alarm. Anyone ditherin
A River Runs Through It . PG | 2h 3min | Drama | 30 October 1992 (USA) 2:37 | Trailer. 2 VIDEOS ... growing up in rural Montana while devoted to fly fishing.
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