HeroQuesting Overview

Send comments and/or criticism to Simon E. Phipp
Created On 17 September 1997
Last Updated On 10 September 2002
Copyright © 1997 Simon E. Phipp

In Finnish


Types of HeroQuest
Exploration Quests
Raid Quests
Re-enactment Quests
HeroQuest Levels
Practice Run Quests
Other Place Quests
Holy Day Rites
Other Side Quests
HeroQuest Spells
Magic on HeroQuests
Involuntary Questing
Quest Examples

As has been said before, a HeroQuest is a magical divinely-inspired, strictly-regulated mythical journey leading to great rewards if successfully completed. HeroQuests generally fall into one or more categories, they can be raids, explorations or re-enactments. Of course, there will be HeroQuests which fall into none of these categories, but these are rare.

Types of HeroQuest

Exploration Quests

An Exploration Quest is one where Questors venture out into the unknown, using well-established techniques, in order to discover new places, paths, ideas or properties. The rewards of such a Quest are mainly knowledge, but can include the making of exotic friends and allies or the forging of new HeroPaths. Penalties for failure may well include death, becoming irrevocably lost, becoming captured or making exotic enemies.

Raid Quests

A Raid Quest is one where the Questors venture into unfriendly territory in order to steal items or power or abilities, rescue captives or capture or kill opponents. The rewards of such a Quest would depend on the type of raid - a rescue may result in the gaining of allies or the receipt of a gift from the rescued person, a theft may result in the gaining if the object or powers stolen, an enslavement may allow the Questors to steal abilities from the captured person.

Re-enactment Quests

A Re-enactment Quest is one where the Questors mimic the deeds of their deity. Many re-enactments take the form of raids or explorations, but are far more mystical, by their very nature. Those involved in a re-enactment must follow the ways of their deity, remaining faithful to the way the deity behaved. Such Quests are the most rigidly defined, since any deviation could badly affect the eventual outcome of the Quest. Successful re-enactment Quests give the rewards of being much closer to one's deity, the gaining of spells or abilities commensurate with the Quest in question. Penalties for failure may involve the loss of power, death, curses or just bad luck, depending on which deeds were re-enacted.

Innovative Questors can turn a Re-enactment Quest into an Exploration Quest by deviating from the Quest at certain critical moments, thus turning a well-established route into an unexplored one, or producing a new effect from an old Quest. Arkat was a master at this type of thing, being able to participate in one HeroQuest until reaching an intersection between that Quest and another with which he was familiar, then transferring to the second Quest - something which he could do as a past member of many cults.

HeroQuest Levels

HeroQuests occur on many levels of importance and danger. The four levels of HeroQuest are, in order of mystical importance, not danger:

(i) Practice Run Quests
(ii) Other Place Quests
(iii) Holy Day Rites
(iv) Other Side Quests

Practice Run Quests

Practice Run Quests take place exclusively on the Mundane Plane - The Inner World of Glorantha, that part of Glorantha where ordinary mortals live. They usually take the form of re-enactments, with all that that entails.

These Quests are performed by initiates or Rune-levels, begin and end at Holy Spots or Temples, usually following magical paths which visit other sacred spots or sites of significance, and transcend normal play - the participants actually become the deities they portray in a certain mythological sense. Thus, the participants must behave in the same manner as did their deities.

Practice Runs can easily become entwined, with several Quests joining together or opposing each other. An enemy gained in one Quest will often re-emerge as a foe in further, unrelated quests. similarly, an ally gained in one quest may remain an ally on other Quests.

As Practice Runs are the easiest Quests to perform, it is possible for someone to oppose a Quest that he is aware of. Often, members of certain cults in certain places become attuned to the aura of the place, so they become aware of any HeroQuests taking place in that place. For instance, the trolls of Sazdorf are aware of Humakt HeroQuests and can properly oppose them when they happen.

The rewards for success and penalties for failure of Practice Run Quests usually reflect the importance of the Quest and the dangers involved. Bituran Varosh received the arms and armour of the priest killed in the Yelmalian Three Blows of Anger Quest, the priest received death as the penalty for failure. Generally, such Practice Runs do not involve great dangers, such as the loss of a soul, being more like training courses, preparing the participants for more important and dangerous Quests.

Some examples of Practice Run Quests can be found in the Cults of Prax supplement - Three Blows of Anger (Yelmalio Cult) and the Waha Marriage Rite (the chief proved his worth by killing 7 broos, emulating Waha).

Two Practice Run Quests have been published in Different Worlds magazine and several more in Tales of the Reaching Moon.

Other Place Quests

These HeroQuests take place in the Outer World, those parts of Glorantha reserved for Immortals and Exotic races. Such places include Hell, the Sky World, the Fringes of Glorantha and places such as the Crater, Magasta's Pool, Hell Crack, The Moon or Dragon's Eye. These are places which can be physically travelled to, rather than having to be magically transported there. Having said that, there are many rites which involve magical travel to those planes, but they are not essential, merely convenient.

Since Other Place Quests take place where they do, they are incredibly dangerous - participants can meet Angels, Demons, Mistress Race Trolls born before Time, Immortal Races and Children of Gods.

Participants in Other Place Quests are usually Rune Levels, merely because initiates are unlikely to survive the dangers. Sir Ethilrist took his White Horse Troop into Hell, but this was an exception, because he was on his way to Herodom and his men were a highly trained mercenary group, magically supported and far stronger than mere initiates.

Entrance to the Other Planes is usually by one of a number of methods:

1. Physical Journey
Walking to the Gates of Dusk or Dawn, jumping down Hell Crack or the hole in the Munchroom Caverns, walking through Glamour to the Crater or travelling to the Sky or Hell through Cragspider's Castle.
2. Ritual Spell
Transporting the participants to Other Places, for instance using the Seven Stones HeroPlane Ritual to move into Hell.
3. Magic Items
For instance the Crowns of Brilliance transport the wearers to the Sky, The Wooden Sword can transport followers to Humakt's Sword Hall..
4. Divine Intervention
Some deities can transport their worshippers to Other Planes, as long as they are associated with those Planes, so Humakt can take followers into Hell, but not into the Sky. These are rarely used in Raid Quests, as the deity's actions will instantly alert the denizens of the area transported to.

Escape from the Other Realms is usually by one of the entrance methods, but not always the same one used to enter. So, a party may use a spell to enter the Sky, but may leave by jumping from Yelm's Chariot.

Opponents in these Quests are often the denizens of the Other Places - many don't like other people poking around their homes. Some opponents are gained from earlier Quests and remain to oppose the Questors. Occasionally, participants in other Quests may become opponents. Similarly, allies may be gained from denizens or visitors to the Plane.

The rewards for success and penalties for failure depend on the type of Quest performed, the location of the Quest and the foes encountered. Re-enactments taking place where the deity performed the original deeds will have greater penalties/rewards than other Quests, being closer to the original Quest.

Practice Run Quests take place within Time and the Mundane Plane, Other Place Quests can take place within Time or in the GodTime. Holy Day Rites take place on the Mundane Plane, but within GodTime, and Other Side Quests take place on the GodPlane.

Holy Day Rites

Most Holy Day Rites involve re-enactments of the Deity's deeds, much like our Nativity Plays or the medieval Mummers' Plays or Passion Plays. Such re-enactments are Practice Run Quests, but achieve greater mythological significance then normal - a Holy Day Rite takes place on the Mythical or God Plane and has great consequence for the success of the temple or people for the coming season or year.

Such tableaux serve several purposes:

1. They bring those involved closer to their deities
2. They teach cult members myths (Very important in a semi-literate or illiterate society)
3. They reinforce the deity's power and place in the world
4. They prevent the deity's deeds from being forgotten
5. They make worship ceremonies interesting

Participating in a Holy Day Rite is seen as a great honour, to refuse is a grave insult to the cult and may result in loss of promotion or even Excommunication in extreme cases. Anyone who deliberately causes a Holy Day Quest to fail will be immediately visited by the Cult Spirit of Retribution and could quite possibly result in Excommunication or even Death.

The rewards gained from the success of Holy Day Rites are twofold. Firstly, the community is blessed by a successful HeroQuest, whether by increased crop yields, greater martial success, better weather conditions or whatever. Secondly, the individual Questor will receive personal benefits mirroring the benefits gained by the deity itself. Such benefits may include the gaining of a Runespell, Spirit Magic spell or Allied Spirit, the increase in cult skills, the gaining of a Gift or Geas. The size of the gift will depend on the participant's status in the cult (Rune Levels will gain more than an initiate), the size of the Temple (Great Temple Rites give more than Village Shrine Rites) and the timing of the Rites (High Holy Day Rites being more significant than Holy Day Rites, and Sacred Time Rites being more significant still).

Penalties for failure include the loss of all benefits which should have been gained, the loss of POW and the normal penalties for an unsuccessful HeroQuest. The population as a whole will be affected by crop failures, drought, poor leadership or defeat in battle, or whatever. A failed Holy Day Quest will be seen as a bad omen which will demoralise those in the community. One exception to this is a Holy Day Rite where the deity was defeated, for instance Yelmalio on the Hill of Gold. Here, defeat will not be seen as a bad omen, although the Questor should still extol the Virtues of Yelmalio - if he does not, then he would be seen as being unsuccessful.

Other Side Quests

These Quests take place on the other side of the Veil of Time, in GodTime itself. They are the most dangerous type of HeroQuest and yield the greatest rewards. All participants in Other Side Quests must have undergone a ritual to transport them beyond the Veil, nobody accidentally embarks on an Other Side Quest (except, perhaps, Western Knights, see Nick Brooke's article on Western HeroQuesting). Re-enactment Quests on the Other Side cause the Questors to actually participate in the events copied, so Hon-Eel actually participated in the Dawning when she greeted Yelm's Return when duelling with the Most Reverend Mother of the Pentians.

GodTime itself is shaped by the Quests within it, in fact GodTime is defined by the Quests and has no existence outside those Quests. Similarly, those in GodTime are known by their Quests. HeroQuestors are those who walk the quests of others, whether they be heroes or gods. heroes are those who have pioneered Quests on the Other Side. Gods are those whose GodTime Quests have resulted in permanent HeroPaths. Once a Hero has pioneered a Quest, creating a new HeroPath, his worshippers may follow him and recreate his Quest, walking his HeroPath. Multiple successes will strengthen the HeroPath, making it powerful and more permanent, better able to spawn new HeroPaths and resist the advances of conflicting HeroPaths. Multiple failures will weaken the HeroPath, reducing the Hero's power and almost erasing the HeroPath. Deities are those whose HeroPaths are made permanent, Deities in the Compromise are those whose HeroPaths cannot be destroyed. Even a very weak deity will have HeroPaths which can be followed by a determined and successful HeroQuestor. Once apotheosised, Deities will continually walk their own HeroPaths in GodTime, rigidly confirming to their own traditions, unable to react to outside events.

HeroQuestors cannot physically enter the GodPlane. They must undergo a ritual or use some magic item to transport their essence to the GodPlane. Whilst in GodTime (on the GodPlane) the Questor's body remains dormant, stuck in the moment of time that its essence left. Anything used or gained on the GodPlane is used or gained on the body. Many deities do not have a physical manifestation on the Mundane Plane, their bodies only exist on the GodPlane. Some may be summoned on the Physical Plane for short intervals, for instance Cacodemon may be summoned in his might and glory for a short period of time. Those deities involved in the Compromise cannot physically manifest themselves at all - this was one of the conditions of the Compromise. Note that some have physical bodies on the mundane plane, for instance Orlanth and Storm Bull are great High Pressure Zones, Magasta is an immense whirlpool, Gata is the Earth, Yelm is the Sun and the Red Goddess is the Moon. However, they cannot act in any rational or independent way, being securely fixed to their place.

HeroQuestors may not use Divine Intervention when on the GodPlane. This is for two reasons, firstly, if they are participating in a re-enactment Quest, they become their deity and cannot ask themselves for help, secondly if they are on an Exploration Quest they are somewhere that their Deity has not been before, so the deity cannot help. Questors needing Divine Intervention must use some other method of bringing the effect into being.

HeroQuestors who are killed on the GodPlane have two courses of action open to them. If they are in a place where Death has not been discovered, they do not die and must await healing to be put back together. If Death has been used here, then the character is dead and must begin the journey to Hell. The only way to be resurrected is to be brought back, or to make one's own way out of Hell - this is what the Pharaoh, the Red Emperor and Sir Ethilrist can do. If the Questor is destroyed by Chaos, then he is irreversibly gone and can never be brought back. However, the HeroCult of Tessele of the Cult of Caladra and Aurelion provides a very dangerous HeroPath to recover such a soul. The Path is very long and difficult, but has been successful several times in the past.

Contrary to my earlier thoughts, the Compromise does not prevent paradoxes from occurring. Apparently, Arkat met himself four times on HeroQuests. However, from a game point of view, such encounters are extremely difficult to run, so I would advise GMs not to allow them.

All events in GodTime are immutable - they have occurred, will always have occurred and can never have not occurred. However, each event, or HeroPath, has a strength associated with it. The strength of the HeroPath describes the chance of it having occurred. Thus, a strong HeroPath will always seem to have occurred to those who travel it, whereas a weak HeroPath seems almost never to have occurred - those on the Path must almost forge a new path over the old one. Successful HeroQuests will strengthen the HeroPaths followed, whereas unsuccessful HeroQuests will weaken the HeroPath. New HeroPaths may be so strong as to overshadow old HeroPaths, making them extremely hard to find or appearing never to have existed.

The only way to create a new HeroPath is to perform the HeroQuest on the GodPlane. Once a new HeroPath has been performed, the HeroQuest for that Path is available to be learned. Only GodPlane HeroQuests can be created in this way - if a new HeroQuest is performed on the Mundane Plane, no HeroPath will be created and no HeroQuest may be gained from it.

Events within GodTime can only affect other GodTime events, or can affect events in Time following the HeroQuest. They cannot affect things which happened earlier in Time, even though GodTime existed earlier than Time. This is because GodTime is a simultaneity existing outside Time.

Magic on HeroQuests

This section only covers God Time Quests - I am not suggesting that people in the Mundane Plane be cut off from using magic. HeroQuestors should only be able to use magic from the HeroQuest while on a Quest. This is for two reasons:

  1. Mythically, if the Questor is re-enacting a Quest then he should follow the Quest - if that means that Zorak Zoran cannot use Thunderbolt, then so be it.

  2. From a gaming point of view, powerful PCs will have access to many spells and abilities, probably from more than one source, which can unbalance a HeroQuest. This ruling should prevent the Zorak Zoran priest from using an Orlanthi Thunderbolt on a Zorak Zoran HeroQuest. Anything which downpowers PCs is good, in my opinion.

Each Quest should include a list of spells available for use on the HeroQuest or on each Station of the HeroQuest. These are the only spells the HeroQuestor may use whilst on the Quest. Other spells the Questor tries to cast simply will not work. As these spells are naturally part of the Quest, the Questor may cast them more easily:

This actually makes cult magics more powerful on a HeroQuest, which is how things should be.

There is a way that a HeroQuestor may cast spells not normally found on a HeroQuest. The Questor must know a HeroQuest which has the spell as an approved spell. He then Invokes the HeroQuest and casts the spell as normal (using Heroic Castings as provided by the HeroQuest). This does not count as a use of the HeroQuest for praying spells back, but as it is a Heroic Casting of the HeroQuest this will cost the Questor MPs equal to the points of the spell. In doing so, the Questor mythically asserts that he has this power, rather than simply using it. Similarly, the use of magics or abilities from magical items is only allowed if the Questor can Invoke a HeroQuest which allows the use of the item.

Spells, abilities or items which have been gained on previous HeroQuests may have the property that they may be used on any related HeroQuest, so a Zorak Zoran cultist may gain a Heroic Shout on one HeroQuest which he may use on Zorak Zoran or Kyger Litor HeroQuests. Such an ability should be usable normally, but would not be able to be used on a Storm Bull Quest without the Originating Quest being Invoked. This is something the GM should decide on a HeroQuest by HeroQuest basis.

This also provides a reason for the standard games mechanic of dispelling all cast magic when crossing the Veil. Normally the reason is "because it does" or something similar. Using these ideas, the spells were not cast as part of the HeroQuest and so cannot be used. As an example, a Zorak Zoran HeroQuestor is on the Hill of Gold Quest and fights Yelmalio. For some reason, he is losing and is about to be impaled by a Fiery Spear. In desperation, he casts a Turn Blow spell, recalling a Xiola Umbar Quest. This is enough to disable his enemy and gives him enough time for victory. Since Xiola Umbar is Zorak Zoran's Sister, this variation of the Quest is not strange enough to attract attention, so he is safe.

This brings us to a question - when is a HeroQuest or HeroPower too different to be acceptable? In my opinion, as long as the Questor has access to a relevant HeroQuest then he may cast any Spell or use any HeroPower without censure. However, certain Quests will fail if particular powers are used - Zorak Zorani may use no Fire Powers on the Hill of Gold Quest, for instance. There is also the problem of using enemy magics - an Orlanthi HeroQuestor may lose kudos if he uses Chaos Powers on an Orlanthi Quest. I would go so far as to say that using overtly enemy powers on a Quest would either lead to the failure of the Quest or to Inactivity or Excommunication when the Quest is over. Of course, Illuminates are probably immune to these effects, but can easily be subject to a sword in the back, after all, overtly using enemy powers in a Quest with other participants is a foolish thing to do.

HeroQuest Spells

These are spells which define a HeroQuest or HeroPath. They are available from those Cults who use HeroQuests or from the Heroes themselves. HeroQuest Spells usually cost POW to learn, the greater the scope of the spell the more POW needed. HeroQuest Spells are cast instantly and do not need to be reprayed like Divine Magic - they are more like Spirit Magic in that respect.

HeroQuest Spells may be used in one of two ways - either as a ritual ceremony or as an invoked power.

When cast as ceremonial rituals, they allow the HeroQuestors to participate in a Quest, the spell sets up the boundaries of the Quest, calls enemies into the Quest and defines everything about the Quest.

When invoked as a power, the HeroQuest Spell allows the user to draw upon the powers of the Quest in his current situation. Thus, a troll fighting a fire cultist may call upon Argan Argar's Victory over Lodril in order to give him powers over Fire. Examples of this can be found in King of Sartar p 236 The Strange Fragment.

Involuntary Questing

Not all HeroQuesting is voluntary. There are several ways for a HeroQuestor to be pulled into a HeroQuest against his will, or at least without preparation.

Firstly, and most commonly, a person may be press-ganged into the HeroQuest. An example of this is the "Three Blows of Anger" Quest detailed in Cults of Prax. Here Bituran Varosh is forced into taking part in a Yelmalion Practice Run Quest. He is also forced to take part in an Eirithian Quest as Defender when the Holy Day Rites are disturbed by a Troll attack. Many Practice Run Quests require mundane opponents and these opponents may be hard to come by. In this case, the Questors are not fussy about who they can force into the Mythical Role. By all accounts, Teelo Norri was plucked from the streets of Torang to fill a place on the Seven Mothers' Quest, and look what happened to her.

Secondly, a HeroQuest may be called to attack or oppose a person. For instance, prior to an attack on a Troll Cavern, a Yelm cultist may peform the Yelm's Descent into Hell Quest and so gain many Darkness-killing abilities. This then turns the attack into a HeroQuest and makes all the trolls in the Cavern into Mythical opponents - they take the part of the Legions of Dehori and trolls who were burned to a crisp by Yelm. There are several examples in the published literature where a person has Invoked a HeroQuest to turn a normal event into a Magical one.

Thirdly, a HeroQuestor may have gained a powerful HeroQuest enemy or ally on previous Quests. When this enemy/ally performs certain Quests, the HeroQuestor may be sucked into the Quest to play the part of the Mythical Friend/Foe.

Fourthly, a HeroQuestor may have taken on a certain function or role in a previous Quest and be magically tied to that role in the future. So, when the same Quest is used nearby the Questor is forced to take his Mythical Role. For istance, in the racoon Quest the Questors meet an Avatar of Humakt whom they must defeat to get past. If the Humakt is killed and a Humakti picks up his Sword, then the Quest says that a "shadow" of the Questor then guards the entrance. I would say that the Questor who takes up the Sword also takes on the Role of Guardian and is forced to play the Role whenever the Quest is attempted in his locale. Many temples have specialised HeroQuestors who are tied to certain roles and will take these on whenever the Quests are performed in their Temple area. This has several advantages: the Questors know who they must face during a particular Quest and there is no chance of a sudden surprise as a Rune Lord appears instead of Old Eric who always plays Orlanth; there is always a guaranteed presence in the Quest, nobody needs to be forced into the Quest; the temple gains a number of seasoned Questors relatively cheaply.

Lastly, a Questor may accidentally fall into a Quest. This is relatively uncommon but has a greater chance of happening to Western HeroQuestors. Hrestol started his Quest through a normal journey, for instance. Nick Brooke has an excellent article on this on his Web Site. If you look at the Grail Model for some Western HeroQuesting and you will see how this can be done."You are riding along a path through the forest when suddenly you come across a Hidden Castle and face a Giant Swordsman - The Black Knight". Hours of fun for unscrupolous GMs. This is especially common in Magical Areas (Elven Great Forests, Haunted Places, Spirit Pools, Nymphs' Grottos, Chaos Nests). Another example of this happened to Laika Ballista who went to the Caves of Chaos during Sacred Time (a foolish thing to do) and became part of a Tableau played from GodTime, being caught up in a HeroQuest. Interestingly enough, Time passed at different rates in this Quest and Laika was forced to go on other Quests to amend for her actions on the Quest (she spoke and broke the Laws of Hospitality.

Quest Examples

Example 1

Imagine a HeroPath involving crossing a river with the aid of Mr Beaver who lives on its banks, and a GodLearner Mage who walks the Path to destroy it. He does this by killing Mr Beaver in order to prevent others from walking the path. Suppose that other GodLearners walked this Path, strengthening it and weakening the other path.

Now imagine another HeroQuestor trying to follow the original Path, reaching the river and finding no Mr Beaver. This is because the new Path is much stronger than the old one, so Mr Beaver seems to have never existed. The HeroQuestor is an Elf-Friend and knows a Quest where he can ride the Green Log across the river, so he invokes this Quest and crosses the river, continuing the Quest as normal. Several more Questors now follow this new HeroPath, crossing the river on the Green Log, strengthening the Path so that it becomes the strongest of the three Paths.

There are now three Paths - the original with Mr Beaver, the second with no crossing and the third with the Green Log Crossing. Two of these Quests will result in the eventual success of the HeroQuest. However, as time passes, the third quest will become the only one known. In this case, the society may completely lose track of the fact that Mr Beaver was an ally and would lose all powers gained from that fact.

Example 2

A Kyger Litor HeroQuestor entering GodTime and stealing the Sandals of Darkness from Orlanth, returning them to Kyger Litor will cause all Orlanthi with the Darkwalk spell from the Sandals of Darkness subcult to lose the reusable spell and would allow trolls to join a Sandals of Darkness subcult and to sacrifice for the spell.

In this case, the HeroQuestor will become a Hero of the cult, probably as the granter of the Darkwalk spell.

Example 3

A HeroQuest to negate the Curse of Kin would involve joining Kyger Litor in GodTime and defending her from the attacks of Gbaji, possibly interposing herself between Gbaji and Kyger Litor to absorb or deflect the blow which tore open Korasting's womb. If successful, such a HeroQuest would enable other trolls to perform a similar Quest or to sacrifice for Rune Magic to enable a birth to be a healthy Dark Troll.

It would not allow all troll births to be Dark Trolls, unless the HeroQuestor was of major power. After all, Cragspider only managed to bypass some of the effects of the curse. As more Questors repeat the Quest, the effects could be strengthened to bloodlines and perhaps to all of trolldom.

Failing in the Quest would result in all births of the Questor and her line to be trollkin - a mortifying curse.

In this case, the strength of Gbaji's cursing HeroPath was greater than the Quests opposing it. It is necessary to produce a very strong opposing path or to produce a path to bypass the effects - neither of which have been successful so far.

Example 4

A Quest to create a new Spirit Magic Spell would involve a GodTime Quest. The Questor must find an artefact to give him the spell knowledge or to find powers to impart to others. Once the spell or ability has been learned or gained, the Questor must then give the spell or ability away to others, not keeping it to himself. This means that he must find a way of teaching the spell to others - whether through Spell Spirits or other means. The Spirit Magic Spell will then be taught through a HeroCult or SubCult of the main cult.

Example 5

A HeroQuestor could travel on a Quest in order to gain powers for himself. For instance, an Orlanthi HeroQuestor may follow part of the Lightbringers' Path and may relieve Orlanth's Shield Bearer at some stage, carrying the Shield of Arran. For this deed, he could gain free uses of the Great Parry spell, an unbreakable shield, increased shield parry or whatever. This is, of course, the most minor of GodTime HeroQuests - that of personal gain.