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Narrativist Scenario Writing

Started by Peter Nordstrand, June 01, 2003, 07:30:56 AM

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Let's talk Bangs...

Well, as far as it goes, for a scenario like this to work, Bangs really need to be developed around the PCs.  This isn't in the same sense as Mick brought up, in that its important to know if we've got "magic guys or fightin' guys", but rather that its important to know which NPCs they're tied to, and what their personal goals are.

With that, I'm going to start with general guidelines regarding the overall events, then some specific possible ones, and leave it to you to recognize that the majority of Bangs are going to be based around your particular set of heroes and decisions made in play.

Overall events and Conflict
These aren't bangs, but good suggestions that you can use as inspiration for Bangs...

Sir Eustef's Coma

First of all, the longer this goes on, the more the various characters will try to side with one of the sons, and get that person into power for their own safety and stability.  If this info leaks to the general public, expect massive troubles in town, and general unrest.  Also expect the neighboring political powers to make the moves that they've been kept from doing all this time, or to set up to annex Spring Fountain.

It's Magic

When it comes out that Sir Eustef's condition was inflicted, expect various NPCs to look for someone to blame and punish.  Many of these people will not be using reason.  Sir Alfan is number one on the list of people to trip.

Lady Noella and Aimee

Odds are that the Old Guard will try to keep the situation from her at first.  This facade won't hold up for more than a couple of days, at best.  Once Noella figures out something is wrong(not hard, she's sharp), she'll try to cement the political situation, pick Hugo or Guilbert, and set things straight as fast as possible.  Her unstable political power is depending on an alliance with Spring Fountain.  She will actively try to get one of the sons in power ASAP to keep things stable.

The HeroQuest

On the Heroquest itself, this is likely where information such as what caused Sir Eustef's conditions(such as the wording of the prayers) will come forth as the heroes deal with the spirits.  The identities of those responsible might not be known by the spirits, but the sons might break down and admit their role in it.  Or, once they realize that they were responsible(individually, probably not recognizing the action of the other), they may try harder to hide their role.

This is where things get really sticky.  You could have both sons admit at the same time, their individual responsibilities in this mess, or perhaps one owns up to the blame, and the other doesn't reveal his part until "justice is served"  Either way, things can get real ugly here.

Politics and Money

Obviously we have a rivalry between Raoul and Etienne's family.  Both sides will try their hardest to win favor with both son's and try to get their "winning horse" in power.  They will also try to hinder someone if they are against them.  Etienne is pretty much a shoo-in for Guilbert, so it will probably be a political duel between his father and Raoul.  Things could get progressively ugly, depending on how far either one is willing to go.

Love and misunderstanding

The Bard used this to great effect, and its always fun to run with.  Here, you have people full of passion, even if they can't admit it to themselves(Father Ratier), leading to extreme, irrational action.  Can you say drama?  I knew you could.  Most likely the fun bangs for this will come out of the various folks trying to put down rivals, or potential rivals, or trying to help their beloved without informing them of their plans or actions, probably fouling up whatever their beloved had going to begin with.  

Outside Pressure

The longer the rulership is in question, the higher the pressure from outside sources will grow.  If it takes too long, the King may grant one of the neighbors the right to put Spring Fountain under its "protectorship" until things are sorted out(bad).  At its worst, the King might just allow one of those neighbors to out and out annex it.  At first, you may find some raiding or minor border violations after the news breaks, and perhaps bandits may swoop in to take advantage of the confusion.

Ok, that's the general stuff, let's get a little deeper-

Possible Bangs in play-

Note the term "Possible", any and all of these can be discarded, ignored, revised, or whatever, without necessarily "breaking play".  They're just possible ideas you can use or modify if things get slow.

-Guilbert arrives to the summons about his father's condition, late, and drunk.  Hugo and him have a shouting match...the rift begins...

-Raoul attempts to send the best doctors to aid Sir Eustef.  The doctors are good, just not that good, and provide more of a spy network within the manor.  A PC discovers this fact.

-Sister Josette comforts Guilbert and attempts to make a move.  He'll likely go for it.  A PC discovers this, but the couple isn't aware of it.

-Xavier may enlist some of the PCs to protect and watch over Lady Noelle, particularly the ones who are well mannered, will leave a good impression, and think highly of Hugo

-Lady Noelle may attempt to worm some info about the sons out of PCs, and various folks around the Manor.

-Aimee may fall in love with one of the PCs, complicating things very much.

-Father Rance will reveal that Sir Eustef's condition is magically induced, and that his soul is trapped between worlds.

-Father Rance will, after some research, find the appropriate myth and ritual to save Sir Eustef's soul, and prepare to establish a Heroquest.

-Brier does not want Hugo to go to the HeroQuest, and will try to dissuade him, and hopefully engineer some way of keeping him from undertaking such a dangerous action, she'll likely try to enlist the aid of the PCs, or trick them into her goals.

-If civil unrest gets nasty, Father Ratier will call in the Church's armed forces to peacekeep.  This will be his perfect chance to make a power move to establish a center of power for the Church in the area, and get a cushy position that lets him stay near Sister Josette.

-Sir Alfan will vehemently shout down anyone who might even imply that Sir Eustef might not make it.  He'll volunteer Hugo and Guilbert, and anyone else who he thinks has a good heart and the courage to save Sir Eustef's soul, most likely some of the PCs.

-Lady Collette and Lady Noelle will have a rivalry going on.  Consider it the ego "lady of the house" thing.  Both will make comments and try to put the other in as uncomfortable and embarassing situations without getting too vicious with it.  This can be entertaining if the PCs are around to see this, or have to "take sides"

-Serge will try to keep things under control.  If any PCs are military, they will find themselves under a practical, but intimidating taskmaster.  He will have a lot of things for them to do, and will not take failure very well.  He'll also push for more resources into keeping the peace rather than the Heroquest.

-Ratier and Serge will clash a lot.  One has faith only in God, the other only in himself.  Plus both are trying to establish military power.  You do the math.

-Etienne will try to console Guilbert, through wine and women.  He'll also try to make sure Guilbert is surrounded by good friends, probably PCs if they're involved.

-Maslin is an excellent source of Bangs.  Whenever you want to reveal some crazy old fact, that requires some sort of Lore, he can just mention it.  Stuff like, "Wishes spoken around the Well on the Eclipse of the Blood Moon always come true!",  "When the guardians of the afterlife won't take in a soul, that means magic is involved."  Basically, whenever you want to drop some non-sequitar hints, this is the guy...

-Trencavel will immediately be concerned when word gets out that Sir Eustef is ill.  He will probably clash with Serge, since Trencavel is a "man of the people" and a bit of an idealist, while Serge is the cold pragmatist.  Trencavel will be the first to bring news of banditry, raiding, or even riots.  As things get progressively more screwed up, he'll become more active, even unto the point of establishing a martial law with his militia...

-A good Bang would be for one of the son's to recognize their role in their father's situation and to fess up.  The other may immediately, or later recognize their own responsibility.

-The reactions of other NPCs to such a confession will likely be drastic, and maybe even life-threatening.

-"The other foot to drop" is whether the sibling admits to their equal responsibility or lets the other take the fall.

-Sir Eustef may choose to move on to the afterlife.  The kicker of his return is that someone is going to have to die.  Whether one of the sons, one of the PCs, or some other NPC takes his place is a big meaningful choice as well.

-Sir Alfan will not stand for Sir Eustef dying.  He may be ordered by Eustef to live, and not take his place.  In this case, Alfan may be crushed.

-There may be another way to save Sir Eustef, but it will rely on creative manipulation of the involved myth(this is Glorantha, right?) which of course, will have ramifications.

-Whether Sir Eustef lives or dies, or which son gets power, is all a Bang unto itself.  You can spike it if Eustef picks the son unpopular with the PCs.

-At any point, things could start to get ugly, with folks actually breaking out into scuffles, poisoning each other, throwing each other in dungeons, etc.  That's the point where its getting deep.  That's all good Bang-worthy material as well.

Anyhow, that's the general list, and you can see how, well, unflavored it is without specific PCs to fit into the scenario.  None of these Bangs will happen for sure, and just are ideas that may or may not get used accordingly.

Thoughts? Comments?  More Bangs?




Quote from: Peter NordstrandMost welcome to our little party! Please stay with us. Chris answers your concerns so much better than I ever could.

Cheers for the welcome, but I'm afraid Chris' answers doesn't answer my concerns and raise further issues.

Quote from: BankueiThe goal of this thread is to write an example of a Narrativist Scenario.

Although partly true, this is not the whole truth. Quoting from one of the Peter's earlier posts
QuoteWhat I Am Looking For With This Topic:

I am talking about written scenarios. Not made up by the people playing the scenario. I am literally thinking about scenarios written to be read and played by people other than its author(s). This is what I mean when I ask, "How does one write a Narrativist scenario for HeroQuest?"

As I see it, the stress here is on the "written to be read and played by people other than its author(s)". Therefore there needs to be an awareness of who those "people" are, how they play and what they want from a published scenario. There needs to be some appreciation of the target audience, it doesn't matter whether its published as a book, placed on a website, or passed around by hand. It needs to cater to the needs of its target audience. Knowing who your target audience is and what they want is as important as the story itself.

As a dedicated Glorantha Fan, a long time GM/narrator of both one off games and extended campaigns. and in recent times a demonstrator of HeroQuest at cons up and down the UK I think I have some understanding of what these various issues and needs are.

If this was a one off game, then I'd agree that creating heroes specifically for this story, with preexisting relationships to the NPC's, is the probably the way to go about it. But as this is going to be a mini campaign I believe this approach to be flawed.

My reasoning behind this is as follows:

As a narrator, what do i look for in an adventure module, whether it be bought at a shop or downloaded from the net. The answer is simple, I have always preferred adventures that can be easily assimilated into my on-going campaigns. Where there is no need, or at the most, very little need, to do any retrofitting to fit the published adventure into the campaign. The reason for this is Time. I buy/download adventures to save time, so i can concentrate writing my own adventures and actually doing stuff in the RW. If I have to spend too much time retrofitting an adventure then it defeats the object of getting the adventure.

This Time issue shouldn't be underestimated. As people get older, and the current Gloranthan roleplaying community is verging towards the older side of life, their RW list of relationships and commitments gets ever longer. Work, Marriage, Kids, etc. all get in the way, meaning less time for their hobbies. So gamers are less likely to want to put their current campaign on hiatus for an extended period to create new heroes and play a mini campaign for 4 to 6 sessions, as this could quite easily translate into 4-6 months of real time. This lack of spare time actually means that they want more ready to play adventures to slot into their existing campaigns

Any good story will reflect these factors in its design. Thus if your wanting as many people as possible to play the story, rather than just read it, you cannot begin with the assumption that heroes will be especially written for this mini campaign

Which leads onto my point about the size and make up of the standard group of heroes

QuoteFinally, if you are suggesting that there "should be" 6-8 players, or PCs+followers, adding up to that many heroes, again, completely unnecessary. I would dread running this scenario as written with more than 4 players, and I'd probably cap it at 3. With the serious amount of drama and subconflict I've set up, there'd be way too much going on to worry about 6-8 players. Hell, at that point, I'd just have like 3 NPCs and let the game be about the conflicts between the PCs

The point I was trying make was with reference to placing this mini series within an already running campaign. I not suggesting that there "should be" anything, rather I was asking what "actually is" the standard group of heroes made up of. We then design the adventure to cater for that standard group to give it the widest appeal and ease of use.

Thus my description of the make up of the party was to bring an awareness of what type of group is most likely to be playing. Half of them being warriors and the other half being specialists of one form or another seems reasonably common from the campaigns I've run and played in. This was in no way a statement to say that this must be the case, only what is most likely. I totally agree with the comment that a scribe could have as much impact as a warrior and never said anything to the contrary.  

Upon reflection I think 6-8 players is probably on the large size for a continuing campaign group. This is my normal target numbers for Demo games. But equally three people is on the low side. Its much more likely to be in the 4-6 people range. Again the number of plots, subplots and conflicts should reflect this number of players.

As to their skill levels, the levels of their skills are a factor in how they relate to the community around them, as much so as their traits and relationships do. The HeroQuest rules detail what skill levels the standard NPC's have at certain social ranks, the relative difference between the heroes general level of skill and that of the NPC will add or reduce the authority and weight of their words and deeds in the community. So its important to know what their status is likely to be, especially in a caste dominated society such as Seshnela  

The other factor in running the story as part of a preexisting campaign is the heroes lack of relationships to the main characters. This is why i suggested that the first two or three sessions take place before the Lord falls into a coma, so the heroes can gain their relationships. Describing these early stages then makes it far easier to assimilate into the longer running campaign.

QuoteIt is also not designed to be integrated within an existing campaign, unless the Heroes happen to be very involved with Spring Fountain. Again, wandering heroes doesn't work too well here.

I'm sorry if all this goes against the grain, but by imposing restrictions like these, and 3 as the maximum number of players, your missing a potentially large target audience for what could be a very neat story. To me if your going to write an adventure for other people to use, then you should write it for as many of them to easily enjoy as possible and not write it as your own personal game.

"There is always another way"  

Mick Rowe


Hi Mick,

Thanks for sharing your experience.  I'll try to address the issues you raise...

QuoteAs I see it, the stress here is on the "written to be read and played by people other than its author(s)". Therefore there needs to be an awareness of who those "people" are, how they play and what they want from a published scenario.

This scenario is being written with a very good awareness of its target audience: Narrativists.  Narrativists want a good conflict, high-loaded for drama, and a good set of NPCs to drive it.  

Narrativists have also been poorly served in terms of scenarios.  They have no problem looking at a scenario such as this one and saying "Yeah, I want to play that!" or changing names and faces to fit their campaign, because they've been forced to do that AND write conflict and NPCs on top of that, all this time.

Therefore, while your concerns of time and accessibility may apply to gamers, or even Gloranthan players in general, it doesn't apply to Narrativists, and isn't a concern here.  

QuoteThe point I was trying make was with reference to placing this mini series within an already running campaign. I not suggesting that there "should be" anything, rather I was asking what "actually is" the standard group of heroes made up of. We then design the adventure to cater for that standard group to give it the widest appeal and ease of use.

Again, we've got some different operating procedures at work here;  the assumption of a long running campaign being the norm, and of designing the scenario around the "widest appeal".  Narrativists are more concerned with a solid story arc rather than year in year out campaign play.  I have faith that the Narrativists who are engaged in long term play are either writing their own, or quite used to having to modify scenarios, the only difference is that this one is rather "easier" to modify towards Narrativist needs.

This scenario is well designed for appealing to a wide audience within Narrativists.  Notice that its open to anything from warriors to scribes, that no one side is "right or wrong" or limitations being placed on  role or condition of the player characters, aside from the fact that they need to have motivation to interact with the situation with meaningful emotional ties.  If someone wanted to play Sir Eustef's brother, it would make a big change to the outcome, but is certainly permissible within this frame work.

Also, notice that none of the NPCs are completely nailed down.  You could run Lady Noelle from a concerned matron with political power to an evil bitch.  Guilbert could be a well meaning guy, needing to learn responsibility to a complete debauched spoiled brat.  There is plenty of room to take this scenario and run with it as you will.  No events(other than the coma) are nailed down as mandatory, so you could run everything from a feudal war to a high themed mythological jaunt into the afterworld to a soul wrenching soap opera of betrayal.  

QuoteAs to their skill levels, the levels of their skills are a factor in how they relate to the community around them, as much so as their traits and relationships do. The HeroQuest rules detail what skill levels the standard NPC's have at certain social ranks, the relative difference between the heroes general level of skill and that of the NPC will add or reduce the authority and weight of their words and deeds in the community. So its important to know what their status is likely to be, especially in a caste dominated society such as Seshnela

This is very secondary to the conflict, which is the reason at the moment we're not focusing on statting up NPCs.  I'd likely put them all at reasonable low skill levels, but with the understanding that if you want to up the stakes with high powered PCs, you can certainly up the stats of the NPCs to match within reason.  

QuoteI'm sorry if all this goes against the grain, but by imposing restrictions like these, and 3 as the maximum number of players, your missing a potentially large target audience for what could be a very neat story. To me if your going to write an adventure for other people to use, then you should write it for as many of them to easily enjoy as possible and not write it as your own personal game.

There's 100% open room for character types, for players choosing to side with, aid, or hinder whomever they want, there's no established outcomes based on what I think is cool, or should happen, and there's no "GM's favorite NPC" going on.  There's plenty of room to change what the story focus is, and variation on how the NPCs are played.   I'm not sure I understand what you mean by "my personal game", as far as I'm concerned, this sort of stuff is a Narrativist's field day.  

What you are saying isn't against the grain, its simply not concerns that Narrativists are worried about.  Your concerns make perfect sense if I was aiming for a different target audience.   The only reason I keep stressing the Nar part is that in fact, this scenarion stuff is written with them in mind, and that the needs and requirements are signficantly different than what you are asking about.  

Folks who don't play this way will look at what's here and scratch their head and go, "How do I make this work?  What is supposed to happen?", while the Nar guys will either go, "That's exactly the kind of stuff I want!" or go, "I like this subconflict here, screw that, that's what I want to focus on!"  That's why I said my first post with just the basic conflict and concept essentially contains all I really need to make things go.  Peter immediately saw what I'm talking about, and everything since then is just icing on the cake.

If you'd like to continue discussing the differences and needs of Narrativism vs. other styles of play, I'd be happy to continue this discussion in another thread, preferably either RPG theory or GNS so that we can get some input from some other Nar style players and GMs.


Peter Nordstrand

First of all, let me stress how grateful I am that you want to do this, Chris. Reading your posts is nothing but pleasure. The only reason why I don't continually praise you is that it would be rather annoying after a while.
QuoteLet's talk Bangs...
Yes, let's. :-) Since most scenarios out there aren't narrativist, there is no precedent to draw upon for how to actually handle this. Thus I assume that the scenario ought to include a "How to Play this Scenario" section, with some brief guidance on how to use the Bangs, what to think about when making up your own, how to tie the heroes to the scenario, and so on. Nothing extensive, I imagine, just some basic good advice and reassurance. Do you agree?
QuoteAlso expect the neighboring political powers to make the moves that they've been kept from doing all this time, or to set up to annex Spring Fountain.
We need to know something about these wicked enemies, don't we?
QuoteSir Alfan is number one on the list of people to trip.
Sorry. English is not my first language. To trip?
QuoteThe Heroquest
How do you plan on handling this? Aren't you railroading the scenario towards the quest? I assume that you are planning on writing the myth that Father Rance finds. If not, well, why? Perhaps Tom's neat idea (that I sadly dismissed too quickly) can be used in some way?
QuoteEtienne is pretty much a shoo-in for Guilbert, so it will probably be a political duel between his father and Raoul.
If it probably will be a duel between Etienne's father and Raoul, shouldn't Etienne's father be included in the character roster?
QuoteCan you say drama?
Oh, man, I can even say MELOdrama. I just loooove that melo part.
QuotePossible Bangs in play
This is great stuff. It also makes me very aware of the importance of Scene Framing...


/Peter N
Nobody expects the Rokari inquisition.
Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice.
     —Grey's Law


Hi Peter,

I'd be happy to hear more input from you if you've got some good ideas right at this point.

Deliberate Undefinition-

Some things I'm deliberately leaving open.  Which brother makes which wish?  What reaction they have when they discover the effects?  What are the neighboring political powers up to?

Why am I doing this?  Laziness?  No, each of these are dials and "doors" for the GM to customize this scenario.  Like I've said before, this could just be a tragic scenario of well meaning mistakes, or it could be a heinous backstabbing festival.

Mick's concerns about integration with a larger campaign are somewhat taken into account by not defining the larger setting.  If you do choose to port heros into Spring Fountain, its simply a matter of getting them involved with a nearby event and linking them in.  If you want to really expand the situation, raise the stakes, and play high powered, then Spring Fountain is simply the beginning of warfare and political struggle.  If you want to keep it small, then you can do that too.

I'm rather happy simply defining the neighboring political situation as something for the GM to define with this note:

Neighboring Fiefs

Sir Eustef has carved out his land, and held onto it with fierce determination and cunning.  He's held any rivals at bay through strong politicking, alliegences, and unspoken threats as necessary("Eustef's men began doing 'training manuevers' by the silver mines, sir...").  The neighboring fiefs may not be out and out hostile, but they are probably ambitious and hungry for more land.

At the very least, they can provide pressure for action, at the most in-depth, they can extend the political conflict all the way up to the King.  Create them as you see fit.

Sir Alfan-
Sorry, slipped into slang language.  Sir Alfan is the most likely one to react without thinking, probably out of anger.  When the news that Sir Eustef has fallen to magical influence, Sir Alfan will be looking for someone to blame, and may start looking to imprison or execute whoever he thinks may be responsible, before thinking things through.

Etienne's Father-
Yeah, as I'm writing this, he needs to be given some formal definition.  I'll come back with a better handle on hiim later.

The Heroquest-
I'm going to see what I can research regarding the culture and mythology involved here, before I come back with a more detailed ideas about the Heroquest itself.

As far as railroading it to happen, that is not guaranteed.  Let's just say it's highly "likely" to happen, although there are some plausible events I could see making it impossible or otherwise changing it significantly(such as one PC assassinating Sir Eustef's body in order to rush one of the son's into power...).

How to play this Scenario-
I will probably write up a section along these lines, although it will probably be brief and aimed at folks who already "get" narrativism to some degree.  I'd rather not have to write a massive essay and staple a scenario to it, but rather give the basics and let folks run with it, etc.

More to come,


Peter Nordstrand

Hi Chris,

What I have here is nitpicking, basically. Please be patient with me. However, I do have a list of subjects I would like to address, and I am posting as quickly as I can.


While relationships between people is what makes this adventure, relationships to communities are hardly touched upon so far. Yet communities have a significant impact on play. For example, when the Old Guard goes on its heroquest, it will desperately need the support of the various communities: Their congregation, their families, various interest groups, etc. Without absolutely 100% support from at least a couple of important (i.e. large) communities the questers will undoubtedly fail. Characters desiring to disrupt the quest will be working equally hard to convince communities not to support the venture or even to condemn it. The communities have the power to make or break the heroquest before it even begins.

Hm...this is not nitpicking at all. :-)

In my opinion, we need to identify the most important communities. It shouldn't be too hard. Give me a couple of days to come up with something.

Subjects for my upcoming posts (just so you know it is on its way ASAP):

Class Consciousness
Religion Revisited: Heresy
The Heroquest


/Peter N
Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice.
     —Grey's Law

Peter Nordstrand

Class Consciousness

Seshnelan society is a caste society. If you are born a peasant, you stay a peasant. The characters in this story seem to lack the class consciousness that is so important in their culture. This is fairly evident in one of the suggested Bangs concerning Trencavel: "As things get progressively more screwed up, he'll become more active, even unto the point of establishing a martial law with his militia..." Now this is fine by me, as long as it is clear that a commoner like Trencavel is not authorized to make that kind of decisions. At least not if his social superiors are affected. His duty, not only according to the law of the land but according to the Divine Cosmic Laws, is to obey his betters.

Anyway, I think it would be nice to introduce a hint of class consciousness to the character descriptions. Again, I will have a look at it as soon as I am able. Perhaps I can come up with something more tangible.

Hm...this is nitpicking I believe. :-)


/Peter N
Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice.
     —Grey's Law


Hi Peter,

No problem.  When you start asking about the hair length and shoe size of each character, then I might get irritated :)

Right, so to go into some of the various groups, factions, and people involved....

-The general public
Right now the most popular person is Guilbert, although folks still support Sir Eustef.  This can change based on the actions of folks though...

-The Church
Overall heirarchy power lies in the hands of Father Ratier, but the local clergy supports Josette for her tireless actions.  She's also popular amongst the more religious public.

-Merchant/Artisan/Trade Guilds
This is where Etienne's(as of yet) unnamed father and Raoul will politically duel for power and support.

-The Militia
The Militia has worked well with Sir Eustef's forces in the past, but tension may rise if people start getting hurt due to bad decision making by the interrim leaders.

-The Military(Eustef's forces)
Depending on who they serve, and how long they've served, their loyalties may differ.  Anyone who's worked under Eustef is probably very loyal and disciplined.  Xavier's trained many of the better fighters, and they owe him some loyalty.  Serge is a cold but efficient leader, so he will have some supporters as well.  Anyone who's gotten a chance to work with Hugo will see that he has all the makings of a good leader, although their disposition towards him depends on how he acts and reacts(GM's call on playing him).

That covers the major groups, although if you want to go into further details(specific Guilds, calvary units, etc.) be my guest.

Class Consciousness-

After doing some more research on Seshnela, I've picked up more on the caste system.  This really only makes some of the love triangles going on all the more poignant  On note of class issues, folks who'd make good "haughty" sorts include Serge, Father Ratier, Lady Noelle, and Etienne(and his father).

Trencavel's actions would be after desperately pleading with folks like Serge and either getting no where or having them move too slow.  He would institute his vigilante martial law only if rioting broke out, or an invasion occurred.  Nonetheless, it would brand him an outlaw...

If you've got some more interesting twists to add to this, please feel free.


I'm doing research on Seshnela's myths at this point, one which appeals to me greatly is the idea of the "quest" in the sense of just travelling to a far land, ala the Green Knight, and that constituting a Heroquest, somewhat similar to an Arthurian legend.   I'm playing with the idea of all the spirits encountered being Saints(particularly knights), and the various tests being social, wits, or out and out tests of arms by the various knights.

Potential ideas in the brewing:
-St. Taylor as a trickster/guide
-St. Horal & Gerlant as the guardians of the passing from this world to the next
-St. Xemela as the final spirit who carries out the decision as to who lives or dies.

More to come,


Peter Nordstrand

Sorry for taking so long to respond.

The Heroquest-

I am happy to declare that I have a number of objections to your heroquest ideas. Finally I feel useful! ;-)

Short version:
Don't involve any saints. Write a story, not a heroquest.

Longer version:
In my humble opinion, neither Talor nor Horal are venerated in Seshnela. Also, I am not particularly fond of them being the guardians of the gate to the Other Side. It doesn't quite work that way. In this instance, going on the quest will be a deliberate act. A wizard will make a Portal of Power, and the questers' will use it to send their minds to the other side. There will be a very strict procedure, and a very specific ritual will be performed to make the transition happen. There will be no supernatural "guardians of the gate," and the crossing from the mundane world to the hero planes will be obvious to all participants. (Note: In Glorantha there are always exceptions to a rule, but this is most clearly not such an instance.)

I don't think Saint Talor the Laughing Warrior works very well as a trickster. He laughs because he knows the blessing of Joy, which is a glimpse of Solace in the mundane world. As a Saint, he is a representative of a higher order, based on reliable cosmic laws, which in my mind makes him a lousy trickster. (Though the Rokari Church of Seshnela, who doesn't believe in Joy, may very well see him as one.)

Saint Xemela is basically a Saint of healing and self-sacrifice. She is not a psychopomp. Her worshippers are pacifists. I don't think she decides who lives or dies.

However, this stuff about the Saints doesn't matter, for the heroquest will not involve them. Yes, I hear you moan. The thing is that Talor, Horal, Gerlant, Xemela, and almost every other saint (except perhaps Malkion) were active since time began. They are not part of any myths, and therefore a heroquest cannot be about their actions.

However, despite all this, whatever cool ideas you may have can easily be salvaged. Just change the names of the characters involved and go ahead. I have only one piece of advice here, but I know it is good: Don't bother writing a heroquest at this stage. Begin with the story. Make up a myth.


/Peter N
Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice.
     —Grey's Law


Hi Peter,

No moaning over here.  No idea was fully developed enough to deserve salvaging.  Like I said, I did some net searching for info on the culture, and well, worked with what I had.  This is where folks, like you, who are Glorantha knowledgable, jump in and take over.

Writing myth? Easy, I do that all the time.  Writing myth that fits in with an established culture I have no real understanding of?  Hmm, problem.  

To give summary of my Glorantha lore: Picked up HW, no extra books.  And that was it.  My copy of HW disappeared over a year and a half ago, a little before I made a big house move, so I don't have paperback reference to dig into.

So, I'm quite happy at this point to be "hands-off" and let you write up a myth and work from there, or else dig deeper if you can point me to a good site or source of info.  I was working off the library link previously provided, and some various google searches.

Pretty much all I have envisioned at this point is something along the lines of Orpheus' quest, into the underworld, either to bring back Sir Eustef's soul to his body, or see it safely to final resting.   The suggested saints and roles were simply based off the 1 or 2 sentence descriptions as depicted on the library link.

So, ball's in your court :)


Peter Nordstrand

I wrote this fragment several days ago, but can't seem to finish it, so I thought I'd better post it as is.


Trymir was a great hero of our people, and one of the earliest settlers of this unfortunate land. At one time he was enthralled by the witchcraft of Damsel Ophidia of the Moist Between the Rocks. Eventually he freed himself of her spell and returned to the outside world. Unknown to him, Ophidia gave birth to two sons, Ivo and Roscard. Ivo was dark and foul like his mother, Roscard noble and bright like his father.

Roscard grew to become a valiant and capable young man. He wanted desperately to get together with his father, but Ophidia would not let him. She imprisoned the young hero like she had tried to imprison his father. However, Roscard tricked her into eating some poisoned berries and broke out of his prison while she lay sleeping on the ground. Dark Ivo tried to stop him, but noble Roscard wrestled his brother into submission.

"Hereafter, I shall be your Lord, and you shall be my subject," said Roscard to his brother. "For such is the nature of things that some men must lead for others to follow."

On the way to his father's house, Roscard was assaulted by the Black Knight of the Slippery Dark, but defeated him. Roscard reached his destination only to find Trymir's magnificent stronghold reduced to a state of unnatural torpor. The once bright hallways were permeated with a soporific vapor. Even the guards at the entrance were soundly asleep and young Roscard walked right past them into the disorienting fog.


So, what happens next? Well Trymir's fortress is obviously a metaphor for a place between life and death. The new master is not Trymir but a guy called Cold Man or something similar. Before Roscard is allowed to meet his dying father, his virtues are tested. First a test of Temperance. Second a test of Loyalty. Third a test of Compassion.

Finally, Roscard meets his father, who tells him that a great sacrifice must be made in order to save his life. (The myth doesn't tell us what the sacrifice is, but obviously someone else must die in his place.) Roscard gladly makes the sacrifice, and Roscard goes on to become a magnificent  hero.


1. Escape from Ophidia

2. Wrestle with Ivo.
It is a bad idea for Roscard to kill Ivo at this station. They are brother's, and anyone participating in such an unspeakable act will surely draw a horrible curse upon both himself and his family. Note: The more victorious Roscard is at this station, the stronger the Black Knight will be at Station 3.

3. Fight the Black Knight

4. Avoid Being Affected by the Vapor
Failure gives a penalty on the rest of the stations.

5. Test of Temperance

6. Test of Loyalty

7. Test of Compassion

8. The Great Sacrifice

To be continued...
Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice.
     —Grey's Law

Peter Nordstrand


There is more than one version of the myth above. The commoners of the land tell a different story. According to them Roscard was dark and foul, and Ivo was noble and bright.

After wrestling with Roscard, Ivo becomes very angry. (The more decisive his defeat, the angrier he gets.) He sets off into the night dressed as the Black Knight of the Slippery Dark, catches up with his brother and defeats him and takes his identity! Ivo curses his brother, and Roscard slithers back into the darkness. Ivo then continues the quest as laid out above.

What happens to Roscard? Well, he can only enter the mortal world during times of transition, such as equinox, midsummer, or sacred time. But he is still there, hiding in the crevices of reality, brooding and vengeful. Therefore, to this day, the peasants of Spring Fountain offer him propitiatory worship, thus keeping him from punishing the legitimate descendants of Trymir: Sir Eustef and his two sons. Should the church ever find out, they would surely do their best to eradicate the wicked heresy. Should the peasants ever stop their practice, the realm would be invaded by fiendish Snake Things, minions of the true Roscard.

Anyway, this version of the myth can be very valuable for anybody intent on disrupting the heroquest planned by the Old Guard... Should anyone attempt the heroquest knowing both myths, they will be at a considerable advantage.


/Peter N
Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice.
     —Grey's Law

Peter Nordstrand

All right. In my opinion, the meat of the adventure is all there. We have the characters, the conflict, and a truckload of fantastic Bangs. Some things still need to be polished. The myths need to be properly finished, the characters need stats and religious affiliation, and so on, but this is mostly manual labor. If this thread was about 'how to set up a narrativist campaign' this is the moment when I would cheer and happily withdraw in order to actually play the scenario.

However, I would like to keep this thread alive for a little longer, if you don't mind. We are talking about a scenario written to be played by people other than its author. Are there still important pieces missing? Yes, I believe there are.

Below is a suggested outline of The Well of Souls. Two parts are pretty much missing right now: How to Play, and the two first sections of the Putting on Pressure chapter. I agree, Chris, that a complete introduction to narrativist play is not what we are looking for here. We must assume that the persons reading the scenario get narrativism and want it. However, let's not take for granted that they have ever heard about the term narrativist, or that they have ever actually read a scenario catering to their needs before.

Here are a couple of issues that I think should at least be sketchily addressed in the abovementioned chapters:
    How to tie player heroes to the scenario.
    "Hey, why is there no plot?"
    How to run the scenario as a GM: How to use the Bangs, how to come up with your own, aiming the Bangs at the players, how many Bangs to prepare? Don't railroad!
    When is the scenario over? [/list:u]
Do you agree with me or is this just hogwash?

    How to Play
       Bringing in the Heroes
    Spring Fountain—A Brief Overview
       What is it Like?
       Communities and Guardians
       Neighboring Fiefs
    Eustef's Coma Revealed
    The Major Players
       Sir Eustef
    The Factions
       Old Guard
       Guilbert's Supporters
       Hugo's Supporters
       Third Parties
    Putting on Pressure
       How to ...
       When is it Over?
       Overall Events and Conflicts
       Possible Bangs in Play
    Appendix: Myths[/list:u]
    Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice.
         —Grey's Law

    Ron Edwards

    Hi Peter,

    Speaking as someone who's suffered greatly over this issue, for many games in addition to Hero Wars/Quest, I suggest that the first task is to decide who your audience is. It's flatly impossible to make this mode of play understandable to everyone, especially since quite a few of them will find it undesirable as well, if only out of habit.



    Hi Peter,

    Along with what Ron said, here's where some serious decisions need to be made.  How much of this is a scenario, and how much is a "How to play Narrativist" hand book?  

    As much as I dig Narrativism, I find that "telling people about it" rarely does anything for their gaming.  As it stands, there's a hell of a lot of folks who 1) wouldn't like it after experiencing it(cool, their choice), and/or 2) are too entrenched in a given play mode to be able to understand it.

    So, to lay down my understanding of our goals:

    "To write a Narrativist scenario playable by other folks who are into Narrativism"


    "To write a Narrativist scenario that will introduce and explain Narrativism to folks who have never played in such a fashion."

    If you're looking for the second case, you might as well write a Narrativist Handbook, and drop in a couple of scenarios, as opposed to try to write a scenario that "teaches".  The problem here is that there's a lot of folks who cannot even conceive of the concept of:

    -Playing without a prescripted story/flowchart
    -Players being given free rein to decide what role they will play in a conflict
    -" being given free rein to act or react however they wish(within plausibility, minus railroading)
    -playing without a "goal" to accomplish/overcome

    Jumping those mental barriers is necessary to even understanding narrativism, and even then, it may not turn out to be a person's cup of tea.  Instead, I'm more for designing the scenario specifically for Narrativists, who will look at it, "get it" and go with it.  The other folks will just scratch their heads, throw up their hands, and to one degree or another say, "This doesn't support Gamist/Sim play, I don't get it!".

    With that, here's what I'd put in the scenario, based on your concerns...

    What's this all about?

    The Well of Souls is a scenario designed to facilitate a play style where the players play major roles creating the outcome, as opposed to enacting it.  Folks familiar with roleplaying theory will recognize this as Narrativism, protagonism, or possibly as "free-form" play.  Those of you less familiar with such things need only know that this scenario is designed without a prescripted plot of events or a flowchart of "things to happen".  

    "What happens" is based on the actions of the player characters, and the non-player characters, acting, and reacting to each other, based on their individual motivations.  This isn't harder than prescripted play, requiring only the same skills that you use in roleplaying any given character, but definitely different.  If this concept doesn't make any sense to you, this scenario may not be offering what you need.  If you're interested in finding out more about such things, check out

    Wrapping things up

    Depending on how you want to run Well of Souls, you could have it be a short scenario of a few sessions, up to a campaign in and of itself.  If you want to close things up, I'd suggest drawing things to a climax around the two major issues of deciding who will take power, and the fate of Sir Eustef's soul.  Otherwise, you can expand things by dealing with the neighboring fiefs, their politicking, and the actions of the King in all this.

    Setting up the Scenario

    There's only one requirement for this scenario to work.  The PCs must have a vested stake in who runs Spring Fountain, and they should have an emotional tie to at least 1 NPC(either the ones given, or one tied to the ones given), preferably being tied into 3 NPCs.  You can either have players make new characters to fit this, work in the NPCs over play of a longer campaign, or finally just do a cut take and say, "You've spent 3 months in Spring Fountain, who do you hang out with, who are your friends, who're your rivals, etc.".  Feel free to briefly introduce all the NPCs involved, and give a basic description of them.  

    Does this fly with you?  I'll start compiling what we have here, do some touch ups, add in Etienne's father, and start working on a "complete draft version"


    PS- as an aside, "When is over?" really makes me realize that Narrativism is a lot like Go, in that the game is over when both sides agree that it is over, and that further play would be pointless, not by a specific "win scenario" condition.  Neat.