Runequest Thursday #12: Heroquesting and Feats of Arms!

Clint Staples

The Legend RPG has a chapter on Heroic Abilities, which are purchased with Hero Points, but are only accessible through epic quests, Attaining a high rank in a cult, etc. I really like this idea. It provides a way for players to claim a piece of cool for their character, based on what they want to do and they get input into how they will go about doing it.

I had been planning to use this system as a means for allowing characters reward for Heroquesting –a practice in which powerful Runequest characters ritually interact with mythic events on the God Plane to alter themselves or the world. It has been a feature of Runequest, in theory, for decades and numerous iterations of the game – it is evocative, dangerous, and fun, and encourages the players to buy into the game-world and their backgrounds.

But many of the Abilities listed in Heroic Abilities in the Legend RPG are relatively mundane for Heroquesting  - not bad, or useless, and appropriate for their purpose, which is not Heroquesting.  I want the players, when they reach the level of Heroquesters, to be able to take their place among the ranks of the great heroes and villains of Glorantha – like Prince Argrath, Harrek the Berserk, Hon-eel, Cragspider and the rest.

So I am going to adapt the Heroic Abilities chapter of the Legend RPG for Heroquesting, at the same time keeping it intact for Heroic Abilities.

But since Heroic Abilities and Heroquesting are confusingly similar by way of their titles, I am going to rename Heroic Abilities as ‘Feats of Arms’.

Why? A few reasons:

1 – Feat is already used to represent an acquired ability that a player gets to choose in another RPG, one that all of my players are familiar with. So they will know immediately what I mean.

2 – A Feat is an impressive display of skill or ability, and that accurately describes the Heroic Abilities of the Legend RPG.

3 – Feats of Arms will train the players on how Heroquesting abilities will function. You see, I want the players to tell me what sorts of Heroquesting abilities they are interested in. I already have a keener or two in the group who are looking forward to stuff like this. Oh, I will write up some, in fact I already have for Sorcerers. But overall, I think the players will be far more interested in Heroquesting if they can get the ability of their character’s dreams. I will still handle the mechanics of the ability when the time comes, but they will be the ones coming up with the ideas.

Feats of Arms will be more limited in power, more attainable, and will be acquired through the permanent expenditure of Hero Points. They will require finding a tutor, or some other agency to grant, or to instruct one in their acquisition. They might even be available as a reward for a minor heroquest-like activity. Here are a few examples, using Heroic Abilities from Legend, and a couple of my own.

Karzander, who aspires to become a Sword of Humakt, wishes to learn Battle Fury. On meeting the requirements of the ability, Karzander spends the 12 Hero Points and consults with the ranking Swordpriest at his temple, who tells him of a Zorak Zorani great troll berzerker by the name of Strag the Man-Eater. Karzander must find Strag and either defeat him in combat or convince him to impart the knowledge of Battle Fury. When Karzander accomplishes this quest, he will acquire the ability, and probably some renown for the deed.

Sivastri the sorceress has Mastered the Mind Rune, possesses the other prerequisites for the Sense Rune feat of arms. While Mastering the Mind Rune, she received a vision of the great scrying pool at Moonbroth. She spends the 6 Hero Points and begins preparations to steal into the Lunar held temple to commune with the oracular waters of the Moonbroth.

Dagaz, the sun elk nomad, has striven to learn from more experienced eiders, the feat of Shooting Under the Neck, which would allow him to avoid arrows are javelins while shooting back. It is a relatively common feat among the peoples of Prax, and Dagaz, having gained the necessary skill in riding and bow, seeks out the famed sun elk archer Heartpiercer, spends his 5 Hero Points and asks for instruction.

Now, each of the above examples suggest that there will be some difficulty to be overcome to gain the feat of arms. This is true. It may be seeking out instruction, convincing the instructor through payment or other means, finding a place to acquire the ability, possibly more than one of these. These costs are in addition to the Hero point expenditure, and may come with long-term strings attached. Some feats may only be available through a cult or cabal, such as the Dread Chalice sorcery cabal’s feat to increase the maximum for personal POWer.

In comparison to Feats of Arms, Heroquest abilities will take the lid off the can of whoopass! You want the ability to leap your mount atop castle walls – go heroquest in the Myth of Jaldon Toothmaker’s attack on Pavis. You hope to command great armies of lightbringers, what better way than to heroquest in the Myth of Orlanth the King. Or maybe you want to dance you rway across fields of enemies, leaving a trail of corpses like bloated poppies in your wake – find your way into the myths of the great Wyrm Friend martial dancers, or challenge Jar-Eel the Razoress to a dance-off.

But that is the subject of another article.