Runequest Thursday #144 - The Argrath!

Clint Staples

A while back I showed you some inhabitants of the White Moon while detailing some of the political structure at play there. The Heroes of Brightwater, one of whom I being groomed for the priesthood of the White Moon Goddess, have traveled to the White Moon’s surface to aid the Goddess against her enemies, the Blue Moon traditionalists, their Imperial allied of the Lunar Empire (the Lunar Empire of Glorantha has long had interest in the Blue, then the White, Moon), and others.

 

In the midst of all this, I would like to take a time out to tell you about something else that has been happening in the Brightwater Campaign. It has been working in the background for more than a year, has come onto the stage of the campaign a time or two more recently, but just took a big step into the spotlight.

 

I am talking about Argrath – or in this case, THE Argrath.

 

If you are familiar with Glorantha at the eve of the time known as the Hero Wars, you might recognize the name Argrath as a man central to the conflict, who leads the embattled and beleaguered Sartarites in a decades long struggle against the Lunar Empire becoming a superhero along the way. Argrath is a prince, a champion of Orlanth, a heroquester, possibly a god in mortal guise, repudiating the Great Compromise all the ancient gods made before Time, to remove themselves from Glorantha and thus preserve the Cosmos from destruction.

 

My version of Glorantha is not canon. By which I mean that, although I love a lot of the history, mythos, creatures and setting, there are portions that I did not adopt, or that I changed to fit my vision and my play group.

 

So there are no ducks in my Glorantha (I know!, But ducks as PCs are ludicrous. Sorry to my departed friend, Steve Lortz, on this one, but even he admitted it when he wrote the terrific light wargame Quacktica, so I hope he will not mind too much). Astute readers of RQT will note that my Praxians ride Aurochs, Sun Elk, Sabre Lizards and Rhinox, rather than the more traditional herdbeasts.

 

Another alteration I have made, from day one when the player decided that they would not work FOR Duke Raus of Rone in his Lunar settlement of the lower River of Cradles, is to depart from the canon storyline as written by Greg Stafford and Chaosium over decades of terrific publications. Instead, the heroes took up residence in the River of Cradles (in the exact spot Raus chose in Borderlands for Rausfort, but in my game, his surveyors chose a point 20 miles south).

 

So it should not come as much of a surprise when I say that I have altered the idea of Argrath from a single individual to a Force.  Whether it is a spirit, a god, or something else entirely, is unknown. But it can change the course of things, largely through inspiration and leadership in times of crisis. Currently, the Argrath seems bent on curbing Lunar expansion, halting the destruction of the Lightbringer Pantheon, and saving the Praxians from the extinction that the Lunar Administration has in store for them.

 

Was this force always The Argrath?

 

Who knows. Maybe it was once a tutelary of the Red Goddess (one of the Seven Mothers perhaps)? Maybe it led the first men back into Dragon Pass in the wake of the Dragonkill War (named for what the dragons did, not what happened to them)? Maybe it once was called Sartar, and forged a people through the building of cities? Could it have been Jaldon Toothmaker, the Praxian warlord who made the nomads rightly feared during his life and for centuries after?

 

And could it have been Waha himself, who taught the staving folk of Eiritha how to survive in the desolation that had become of once verdant Prax, who taught them to domesticate the herdbeasts and the Peaceful Cut to send the spirits of their beloved animals to Eiritha?

 

My simple answer, in my Glorantha is that the Argrath was some of these, and more, and will be others in the future. And now, The Argrath has inhabited a Player Character!

 

This is an opportunity for great mythic events, as well as fantastic roleplaying. But it also holds the possibility of destroying the game, through imbalance and power playing. So I wrote a set of rules for what the Argrath can do.  They are potent, but they comprise a two-edged sword. I have played this up especially to the heroes by having them know the previous bearer of the Argrath, another iconic hero of the setting by the name of Jarang Bladesong, and by showing them the toll it took upon him. And even so, Sayyid, the Aspirant Priestess of the White Goddess chose to accept the Argrath.

 

Which I think is cool!

 

I will let you know how things go next week. For now, here are the promised rules of the Argrath.

 

 

Rules for the Argrath:

 

Unlocking the Argrath abilities:

In order to understand the power that the Argrath is, and how best to direct it and interact with it, the bearer must make a check at the conclusion of each engagement (the same one as noted below “Argrath Check”). When Ranks have not been unlocked, the roll should be used to both determine if a new rank is unlocked, and to determine the long term cost to the bearer for the Argrath’s presence.

POW x5% to unlock Rank 1

POW x3% to Unlock Rank 2

POW x1% to Unlock Rank 3

 

Argrath Check:

At the end of any engagement, the Bearer must make a POW x3% check or lose a little of herself to the Argrath. Lose 1 POW for each multiple over POWx3. The effective POW of the Character is not changed, the Argrath making up the difference. But if the Bearer is reduced to 0 POW, she is “used up” and will die when the Argrath departs.

 

Ranks:

  1. Each Combat turn, the Argrath generates 1 Hero Point, which the Bearer may use or grant to another within sight.
  2. In addition to any normal use of a Hero Point, a hero ally of the Argrath may spend a Hero Point to add 1d4 ranks to a single spell they cast as they cast it, add or subtract 1d6 to the Hit location of an attack they just delivered, or add 1d8 to any damage they roll. Heroes are allowed to spend other Hero Points they have available at the same time, for increased effect.
  3. Self Sacrifice – You can sacrifice permanent POW to the Argrath (as if it had replaced your POW in an Argrath Check), to grant Additional Hero Points. Reduce your own POW by a set amount to generate one extra Hero Point per POW sacrificed.

 

Afterward: Argrath Check

After each engagement in which the Argrath was accessed, and Argrath Check must be made to determine the effect upon the Bearer.

 

Of course, The Argrath should be more than some Hero Points and a few rules. I have long described Hero Points to the players in Much the same what that Celtic Myth does the "Hero Light" - that certain Air of Heroism that shines form some people (in this case, the Player Characters).

The Argrath bestows Hero Point on those who do not normally recieve them, granting them the ability to go beyond what they normally could. Even potent and renowned heroes like Grizelda are unlikely to have Hero Point often. So when the Argrath is near, people pay attention.

I also wanted to avoid having to take control of the character away from the player in order to do Argrath stuff. So I made the abilities of the Argrath quite tempting, and relied on roleplaying to help give the player and her companions the knowledge that too much Argrath is bad for your health, even though it might be good for the environment, so to speak.

SO far, it has worked extremely well, and helped create one of the most memorable sessions in the entire campaign.

Tell you all about it next week.