Runequest Thursday #183 - Path of the Pilgrimage!

Clint Staples

In honor of Michael O. Varhola, who is currently walking the Camino de Santiago, and tying in with our own Oddities for a Pilgrimage (no doubt begun by Mike from the verge of the Pilgrim's trail, and certainly inspired by it) I thought it might be fun to write some stuff about Pilgrimage in Runequest. 

Glorantha, being the sacred and extremely religious world that it is, undoubtedly has a tradition of pilgrimage. We see this in such things as the sacred shared rites at Sacred Time, especially such events as the gathering of peoples at sites like The Paps in Prax, or the march of the storm tribe to worship at Stormwalk Mountain in Kethaela. Lesser pilgrimages are also possible. Humakti journey to Tourney Altar in Prax, sometimes to duel, but always to partake in the aescetic sense of honor and loneliness that is quintessential of the God of Death. Less religious, yet meaningful pilgrimages are also possible. In my Brightwater game, I have one PC who has wanted to return and give her report to the Black Horse Company (of which she was a member until she died, then returned by the grace of Orlanth) since the game began. This is more than duty to Zoe, who has invested it with at least spiritual weight in her own mind..

So what can we do to present a pilgrimage in a game? And what sort of enticements can a Runequest GM use to get players to go on a Pilgrimage? In Part One, we will go into what makes a Pilgrimage, and how to play it in game. In Part Two (Next Week), we will put together a series of encounters for a pilgrimage. Finally, in Part Three, we delve into the benefits of undertaking a Pilgrimage. 

PIlgrimages are always going TO somewhere. So we need a place that resonates for the pilgrimage de jour. This might be a site holy to a cult or cults, possibly the center of regular worship, surrounded by the strength of a people and dedicated guards - like The Paps. Holiest of sites in Prax, it has year round worship and protection from cults that include, but probably are not limited to Eiritha and Babeester Gor. It also gets regular pilgrims and supplicants throughout the year, culminating in Sacred Time. In my Brightwater game, The Paps has a market, and has been the site of at least two miracles - one of them the Raising of the White Bull Tribe by Prince Argrath. 

Clearly a place to go to is crucial to the Pilgrimage Experience. There are a number already in existence on Glorantha, but for this article - let's make one up!

The Shrine of Pegasus, Celestial Horse: In the depths of the Wastelands, there rises the Shining Shrine of Pegasus, the first horse of a now forgotten version of the Celestial God. it has stood there for the ages of the world, and attracts visionaries, pilgrims and questing knights of Yelm, Yelmalio and other solar gods, but no less the followers of diverse star cults, even those devoted to the Blue Moon, the White Moon, and yes, the Red Moon. Others who might journey there are Orlanthi and other Lightbringers, intrigued by the Air connection suggested by the wings of the godlike beast, as well as rumors of Light that shines in the deepest darkness, like the Light of Yelm's son, brought from Hell in the God Time.

We can add more pilgrims at need - Stormbulls who dislike the affront to their patron suggested by a flying horse; Humakti, or cavalry war cultists, who recognize the value of such a mount in battle; Lhankor Mhy and Lunar scholars intrigued by a wonder; Grazelanders and others of Yu Kargzant pantheists who see this as the first horse of their own solar deity. Griffon worshippers of Yelm, and Sundragon cultists who are bothered by the notion of a  Celestial Horse, or think it might be good to eat.

There are more, but you get the idea.

The site of a pilgrimage needs to be remote. If it is just a town over, it is not much of a pilgrimage, though it would be for those from more distant locales, of course.

The Shrine of Pegasus is, as noted above, in The Wasteland. It will require a pilgrimage for just about anyone who does not live nearby - and those are few indeed.

The location also suggestions the sorts of travails to be overcome. A pilgrimage should be demanding, possibly spiritually, definitely physically, Obviously we need some encounters along the way.

Some are suggested by the location itself - the Wasteland is rife with Chaos, and chaos cults and monsters. Ogres, scorpionmen, broos and more are common and dire threats to any traveler, pilgrims included. But unless the site is little traveled and poorly known, there should be an actual path to the pilgrimage site, possibly imbued with some sacred aspects by the passage of the faithful. The path should be marked, perhaps with wayposts or milestones, even the occasional shrine or burials of faithful pilgrims who did not make their goal. For these, think about the kinds of people who take on the trek, and what they might have left behind, intentionally or not. Of that, what would have been left behind by the rapacious chaots in the region.

The growing list of Oddities for a Pilgrimage Trail is perfect for encounter ideas along the pilgrimage. We will generate some enocunters, using this list and other sources next week.

Since there are obvious threats on this pilgrimage, there might also be those who seek to protect pilgrims. Just as various knightly orders developed in the Medieval era with the goal of protecting pilgrims to the Holy Land, religious warriors of Glorantha could well take service with a band of pilgrims attempting the passage to the Sun Horse. This is a good way to bring in player characters who are not themselves interested in the site or the pilgrimage, and services matching up pilgrims and protectors are likely to arise at any significant staging area for the pilgrimage. Protectors can benefit materially (and possibly spiritually - we will get to that in a couple of weeks) from accompanying the pilgrims as an escort. Such an act might conveys status on the escorting warrior, possibly temporary membership in a sub-cult devoted to such action. In the Middle Ages, Donati were lay people who offered themselves as temporary servants of the Church, while retaining their former lives and connections. They sometimes worse special clothing, rings, etc, to denote the status as a Donatus. In Glorantha, a donatus might gain access to special magic, even one-use Rune magic to aid in their charge.

The group of sacred warriors devoted to protecting pilgrims to the Shrine of Pegasus is the Order of the Bright Wing.

The Order of the Bright Wing was formed by a trio of early pilgrims, each with considerable martial experience, but servants of various gods. Each chose to make the Pilgrimage of the Celestial Horse for his own reasons, but each was also moved to remain and ward other pilgrims afterward. Long ago, the Founders went on to their gods, but not before attracting a number of adherents that keep the Order operating. The Order of the Bright Wing accepts anyone who is not chaotic, who will swear to serve the order and the pilgrims on the Path, and who will defend the Shrine of Pegasus with their lives. They will accept Darkness worshippers as Donati, but with the understanding that such will never be allow to become Majisters.

There are two levels of devotion to the Order: The Donati are sworn to the Order for as little as a season, or as long as a year. During that time, they do the bidding of the Ordo Majisters - hose who have taken the Final Oath which binds them to the Shrine eternally. In recognition of their status, Donati are given a Gold Ring inscribed with the symbol of the Pegasus. Those who leave on good terms, retain the ring as a sign of their service.

One can join the order as either a Donatus or a Majister, so there are varying levels of ability among either group. At the end of their term of service, a Donatus who has served well and honorably is offered the Gilded Belt of the Majister, in exchange for devoting his life to the Order. Many choose to accept, but this path is not for everyone, and there is generally no rancor attached to a refusal. In addition to leading groups of Pilgrims and Donati, Majisters determine the course of the Order, see to construction and maintainance of Order Wayhouses and the Chapter House, arrange supplies, and train themselves and others of like mind. In return, Order Majisters gain something not unlike Rune Level membership in a normal cult. They might be Rune levels in other cults and this is not considered a hindrance unless the Majister makes it one. Majisters also gain access to a small supply of Rune Spells available through the Celestial Horse.

The Order teaches the following Skills for free (taking longer to progress, because duty superceeds training): Riding, Sword, Spear, Lance, Shield, Horse Bow, Spot and Survival. During a season, a Donatus can expect to gain roughly one week of training. Order members are expected to provide and maintain their own gear, but the Order being what it is, there are sometimes impromptu sales of such equipment when it becomes "available". The Order does maintain a herd of Sun Horses, high quality mounts capable of extended travel, inured to hardship, brave, smart and strong. Majisters will have a favored Sun Horse and likely will have ridden it for some time. Donati are allowed the use of one for their term of service, but these animals are never sold. Occasionally, one turns up in a market somewhere, but informed horsemen know that it has been come by via theft or the death of its rightful owner.

Battle Magic:

In addition to Common Battle Magic, Celestial Horse Chapter House teaches the following:

Saddle Sure              Magic Points: Variable         Duration: 5 Minutes

Each rank in Saddle Sure grants +10% to Riding rolls, including those required to care for horses. If this bonus raises a rider's Ride check above a weapon skill, the ability to use the weapon is raised to the percentage under that Weapon Skill.


Rune Magic:

Wings of Light:        2 Rune Points          Duration: 15 Minutes

Cast upon a Horse, Wings of Light allow the Horse to Fly at the same speed as its normal running speed. The Wings are made of magica and light, and cannot be damaged, nor do they have HIt Locations. The enchanted horse is temporarily inspired by the Celestial Horse, and is completely at home with the wings and with flying. If the Wings are dispelled, or the magic ends while the enchanted horse is in the air, Pegasus slowly lowers the horse to the earth in a gentle arc over the corse of that melee round.


Celestial Might:      1 Rune Point          Duration: 15 Minutes

This spell enhances one's attacks with Celestial Might. Any attack made while so enchanted has its Damage Bonus die or dice increased by 1 step (from d8 to d10, for example), or two steps against creatures of Darkness or Chaos. In addition, Strength Checks are made as though STR were Higher.


Check back next week for a Sample Pilgrimage Adventure!