Runequest Thursday #187 - 1d12 Great Marsh Encounters!

Clint Staples

Tonight on D-Infinity Plays, I will be running a short Runequest Adventure set in the region of Glorantha known as the River of Cradles. This is the setting of my own Gloranthan campaign, which has often been the subject of past Runequest Thursday posts. Tonight's game will have the same setting, including the central settlement of Brightwater, but with a new set of characters for this session.

Currently, it is  Fire Season of 1616. In the region of the Great Marsh, over which Brightwater perches on  a promontory of land that descends from the Plains of Prax to the west, it is hot and rather humid. The floods of Sea Season are weeks in the past, and much of the march is a series of islands, some seasonal, others permanent, separated by trickles, streams and occasional shallow meanders from the Zola Fel, the river from which the region gets its name. The Zola Fel itself is clam and muddy this time of year, the volume of water expecially low this years since many of the River Horse Spirits were drawn into the recent sack of the Lunar fortress at Moonbroth, an oasis in the north of Prax that apparently was reachable via subterannean rivers that flow beneath the plains. Moonbroth is also where the Brightwater Company (which comprises the player characters of the campaign, as well as a number of NPCs that have entered into its service) happens to be. 

But life in Brightwater must go on even while the PCs are ignoring it to alter the course of events on a broader stage. The rush of Sea Season activities has slowed with the river - fishing the floodwaters that boil at the base of Brightwater's height, planting rice and other crops, and seeing to the birth of young to the cattle, sheep, and the other herd-beasts that the settlement now owns.

But Fire Season has its own needs, and moving cattle over the rivulets and islets of the Great Marsh in summer is hard work, and constant.  On one such drive, a dozen beasts go missing on the trail. Dagaz, the Drive Lead, unable to follow fast enough with the rest of the herd, details a few of the younger drovers to find the errant beasts and get them back to the herd. 

That's where the new characters come in!

Of course, things complicate the return of the missing animals. I had a bunch of ideas for encounters, but since this is a single session that runs 2 hours or less, I had to pick and choose. Heck, if theings go quickly, I might end up using one of these anyway. But why let the rest go to waste - here for your entertainment is a list of OTHER Happenings that will not befall the heroes of "The Cattle Raid of Koli!"

BTW, you get a Hero Point if you know what the title of the scenario is referencing.


1. Otterkin Thieves: What appears to be a river otter lazes on a nearby mudflat in the midst of a stream. When the heroes are close enough, the otter gives a cry of alarm and scrambles back from the attack of a crocodile rushing from the shallows. In fact, the "croc" is just the forebody and head of a recently dead one that the otterkin have been enjoying for the past day or two. The crocodile, "piloted" from below the surface by a pair of otterkin, does not exit the water, but the who scene should provide sufficient distraction for the rest of the pack to make their move. Though not up to stealing cattle, the diminutive otterkin are mischevious and resourceful enough to set up a distraction in order to steal whatever they can. If attacked, they drop whatever they have gotten and dive into the water.

2. Barge traffic: A trader (Roll 2d6: 1-2: A Lunar merchant of Etyries, 3-4: An Issaries trader friendly to Brightwater, 5-6: A barge carrying passengers to or from Pavis. An Etyries would be wary, but interested in making contact and gathering news. Etyries are some fo the best spies the Lunar Empire has, and they constantly are gathering information of use to the military. An issaries merchant may have seen the errant cattle (20%), might have minor items of interest for sale (50%). There is a 60% chance that the barge-goers have seen a band of brigands driving some herd-beasts southward, along the west shore of the Zola Fel. 

3. Crocodiles: 1d6 crocs sunning themselves on the sandy shore take note of anything distracting and potentionally edible.

4. Men of Rausfort: Duke Raus, whose fort is a day's journey to the south aloing the Zola Fel, is largely inhabited by former Lunar legionaries, given their pension in a land stake under the exiled nobleman. These men sometimes fish or hunt crocs up-river, or simply patrol the area. Though no longer equipped to their former standards, they are well organized and good in a fight. Though Rause would dearly like to regain his former standing in the Empire, he has maintained careful neutrality with Brightwater, who have aided him more than once in the past, including aid in combatting a plague that might well have taken his wife. It is perfectly reasonable for the heroes to be suspicious fo the Lunars. If they ask without hostiliies, and manage an Influence Success, they can gain the information that several herd-beasts were being drive south and west toward the Zola Fel. 

5. Trapped Heleade Naiad Spirit: A pool of water has become separated from the mail flow of the river, and is steadily drying out in the heat. Trapped within the pool is a heleade, a naiad associated with the water. She cannot leave the body of water in which she resides and will perish if it dries completely. If she can be carried over to the river, she will give a boon to the heroes. If not, she will curse them (POW 16 to mislead them with an illusion - into Encounter #3).

6. Mammoth Herd: A grown matron and half a dozen immature and calves are feeding in rushes at the water's edge. The matron will confront anyone who tries to pass unless they: Go well out of their way OR calm her with a spell, Beasthandling or Survival.

7. Zebra: 1d20 Wild Zebra, half of them young, munch nervously on marsh grass in an open flat island.

8. Daggerfang Ambush: 1d3 daggerfangs are arrayed in a broad triangle, awaiting prey that can be driven into their talons. There is a 50% chance that they will attack humans. If so, one will appear to attack from the front, while two others come up stealthily from behind.

9. Trolls: If during the day, 1d4 dark trolls, and 1d4 trollkin, will be sheltered under trees, in a cave, or even under the overhanging bank of the river to get out of the sun. They are sleeping, with (possibly) 1d4-2 trollkin on guard. If at night, the trolls will be actively hunting, and will attack if they can do so from ambush.

10. Antisocial Jusitice Warriors: 2d3 Praxan worshippers of Stormbull, or others who are equally unsociable, are wandering the marsh, seeking chaos to kill, slaves to take, or normal folk to harrass. Roll 1d6 for Tribe Beast: 1: Sun Elk, 2: Auroch, 3: Sabre Lizard, 4: Sable, 5: Rhino, 6: Other (1d6) - 1-3 Morokanth, 4-6, 5-6 Basmoli. There is a 30% chance that these ne'er-do-wells have seen the herd-beasts being driven south along the Main River. If this is so, one of the beasts is dead, these fellows have recently eaten, and slabs of meat from the dead creature in their saddlebags. They feel no guilt for this, and are likely to react violently if accused of having stolen anything.

11. Baboon Spirit Hunters: A Baboon Shaman is wandering Glorantha while also stalking the Spirit PLane. He is guarded by four warrior "minders" who keep him from danger. They are not hostile, but will warn away any who seem dangerous. There is a 40% chance that the Shaman will take note of some thing or item carried by one of the heroes as "spiritually" interesting. If so, he will approach and offer to trade a spirit he currently has bound for this seemingly innocuous item. The baboons know nothing of the rustled herd-beasts, unless the heroes are truly desperate for a clue.

12. A Hunting Pack of Axebeaks: 1d4 terrorbirds - aggressive, stupid and relaively fearless. They can be fought, but could also be bought off with a sizable donation of fresh meat.