Petty Gods on the Make: Looking for Love Glorantha Style

Dinner and a movie? Dinner and an RPG! Gretchen’s Casserole and Petty Gods in Glorantha!

I was looking forward to it all day. Dan and Nat and one-and-a-half-year-old Elizabeth joining us for dinner, then Jesse and Finn dashing from their house 1/2 a block away for more Petty Gods of Glorantha. First things first: finish the adventure (I didn’t, but knew I had enough penciled in for the game), take the dog to the dog park to wear her out, bath her (first time, she didn’t like it much), clean up the pee after we’d dried her off (I didn’t like that much), quick grocery shop and trip to the beverage store. Dinner was a delight, the dog behaved better meeting strangers, dishes were cleared and we sat down to rattle the d20s.

Last time I introduced the Glorantha setting and the HeroQuest system to the players, and they gobbled it up like hungry Jack O’Bears. Then, at the request of the Storm God, they entered the Underworld to bring back the slain Sun God. Now, the same patron asks them to visit the Imperial Solar Court and introduce him to the Earth Goddess, who he has fallen in love with and who serves the Imperial Empress at court. Gloranthan mythology had a long tale about the Storm God, Orlanth, wooing the Earth Goddess, Ernalda, and our game might or might not mimic that. We’ll see, but with my players I doubt it.

To begin, I asked the players to make more characters. Nervously they asked if this meant we were abandoning the characters they made last session, and I assured them that we weren’t. Rather, these new characters were minor characters in the campaign, Petty Goddesses that their Petty God characters may or may not meet and interact with. Character generation was simpler, four abilities instead of fourteen, and fewer build points to spread around, and within half an hour the Gloranthan pantheon was blessed with five new Petty Goddesses: Lunestra the Petty Goddess of Skinny Dipping, Pansy the Petty Goddess of Camouflage, Elenephra the Petty Goddess of Running Races, Buttercup the Petty Goddess of Chimeras, and Ragnat the Petty Goddess of Rabies and Madness.

At a feast in their honor, thrown by the Storm God and his tribe in their mountain home on the Spike, the characters met Gogopa, the Lesser God of Bound Secrets, who told them how to advance their stations in the divine hierarchy of Demigod, Petty God, Lesser God, Young God, Old God, and Elder God. Besides the necessary mechanical advances, additional masteries in key abilities for those who know HeroQuest, there are story requirements. A Lesser God, for example, needs worshipers, needs to create something, and have a consort. Aha, the players eyes lit up, the five Petty Goddesses are consorts for their five Petty God characters. Potential consorts, I said, not wanting to force the idea on anyone, nor force a particular consort on any specific Petty God. I didn’t have to work hard to sell the idea. The players accepted the Storm Gods request, to visit the Solar Court in the far north and tell the Earth Goddess about the Storm God, and along the way meet the various Petty Goddesses and see if any romantic sparks are ignited.

I drew a map for the game and highlighted various points of interest. The map is based on several maps from the Gloranthan canon. The Players started at Dini,  location #2, and pointed their sights at the Solar Court, location #9.mythic glorantha ver4.png

Down the mountain they went, Hi Ho Hi Ho, and didn’t stop until they hit a large patch of burned woods in the middle of the Yellow Forest. As they inspected the charred landscape and determined that it wasn’t a meteor strike or large area spell but purposeful slash and burn deforestation, a group of elves accidentally led a string of bound human prisoners through the area. (Does anything happen “accidentally” in RPGs?) Dan told the group that Gloranthan elves are actually plants. KC asked what they look like, and Jesse asked, “Do they look like vegepygmies?”, and since I have a copy of Expedition to the Barrier Peaks I said, “Yes, yes they do,” and hustled into my study to find my copy and show the players the picture of vegepygmies.

The elves were taking the humans to the Sacred Stump to sacrifice them, because they are obviously responsible for the burned forest. The humans claimed that trolls were responsible, and that a group of trolls tunneled up from the ground into their village and started burning and destroying everything. It didn’t take much to convince the elves to look for a troll hole, and when it was found convince them to release the humans. They did, but a marginal victory on the die roll meant they would only release them if the Petty Gods took them into the troll hole and out of the elves’ sight. Agreed,and  although the humans balked at their new saviors’ plan, the group entered the troll hole. The humans explained that their goddess, Pansy the Petty Goddess of Camouflage, was leading the tribe’s warriors after the retreating trolls. Well, not those dozen warriors that are laying on the side of the tunnel dead alongside an equal number of dead trolls.

Pansy and her warriors were hard pressed, now that the trolls had ceased retreating and turned to fight the humans. The Petty Gods intervene and enjoyed a rousing victory over the trolls, killing them all except for their leader, Bedar Zo, the troll God of Fiery Combat (didn’t make that up, found it in a list in Arcane Lore). I sometimes wonder if I’m doing something wrong; the Petty Gods succeed often, and in group contests, even with increased resistances, they more often than not succeed gloriously. Not that winning all the time is disappointing at the the table. But defeats are rather rare. Pansy was appreciative and, having a choice of suitors, selected Gordi the Petty God of Spinning and Weaving as a consort.

Interestingly, KC made both Gordi and Pansy. The two characters had a little overlap in abilities, but as a companion Pansy nicely complemented Gordi. Was it a problem that the same player who made the NPC paired her up with the PC? I decided it wasn’t, which was a good thing because it happened later when Jesse’s PC, Orgo the Petty God of Shadowy Corners, chose Lunestra the Petty God of Skinny Dipping as his consort. Lunestra isn’t as useful mechanically as Pansy, reading both NPCs as mere ability lists, but Jesse still liked the character enough to pair her with Orgo.

How did the pairing take place? Glad you asked. After the Troll Hole the group headed across the Great Grassy Plains (location #8) and spent the night on Quiet Lake, in a large hut suspended on stilts in the middle of the lake. They met Lunestra and her tribe, and in the middle of the night were awoken when the lake decided to up and leave, rolling itself out of its basin and headed southeast. When asked, the lake said that Worcha the Destroying Sea was summoning all the bodies of water to gather at the Sshorg Sea, after which he would launch a watery invasion and drown the earth. By this time several of the players had gathered a few hundred worshipers – they need worshipers to advance to Lesser Gods – and didn’t want them drowned, which would look bad on a divine resume. They formed a plan, after much discussion, to stop the flood.

We’d been dallying with changing the canonical Gloranthan myths, substituting member of the Lightbrings quest for example, but at this point our Glorantha really took a turn away from the published material. According to the sources, Worcha invades and floods much of Glorantha. Our Petty Gods, however, stopped it. The Frog of Issaries went to the Storm God and sought his aid, Orgo gambled with several of the water god generals and convinced them to abandon the fight, General Kilmeister led the Darkness Tribe and built a high wooden wall around the Distant Western Forest (location #3), Dandelion the Petty God of Compost (not “Grotto” as I reported last week) convinced the giant Genert (location #5) to change the landscape of the world, adding a slope from the base of the Spike to the base of Kero Fin, so that if the waters came they wouldn’t come that far north, and Gordi, perhaps in the most mythic event of the bunch, wove the trees from the Yellow Forest across the Blue Dragon River and with the trees from the Distant Eastern Forest (bottom of the map). And despite a very high resistance, succeeded. They all succeeded, and in our Glorantha, the great flood was diverted.

Lunestra’s tribe was saved and she eagerly married Orgo, once of the tribe’s saviors. Lunestra’s Flaw is “easily influenced”, and we all groaned as Dandelion started flirting with Lunestra immediately after her nuptial feast. And there is the story of how Lunestra met and wed Orgo.

We stopped there, three hours after we started, and ran down the tally of achievements. Two Petty Gods created something, a Great Wooden Wall and a new Forest across the Blue Dragon, three Petty Gods had gained or increased their number of worshipers, and two Petty Gods had consorts, all qualities that the characters need to advance to the rank of Lesser God. When we continue, we’ll pick it up from there and see what more adventures await. Dan asked if the Storm God would be mad if the Frog eloped with the Earth Goddess. I thought so, yes. Everyone demanded that I redraw the map to reflect the changes their god made to the landscape. I’ve had players complain before that nothing their characters do really effects the overall campaign, and while they might stop a band of orcs here and there, the villain’s plot still seems to proceed uninhibited. I’m not going to get that complaint in this campaign. They have literally changed the geography of the world.

Finally, a quick thank you to the Glorantha community on Google + and the authors and contributors at Moon Design Publishing. Everyone has been very supporting of my outlandish efforts. I realize that I’m taking their toys and playing with them however I want – however we want – but no one has been critical or dismissive of my game. And a huge thanks to KC, August, Jesse, Finn, and Dan for another great session of Petty Gods of Glorantha!

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