This time it was my turn to run a short scenario for our on-going RuneQuest campaign. After a week of researching and making up characters, I came up with a nice consistent story line. After all that effort, it took 3 hours to run, and I didn't use any of the character sheets I had made up other than for the names. Next time I'll have to have battles for a bit of action and more descriptions (I forgot to mention the bad guys were big & stupid, and slobby & smart). Anyway, these are my notes, padded a bit but still a bit rough.
Loy (the character I normally play) is staying back at Garhound, billeted with a farming family to help with their sheep. He also has an ulterior motive - getting to know the local families better in preparation for settling down. Also unlike the rest of the crew, he isn't a Zola Fel initiate, merely a river voice.
At Pavis some of the Lunar Coders from a couple of adventures ago want to witness the Zola Fel ceremonies. Princess Anderida of Raibanth - priestess of Seven Mothers - wants to see what the locals are doing and help them discover the Lunar Way. Maculus the Monitor is more interested in the magical methods the river cults use, as he is a curious sorcerer. Using influence with the local Lunars, the Coders get governor Sor-eel to ask the river voices for a favor. Alternatively the Coders directly bribe the Zola Fel high priest (who has a deserved reputation as a money grubbing Newtling).
As it turned out, the adventurers arrived in Pavis after the Coders had secured passage on the river temple barge. Instead, they got asked by Sor-Eel (he thinks they are pro-Lunar, much to their annoyance) to act as tour guides and keep the Coders out of trouble.
Another important person in the scenario is Saisy Loyola, a duck with a chaos taint affecting her fertility (to put it politely), who wants to do the Cleaned One river quest to get rid of the taint. She is from the Delecti Swamp in Sartar. The zombies of the swamp were a known problem in her childhood; you just avoided them, complained to the authorities, or invited the Humakti Death Drakes for a visit when they got too troublesome. Zombies weren't the only problem; the swamp was invaded by chaotic broo who assaulted her at an early age and gave her the taint which ruined her life. They also killed much of her family and made her and her brother leave the swamp. She spent the next decade growing up on a Lisemelder farm. During the Starbrow uprising in Sartar, she left her pottery career among the Lisemelders and joined up with her farmer friends (Humans) along with her brother to fight the rebellion, including torching a few Lunar sympathiser farms. After the uprising, the Lunars put out a bounty of a year's free taxes on Duck heads (dead or alive), as a scapegoat for starting the war. Saisy then fled Sartar with her brother and a few Lisemelders and went to the swamps in Prax (the Lisemelders joined the nearby Garhound people). Unable to farm, she took up fishing and boating and occasional pottery work (traded to the nomads), staying out of Lunar sight. Things changed when she met Jack Paddlefoot, a handsome young drake who fell in love with her. They want to get married but the Paddlefoot clan won't accept her with a chaos taint. Jack is also eager to get rid of the taint, and along with a Lisemelder farmer called Jones, is helping her with the Cleansed One ritual. In case you didn't know, the ritual of swimming the entire Zola Fel river during the spring floods is supposed to clean chaos away from the people doing the swimming.
The Zola Fel cult is happy to have someone doing the Cleansed One ritual for its own reasons (symbolically stopping chaos in the river valley for the year). Though a bit of money would make them happier.
The annual river ceremony starts with the Cleansed One re-enactors jumping off the Leaping Place falls. The Zola Fel river temple barge starts the trip down river from the base of the falls. Our Orlanthi adventurers are on board or are on the Harmony or are swimming. Who does what? It turned out that a couple of the adventurers joined in the ritual.
On the barge, the adventurers get to meet Princess Anderida. She explains she is there to observe the local river culture to see what the locals are doing and to help them adapt to the Lunar way. The adventurers spent a lot of time arguing with her late into the night about the good and bad sides of Lunar life and occupation. She said she would light a fire under Sor-Eel for dragging out the court case settling the ownership of the corrupt Lunar official's slave (the adventurers have a lien on him).
A day's travel passes. Swim rolls for swimmers. Fatigue rules too - use 2 FP per hour, skill percentile loss when negative, unconscious at STR+CON. Say, 6 hours swimming a day? Ended up being 10, but most people had 20 fatigue points so it wasn't a problem.
At Pavis, Maculus the Monitor, a Lunar sorcerer, joins the group to be with his love, Princess Anderida. He's more interested in magic and how river cults work. Spotting Saisy, he casually mentions to the assembled river folk that there is still a bounty on the ducks, but with nudging from Anderida, he says that he won't be collecting, it's better to make friends, though Sor-eel will probably pay it if asked.
The river trip continues another day, another set of swim rolls. And you get to Sun County.
That night, Saisy vanishes. So does Maculus. The adventurers may hear something. The next morning people wake up and continue on, some may notice the missing duck or sorcerer. For ritual reasons, the river voices have to find the Cleansed One re-enactors to keep the ritual going, and as well for humane reasons. A search will turn up two sets of footprints going east and duck feathers.
The tracks disappear somewhere in a Sun County village. If you ask a few smaller kids, you can find out that Nick's Gang was up to something last night. The adventurers also turned out the local guard to help search and had Princess Anderida off searching in another direction. The Sunbright farm has a barn, house and a boat shed on the river. Saisy is in the boat shed, tied up and raped. After finding Nicko and Nicki, you can confront them. If you can prove it, Nicki will claim that it's not illegal - the duck is an outlaw, you're allowed to kill them so why not have some fun first, and then collect the bounty? Oops, my mistake as pointed out by Ian, they are in Sun County so that Lunar law doesn't apply - fix scenario next time. Nicko supports his brother, yo Nicko! The gang comes up and makes intimidating noises unless you have more than 5 people (the adventurers had overwhelming military power). If you notify their parents, Nicki will be in deep trouble. Besides acquiring a chaos taint, he's dishonoured his clan by being discovered. The punishment is tarring and feathering, and riding around the village, and then a trip to the healers. Ian pointed out that Saisy could start legal proceedings for kidnapping. But time is short, the river ritual waits for nobody, just hope you haven't broken the ritual.
More swim rolls as you go past Garhound (I think it comes after Sun County) and through the great swamp. And some CONx4 rolls for people on the boat (drinking the water) and CONx2 for swimmers (in the water). Failures: 0=not sick, 1=weekly, 2=daily, 3=hourly, 4=minutely. Lose 1 CON when you get it and 1 on each recovery failure (after week, day, etc, reroll CONx3). Drama may dictate hourly. The river is polluted here. Saisy is sick too, at the daily rate.
Oddly enough, the adventurers forgot the Coders in Sun County. Fortunately they caught up a day or two later, after Anderida retrieved Maculus from a retirement tower he was visiting. Could be another whole adventure there.
The high priest is worried by the sickness. If it's this bad when the river is flowing well, it will get a lot worse and festering in the summer heat. This could be a job for the river voices! The adventurers aren't enthused. My theory is that the chaos tainted algae condenses into Gorp in the summer heat.
Another day passes, more sickness. More CON rolls as appropriate for diseases. This is getting serious, maybe the adventurers should leave the river and go for healing? Saisy wants to keep on going even if she dies. The Coders may want to leave, Maculus will go on ahead to Corflu on a fast reed boat, Anderida will stay with the sick.
The adventurers looked around for clean streams, and found the 5 Eyes magic fountain. They also drank cleansed water to help with avoiding getting sick. To increase tension, I added a few dead bodies in the caravan of boats and local villages dumping bodies into the river as a funeral ceremony.
For river people, last day of swimming. Get to Corflu. The chaos taint is gone when you hit sea water, and chaos related disease disappears, though people will still have to recover but won't lose permanent CON. The adventurers had a lot of fish soup from the locals for a week after that, the Lunars chipped in some supplies too.
For people who went to Horngate, there are a bunch of Nomad wars happening, so you meet hostile Impala riders, then friendly Bison riders chasing them, then a bit later the Sable riders fighting a battle with some other Impala riders. If you survive, you can get to Horngate and get healed at great expense (will cost 200L each or a magic treasure, way more for resurrection). The adventurers skipped this option, figuring that it would be quicker to go to Corflu by boat rather than walking over land to Horngate. Good choice.
The adventurers investigated and discover that the sickness was caused by mice broo contaminating the water. This led to a trip back to 5 Eyes to find a Frog shaman to summon the Frog Mother Spirit, which then got all the frogs to start hunting mice broo. It looks like mice broo can't be totally eradicated, or can they with a hero quest to turn back the clock? Or perhaps get Oakfed to burn the mice out of the plains? If not, Rob has invented the plague with his mice broo scenario.
Finally, back at Garhound (there isn't much to do at Corflu except watch the Lunar military healers work and eat fish soup) several ducks show up with an invitation to Saisy's wedding, as thanks for rescuing her from the oafs.
Copyright © 2000 by Alexander G. M. Smith.