For a product that has been "coming soon" for more than a dozen years, there's surprisingly little official material available about HeroQuests. From the sparse notes that have been published, it seems safe to say that a HeroQuest should be a mythic, psychological, and transcendant experience—certainly for characters, and if possible for players too. As such, rules a very secondary. The core of a HeroQuest is imagination and inspiration.
That's a huge challenge for a gamemaster. Creating and running an effective HeroQuest takes insight, a sense of Gloranthan archetypes that will resonate with both players and characters, outstanding portrayals of NPCs, and the ability to improvise brilliantly off-the-cuff. Since such supermen are rare to the point of nonexistence, running a HeroQuest can be a real challenge to a GM's self-confidence. Perhaps the greatest difficulty is creating a mythic atmosphere; without that, a HeroQuest is nothing more than a magical adventure.
It's arguable that the ideal system for a HeroQuest would be a "storyteller" type. But for those who prefer to stick with the RuneQuest system, here's a basic set of mechanics which are helpful to keep events in order and provide a fundamental framework. Skills should never be allowed to supplant true roleplaying, but this modified system has been useful for me when running HeroQuests.
The one crucial point that must never be forgotten, though, is an absolute adherence to the principle of sincerity. If a skill is used in the God Time simply to gain an experience roll, that skill cannot be increased from that act. Players must not be allowed to take advantage of a HeroQuest, which was the ultimate sin of the God Learners. In this the GM must be rigorous in his role as final arbiter.
The key skill for a HeroQuester is Hero Lore. This is a base 00 Knowledge skill. Hero Lore is used to enter the Godtime, and represents knowledge of the Hero plane. It can be used in almost any circumstance during a Heroquest, in place of other skills. For example, a PC facing a steep cliff may choose to make a Hero Lore roll rather than the 100 Climb rolls which would otherwise be necessary. A successful result might yield the insight that the cliff should not be climbed, or that walking away from the cliff will immediately take the PC to the top, or that an entity called Mr. Monkey who lives nearby would carry the PC up in a basket, or that if the PC covered themself with meat a giant bird might swoop down and lift it up to its nest at the top, or that it would be easier to swim up the waterfall nearby...
Hero Lore cannot be normally learned or obtained, but can only be initially gained by some special event—GM dispensation, in other words. To paraphrase something that I read somewhere long ago, if an enterprising PC rents an auditorium and plans to teach large audiences Introductory Hero Lore for a fee, Arkat will definitely show up as a Surprise Guest Lecturer and demonstrate Doom Carrying to one and all. :-)
If a character lacks a score in Hero Lore, one-tenth of the character's [Cult] Lore may be used instead. This ersatz Hero Lore does not increase, however, and is not a true skill. If a character lacks [Cult] Lore (which was a planned feature of the sadly defunct RQ:AIG), create it as a Knowledge skill with a 0% base chance. For each year that the character has spent as an Initiate of the cult, the character gains 5% in that skill. Each year spent as a Priest or Acolyte yields 6%. And each full year spent as a High Priest, Rune Lord, or Shaman gives an increase of 7% in [Cult] Lore.
When true Hero Lore is gained by a character, it is determined as follows: 1D6 plus the character's knowledge bonus, plus the following modifiers:
After a base skill in Hero Lore has been gained, it can increase by experience, study, or training. However, Hero Lore doesn't increase in the same way as a normal skill. Experience rolls may be allowed by a GM after the successful completion of a HeroQuest, but the gain is a choice between either one point or 1D6-2.
It is possible to improve Hero Lore through research. At least one or more source of new lore must be available; these can take the form of books, scrolls, tapestries, spirits, or almost anything else. Only sources which deal directly with the Godtime and Heroic matters may be used for research. Each individual source can only be used to gain a predetermined amount of skill. This amount is determined by the gamemaster when the item is introduced into the game. A specific book, for example, might allow a total increase of 5 percent for a student with a skill of less than 25%.
The time required for research is ten times the usual requirement: the skill % x 10. A student with a Hero Lore of 17%, for example, would need to research for 170 hours in order to gain a chance of increase. After the time has been spent the researcher must still make a standard research check, rolling percentiles over their base Hero Lore skill. If the roll is successful, the researcher must roll 1D4-2 to determine the amount of increase or decrease.
Training in Hero Lore can only be given by someone with a skill at least 25% higher than the student. Such training is never given casually, or for mere money. The student does not need to make an increase check against their skill, but rolls 1D4-2 to determine the results of the training.
It is possible for a teacher or book/scroll to be deliberately misleading. After the full normal study time is spent on the skill, the PC must make a resistance roll.
In the case of a teacher, the test is the student's Hero lore against the Hero Lore of the teacher. Failure by the student means that they lose 1D4-2 (yes, it's possible for the student to gain 1 point even from a misleading teacher). A teacher may choose to increase the loss to any die (1D6-2, 1D8-2, even 1D100-2), but must subtract the maximum possible loss from their own Hero Lore for purposes of the resistance roll only.
If a misleading book or other non-active source is being used for research, a GM-determined penalty will apply.
Effective and imaginitive use of skills in the God Time can prodice strange results, not only as an immediate effect but in the long run. Greater insight is possible, allowing characters to make large gains in ability. Exceptional loss of skill is also possible.
Ideally, the GM should decide on a case-by-case basis what the experience gain will be for skills used while HeroQuesting. In any case players should not be allowed to simply roll on a table. The list below include possible experience gains, both for exceptional roleplaying and for more mechanic-based performance. Keep in mind that any experience roll gained while on a HeroQuest is at the specific direction of the GM.
At the GM's option, skills which may not normally be increased by experience may be improved by use while HeroQuesting.
A plausible mechanic for Hero Skills may be derived from the Ki skills of the RQ3 supplement Land of Ninjas. These skills allow incredible, superhuman feats. For example, a successful Hero Scan may allow the viewer to see fine detail on other continents. Hero Craft could allow the user to make unusual and unique magic items. A Hero sword attack allows multiple blows in a round, each doing maximum damage. One or more magic points must be expended each time a Hero skill is invoked (whether successful or not).
Hero skills may be researched or trained at a time cost of 50 hours per percentage point possessed in the skill. At the end of that time, the student must make a successful roll under their Hero Lore (or, if being taught, under his Hero Lore plus 1/2 his instructor's Hero Lore). Success allows a researcher to gain 1D4-2. If the student has a teacher, the increase roll is 1D4-1.
In mundane Glorantha, increase by experience in a Hero Skill is difficult. At the least it requires special dispensation by the GM, acknowledging outstanding roleplaying in the use of the skill. Such an event is unlikely to happen more than once for a character in a season of adventuring. A typical increase would be 1D4.
Good use of a Hero skill on a HeroQuest may allow a normal experience check, but this is always at the sole option of the GM. Ultimately any rule should take a back seat if it conflicts with the drama of a good roleplaying moment.
The White Horse HeroQuest is a short HeroQuest which should be reasonably challenging for groups of skilled Initiate level or higher.
firstname.lastname@example.org Copyright 1997 by Peter Maranci. Revised: August 14, 2001. v.2.1