Re: Scorpion Folk Ecology, Holy Country, and protein

From: Sandy Petersen (
Date: Thu 12 Sep 1996 - 23:48:38 EEST


> Heortland's not protein-starved -- Heortland's CITIES are


Joerg says: Heortland's cities are:
>Numerous large towns with 80%+ farmer inhabitants,
>Backford and Duchamp, two minor cities with a fair portion of
>city-settled farmers
        Give me a break. The farmers can't travel more than a
half-day's out into the countryside to farm, so the local inhabitants
have a definite limit to how much their farming can support the city.
In any case, it's the 20% of the population who make the city unique
that we are concerned with. We know that farmers do not produce a

large surplus. In the current uncertain bandit-ridden times, farmers
are certain to hoard for themselves, reducing any possible sales.
Farmland crops are lowered anyway, because some of the farmers are
dead, some of the farmland has been ruined, and some of the
superstructure needed for efficient farming has been destroyed.
Farm-horses used as steeds for war-militia and slain, silos full of
grain pillaged for a foraging army, a year's income traded for a suit
of armor that marched off and was lost at Whitewall or at sea or
elsewhere. Recently, Heortland has been suffering heavily from many
parasitic infections -- things that keep taking, but not giving; the
Lunars, Richard the Tiger-Hearted, Temertain, the Queendom of Jab.
All of these injured Heortland's surplus. None, yet, has provided
anything to make up for it, except for Richard's abortive effort to
build nomad-repelling fortresses. The Heortlings _paid_ for the
forts, but they have been in place too short a time for them to have
realized any benefits from them.

        Economically, socially, and politically, Heortland is
spinning at dangerous speed, flinging off bits of civilization and
culture as it accelerates. In not many years at all, it will
doubtless have degenerated to the status of Brolia; tiny warring
clans, scrabbling after scraps, supporting a fraction of its former

>Karse, with a sizable Islander-stock fishermen populace, under Lunar
>control and supply from 1619 on;
        The Empire's isn't supplying any food to Karse. How would it
get there? Where would this surplus food come from? Prax? Shipped
from Corflu? Perhaps from Tarsh, caravaned overland through the
Grazelands, Shadow Plateau, Troll Woods, and Heortland? Don't make me

>Leskos and Vizel, both with up to half the populace Islander-stock,
>and fishing fleets of their own, in their own bays/river mouths;
        Exactly. These cities, who depend on Islanders and fishing
fleets are exactly the cities which also depend on the Ludoch for
their survival. The Ludoch have them right where they want them. What
are the odds they'd make a decision that would counter the Ludoch's
wishes, no matter how mild-mannered the Ludoch "requests" appeared?

>and the three large cities of Jansholm, Durengard, and Mt. Passant.
>All of the large cities have a fair contingent of land-owning
>Westernized nobility who see to their own and their entourages'
        Of course, survival of the nobility is not the same as the
survival of the city. The 0.5% of the city who make up this group can
survive, so long as the city doesn't riot or the farmers rise up.

>The craft guilds have contracts with Esrolia which grant them grain
>in exchange for their goods.
        Esrolia's produce is reduced, too. They've been hoarding and
suffering from Graymane and other problems.

>Heortland is in a state of chaos at the moment,
>>You mean after 1620?
        I mean after the Pharaoh's departure.

>Northern Heortland has gotten used to this kind of "locust hordes"
>already - the Trollwood trollkin swarms had to be hunted down
>regularly as well.

        Trollkin are NOTHING, compared to the Folk. In addition, the
areas regularly scavenged by trollkin were, partly as a result,
less-fertile. The region destroyed by the Folk was some of the best
land in Heortland

>Basically, every single plant and animal in the territory the
>scorpion folk swept over was devoured, leaving only barren soil.
>>Like a trollkin outburst, or worse?
        Is a scorpion plague worse than a trollkin surge? Let's have

a show of hands. How many RQ PCs would rather fight a trollkin than a
scorpion man? Remember that the trollkin involved in these uprisings
are almost invariably of the "food caste". How many "food" trollkin
would you rather fight than a scorpion man? Two? Three? Ten?

        But yes, the scorpion men leave less life behind than a
trollkin outbreak. After a scorpion plague ends, the scourged land
had to recover in much the same way that the isle of Krakatoa
"recovered" from its catastrophe. I.e., via colonization from

>Are the scorpion men herbivorous as well? I used to regard them as
        They're not herbivores, nor are they true omnivores. While a
scorpion person can survive on plant food, the Folk cannot reproduce
without access to meat. They normally subsist by hunting, of course.

        1) decrease in numbers and density as they spread.

        2) are readily trapped and killed with organized military or
magical force.
        3) leave a barren land behind.

        4) are disorganized and leaderless.

        5) after a battle, are weaker than before.

Scorpion folk (outbreaks are _very_ rare)
        1) _increase_ in numbers and density as they spread.

        2) are difficult to kill, to say the least.
        3) leave a nuclear wasteland behind.
        4) are organized and cunningly led.

        5) after a battle, are stronger than before. (re: Ritual of

>In the open farmlands of the western plateau the knights - even the
>native, 3rd rate chivalry - would have stomped out the scorpion
        This is naive. The tiny percentage of the population that are
active knights would stand no chance against the Folk. They would be
a) outnumbered, b) outclassed, and c) outfought.

A) outnumbered

        Every scorpion creature is able and willing to fight, from
hatchlings to elderly. Even a SIZ 3 young can sicken or kill with a

B) outclassed
        The knights are next-to-helpless against the Folk. What are
the traditional conquerors of knights? Missile fire; as at Crecy or
Liegnitz (1241). Frightening the horses; as with camels or elephants.
Heavy infantry; as at Courtray or Loudon Hill.

        Scorpion men exhibit all three characteristics -- almost all
are sling or javelin-armed, can fight as superheavy foot, and terrify
all but the best-trained horses.

C) outfought

        An adult scorpion man is _significantly_ superior to a human
warrior. The scorpion man hits first (larger size & higher DEX). If
he hits, he does crippling damage. If the sting penetrates, his
opponent is out of the fight (even successfully resisting the poison
costs him 5-6 HP and is seriously demoralizing). He gets two attacks
per round, and the human can parry only one. 30-40% of his enemy's
hits are ineffectual blows on the creature's arthropod legs. Even
naked, the scorpion man has armor. If it wears leather or bits of
scavenged armor besides, it is as well-off as most human
professionals. Given equal skill, a scorpion man will kill a human
warrior nine times out of ten.

        Their might is well-known, which gives the scorpion folk an
additional psychological advantage -- their foes are fear them, just
as Renaissance soldiers feared the Swiss.

        Add to this the fact that about every third scorpion man has
a chaotic feature, and it's clear that a significant effort is needed
to stop these beings on the march.

        Few nations have any real clue how to do this, for the happy
reason that scorpion men rarely appear in such numbers as to require
a military response. But, when it _does_ happen, the best techniques
are to use human strengths vs. the Folk's weaknesses:

        1) MAGICIANS. The Folk may have excellent magic available to
them, but their POW sucks. This renders the Folk comparatively
vulnerable to attack spells and spirits.
        Magic is no panacea, even vs. the Folk, because 2-3% of their
population has 3d6, 4d6, or 5d6 POW. These individuals are naturally
coddled, and many become shamans. Another 3-5% are resistant to
spells via other chaos features. And of course, groups of the Folk
generally include "recruits" to their way, who retain their former
POW. Sometimes these are adults from other species, captured and
transformed. Sometimes they are created by other means (example: the
Folk capture a dozen jack o'bears, kill them, and feed them to their
Queen via a Ritual of Devouring. She lays 12 eggs which hatch into
infant jack o'scorpions, each with 4d6 POW. This is an extreme
example, but at least one large gang of these nasties were
encountered in Queen Gagix Twobarb's horde, and they're awaiting my
PCs just before the alligator broo.)

        2) COMBINED ARMS TACTICS. The Folk are horrendous in combat,
terrifying guerrillas, and able to fight both in dense swarms and in
skirmish style, but they are unspecialized militarily. In general,
this is an advantage -- no one type of human trooper can beat them.
They defeat heavy cavalry by acting as heavy foot. They defeat light
cavalry by acting as missile foot. They defeat infantry by acting as
superior infantry. BUT, they don't do all three things at once.

        Therefore, by skilled cooperation between troop types, the
humans can do things which the scorpions cannot. Example: threaten
the Folk with a heavy cavalry charge, which forces them to bunch up
defensively. Then harass them with missiles.

        3) SUPERIOR NUMBERS. So far, every scorpion man uprising
since the Darkness has been outnumbered by the populace of the nation
in which it occurred. Of course, if the plague had been victorious,

and spread, it would have continued to grow until it _was_ more
numerous than its opponents, and that would be a result much to be
feared, as it is clear that any large scorpion plague could spiral
out of control into a Glorantha-wrecking catastrophe.

        Anyway, at the start of an outbreak, the humans have a
significant edge in total population, if not warriors, and they can
take advantage of tactics which emphasize numbers.

        4) TECHNOLOGY. Stone fortresses, catapults, pontoon bridges,
etc. All present difficult problems for the scorpion creatures to
overcome, but they must be used credibly, and the human leaders must
remember that the power of chaos can often cancel out seeming

But always remember, human victories over the scorpion people are the
result of numbers and cunning over quality and ferocity.

>>>It would take say three to four years for the unusual number of
>>surviving yearlings to reproduce to a scale comparable to a locust
        Locusts don't "build up their numbers" till they swarm. And
neither do scorpion men. Scorpion men don't rely on normal
reproductive methods.

        Scorpion men have three means of reproduction:

        1) by individual Folk, who lay small clutches of eggs. This
is only important for small groups of the Folk who do not dwell in
villages. Limited mainly by food supply.

        2) by magic. A Rune-spell, and a foe becomes of the Folk.

        3) by the queen's egglaying. Since the bulk of scorpion
reproduction consists of eggs laid by a single individual, they do
not need to "build up numbers". Instead, the rate of reproduction is
controlled by the amount of food available to the queen -- especially
proteinaceous food. When the Folk wish to expand their numbers, they
overfeed their queen. She, in turn, produces vast quantities of eggs.
The hatchlings are overfed (the more they eat, the faster they
mature), and in a year or two, you have piles of monsters. Scorpion
men, like most common chaos monsters, are genetic r-strategists.

        But the outbreak accelerates, like an engine going out of
control. As the area covered by the scorpion folk grows, they
ingurgitate more and more food, and transport ever-greater loads back
to the Queen. This means that the Queen is constantly gorging,

squirting out eggs at a tremendous rate -- in essence, all the food
beyond that needed for the Queen's metabolism is used for
egg-layings. In addition, a higher proportion of the ordinary Folk
are laying eggs, and more of them.

        As the numbers and territory of the Folk grow, the number of
sentients (mainly humans) that are captured rises, too. Each prisoner
strengthens the Folk in two ways -- he can be eaten, and thus
heighten the Folk's skills, or he can be transformed into the Folk
directly. Either way, the Folk grow in toughness or numbers.

        Queen Gagix Twobarg probably had at least a 7d6 POW -- even
pure chance produces such Folk every twenty or thirty thousand
births. Since she could thus maintain a POW of 30 and still have a
95% chance of a POW increase, she could have quite a large amount of
one-use spells available to her -- namely, Rituals of Devouring &
Rebirth. Heroquest-like special powers can add to the efficacy.

Sandy P.


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