Re: Heroquesting/heroquest system

From: Eric D. Hansen (
Date: Tue 28 Oct 1997 - 01:48:30 EET

    With all the talk about heroquesting and heroquest systems lately,
I've finally decided to rouse myself and speak up. I run a RQ3 campaign
set in Genertela. It began in southern Tarsh, and has wended its way
hither and yon throughout the Dragon Pass region, Prax, the Wastes, and
the Holy Country. It's a bit of a road movie. My player characters are
all very competent (one has achieved rune level) citizens of the Empire,
on a quest to find the standard of a lost legion, and bring it home.
Anyway, to the point: I think that the currently accepted definition of
heroquesting is right, as far as it goes. But I also think it's too
    Generally speaking, a heroquest is the embarkation upon a previously
trodden path with the intention of recreating heroic events from the
mythic history of the person's society for the purpose of personal or
(more likely) cultural gain. By walking in the footsteps of their
heroic ancestors and deities, people gain deeper insights into the
mysteries of their cults or societies, and reap spiritual, and sometimes
physical, rewards. Embarking on a quest is fraught with ritual, and is
not without risk. Understanding what must be done (ie: knowing your
myths well) is necessary for success. I'm sure you all get the idea.

    Now, it seems to me, that this is really just one form of
heroquest. Gloranthan lore is full of examples of people (or gods)
performing actions so significant that they become the myths that future
generations heroquest to recreate. The Lightbringers' quest, or the
creation of the Red Moon are the most obvious examples. These were both
instances in which a journey was undertaken in order to perform a
specific Glorantha-altering task, without any footprints to walk in.
Harrek's murder of the White Bear, or Prince Snodal's quest, are further

    IMHO, Glorantha's nature is such that any action taken whose
objective is the alteration of the physical or spiritual world is a
heroquest. I know that there is a difference between the mundane plane,
the spirit plane, and the hero plane, but I would suggest that the
distinctions are often blurry. Travel from the mundane to the hero
often requires knowledge of the proper rituals, but I think it probably
also happens sometimes without people even knowing that they've crossed
over. I think that, since Glorantha is magic, and not ruled by RW
physical reality, many actions that we might consider mundane are in
fact heroic. In the RW, for example, if you need to alter the course of
a river, you dam it, and its course is altered. In Glorantha, the river
is a god, so damming it might alter it's course, but in doing so, will
have altered the god, who now slakes the thirst of different earth than
before. The river god's relationship with those around him has been

altered. The world has been changed. This moment will become part of
the mythic lore of the river god's worshippers. I think that the act of
altering the river's course must have taken place on the hero plane,
since the ramifications can hardly be called mundane.
    I'll admit that the above example might seem to be stretching a
point, and I'll probably be accused of god-learnerism, but I'd like to
know what the rest of you think about this.

    About heroquest systems: I would like to see a heroquest system
that doesn't require a player to keep two character sheets. Why do we
really need a heroquest system anyway?

Eric Hansen

PS: Here's one I heard for all you would be illuminates out there.

If, when your arm is cut off in battle, and you say "well, here's me and
my arm", and if, when your leg is cut off you say "well, here's me and
my arm and my leg", what do you say when your head's cut off?


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