Initiation is a long process, taking over a year in total. Most of this time is spent in doing work for the clan as a whole, and being trained in it at the same time. There is also specific religious education, and of course tests. Quests, even.

For game purposes, I wanted make sure that I minimised the sections that were gender-specific, where they were going to be played through. Also, I wanted the whole process to give the players a chance to get used to Glorantha, the rules, and their characters. This is where the PCs learn how their world works, and the players learn with them.


This is why the whole thing takes so long. The potential adults have to be taught enough to be able to take their places as full members of the clan, and enough to be able to get through the initiation quests.


The three initiation quests prove and confirm three separate things
  1. That the questor is an adult Heortling, capable of taking responsibility for their own actions
  2. That they are an initiate into the secrets of either Orlanth or Ernalda (gender specific). (This initiation also activates their fertility: while they might previously have played intimate games, from now on offspring might result. The blokes will start growing stubble, the girls wake up bleeding.)
  3. That they are a member of this clan, and of one bloodline in particular.

How HeroQuests work

Or rather, how I think they work, when they're well-known quests being carried out at clan level. Please don't take this as definitive!

Rules: not many. Most of this is role-played. But as a general principle, if they're meant to be following in the steps of a deity, and they are trying the right things, their skill will get a bonus. How big a bonus? Well, how big does it have to be to give them a fair chance of succeeding? I've got a database that lets me measure each character's "alighment" to each deity, based on traits, skills, and a whole lot more, but just guessing will work as well. It may not be a "bonus" in any case.  Some skills just turn up. For instance, if you're trying to follow in Orlanth's footsteps, you can have a chat with any sylphs hanging around and they'll probably cooperate.

I don't bother with ticks on the HeroPlane. Instead I make a note when anyone does anything spectacular: a crit, a fumble, or just something dramatic. That may result in a skill increase, a deity taking special notice of them from now on, or perhaps a spell. in fact, that's how I tie in with the RQ initiation Roolz that say new initiates get 1D3 spirit magic spells. My players get a chance at a spirit magic spell for each of their three HQs.

To start with, the PCs are told the myth they are about to follow, and they discuss the gods or heroes they will be emulating. (I hand the players a printout of the myth: this is faster than reading it aloud. Sometimes I'll hand it out at the end of the previous session, as "homework".) They ask for explanations of anything they don't understand: answers aren't always forthcoming, of course. To some extent I (or the officiating priest) will explain which bits of the path are important and which are window dressing.

The PCs prepare to go onto the HeroPlane. At present the officiating priest is doing all the clever stuff here, so they just have to "get into the mood" as it were. This involves spending a day fasting and praying (and going over the myth a few more times). At dusk they are summoned into the sacred area: where this is varies a bit. They are painted with mystical symbols, herbs are thrown on the fire to make it smoke, and they do some suitably mysterious dancing and chanting to drum and pipe music. A drink is passed round: like mead, but with extra herbs in it. If anyone wants to mention magic mushrooms, this is probably a good time. Tell them how disorientated they're feeling, how everything seems like a dream.

They are then led out from the sacred area to the first station of the quest. The time of day may not seem to tie in with how long they think has passed getting high: no real reason except to add to their disorientation.

Quite what happens next depends on the quest, but it's probably time to describe what the HeroPlane looks like. There was an excellent description of this in an old "Tales of the Reaching Moon", at the start of the Grey Hare quest. Basically the HeroPlane is the real world writ large. If the scene is the ordinary countryside, then the sky is extra blue, the water is extra wet, everything is more intense. And it's extra obvious that everything has spirits in it, because they can see them. Daisy spirits smile at the sun, the stream is made of undines, sylphs blow past, even the rocks have faces though they don't move as much as the rest. This is, in general, window-dressing. The PCs can chat to the spirits if they want to, but don't expect intelligent answers. Spirits have very narrow spheres of interest, after all.

Heort's Path

This is the defining adulthood myth, for boys and girls alike. "Whenever one of us is made a man, we all travel upon Heort's path". The myth can be found in King of Sartar, and since that's in print again I'm not repeating it here. Go to the Wizards Attic web site and buy a copy.
Details of the quest can be found here

The Initiation of Orlanth

The male-only quest (though I gather other GMs have used this as mixed-gender, and there's no real reason why not). Again, the myth is from King of Sartar, and since that's in print again I'm not repeating it here. Go to the Wizards Attic web site and buy a copy.
Details of the quest can be found here.

Ernaldan initiation

The female-only quest. All my own work! A series of tests determine which of the Earth Six the candidate is most suited to follow: unlike the boys, they don't get to choose their tests in advance. A detailed description can be found here.

Clan & bloodline initiation

 The candidate is presented to the head of their bloodline by a sponsoring adult: normally their father. If they are not joining their father's bloodline for some reason, or their father is unavailable, they must find another adult to sponsor/adopt them.

The ceremony takes place at the sacred site for the bloodline. Since what is going on here is basically ancestor worship, the cult description for Daka Fal gives the relevant spells. The head of the bloodline incarnates the founding spirit of the line, and while under their control, gives the candidate the bloodline/clan tattoo and the bloodline special spirit magic spell. Incidentally, tattooing hurts. Branding, as used by some bloodlines, hurts even more. CON roll to see if you feel the pain a lot. If you fail that, POW roll to see how good your self-control is. If you fail that, Valour roll to be brave. If you fail that, squeak, wince, and start looking for Traits or Passions to Inspire you on the next lot of rolls. The results of messing this up are mainly role-play, but enough really bad rolls would stop the initiation.

Special spells? Yes, each bloodline has their own one. Invented for them, in some cases. Of the three of my four bloodlines that I'm allowed to mention:
Bloodline Spell name Description
Magnusson Strength Common spirit magic, but only works if they've drunk Oak Beer sometime that season. (For your average Magnusson, this is always true!)
Bransson Dry Based on their Alder connections. Removes up 1 pint of water per point from an inanimate object. Useful for drying cloaks, and for converting marsh to dry land.
Reedmeld Reedmeld Adds 15% to Hide skill, as long as the target is in Reeds at the time.
 Of other clans and other tribes, I believe the Black Spear clan of the Colymar has Detect Weapon, considering their background. The White Quartz, over in the Kheldon, gets Heal (boring, eh?) The Poss clan, just down the road, gets Detect Sheep. I'll decide others as the players meet them.

The founding spirit: usually this is the human after whom the bloodline is named. Magnus, Bran, whoever. The Reedmelds, however, are different. They've been here a lot longer, and their founding spirit is a lot older. And she isn't Sartarite. She was a priestess who came here from somewhere to the north, fleeing persecution. Her name, or that of her goddess, or both, is "Enslib". The image used to represent her is a model of a woman with very long legs, made out of reeds, and a mask representing a heron is worn when incarnating her. She does not speak Sartarite: in fact, she no longer has a language in common with the bloodline. If the curious reader wants to know where this lot came from, get a copy of "Enclosure" and find out about "The Weeders" and their goddesses. Or just take it from me that the Reedmelds are weird, but harmless.

Copyright © 1998, 1999 Jane Williams