The Initiation of Orlanth

Or rather, the initiation of Orlanth and his brothers.

The myth for this quest is given in "King of Sartar". This is now back in print, and can be purchased from Wizard's Attic. I have no intention of breaching copyright by repeating the myth here until KoS is once more unobtainable: then I'll ask permission.

I'm using this as the male-only HQ, though I gather others have made it less gender-specific.

To start with, each player looks through the myth and picks which of Orlanth and his brothers he wants to emulate. They have one extra choice: Yinkin. I add him because he is one of Orlanth's brothers, and he shows skills that may well be useful to PCs. He's put in the Darkness Pit, and uses his sense of smell, excellent eye-sight in dark conditions, and climbing to get out. Choosing "the other one" is not recommended. They may decide to deal wtih the challenges faced by their chosen god in their own way, of course. For example, PC Ducks may have their own ideas on how to deal with Water. If they do things the way their god did, they get bonuses: if not, they don't.

The start

We go through the standard business of getting the PCs onto the HeroPlane. They are led from the holy site to a wood, and left there. They will notice that the trees are Spruces: if the spruce is not native to their area, they'll notice that it's some sort of conifer.

They are approached by five giants, one tied to each element

  1. Genert, Lord of the Earth
  2. Kalt, the Renewing God (aka Kolat, god of the Air, and actually Orlanth's oldest brother)
  3. Lodril, lord of Fire
  4. Magasta, the Sea giant
  5. Dehore, Darkness-keeper
The giants need not be introduced by name, but their description should make it obvious which element is theirs. In fact these are adults of the clan in costume, but now on the HeroPlane they look real.

Attempts to hide behind trees and in shrubbery should make it all too clear that these are the Mutable Woods: bushes move aside, revealing anyone hiding.

The giants "offer" to take the candidates to tests which will make them gods. Each will be taken to the test they have chosen, but any roleplaying by the characters (and even by the players) should be encouraged. ("No, don't throw me in the briar patch...!")

The Tests

The Tests are done individually: to stop people getting bored, the rest of the players get to be the opposition. If two players have chosen the same test, the second one to go through it should not be the opposition for the first player. Send him off to make the tea. Each Test involves being thrown into a Pit (or similar enclosure), and trying to get out.


Problem: Pit is full of water (undines), and a lid is placed over it.
Solution: "Vadrus stirred the Well so rapidly that the gods there streamed into one swirling pool of water, and Vadrus escaped through the seams in the well lid." Which is all very well, but how does a PC do this? Well, they'll have bonuses. Vadrus is the uncontrolled god of Air, so while they're trying to emulate him, any Sylphs around will be willing to take orders. A good Swim skill might help survive the results. And of course they could always chat to those Undines.


Problem: Animal Corral, full of wild beasts.
Solution: "Urox confronted the carnivores of the wild, and did not run from them, but stamped them beneath his bloody hooves. Then he broke down the corral and released all the creatures."
The candidate is in a corral which also contains a small herd of whatever animal seems appropriate: we used sheep, simply because we had the figures. Cows might be better. The candidate is taking the role of the dominant male of the herd (ram, Bull, whatever): there should be a certain dualism of form during the test, especially if they try head-butt attacks! The herd is under attack from carnivores. The challenge is to defeat the carnivores and rescue the herd from captivity. Let the rest of the players run the terrified sheep, or perhaps some of the carnivores. Making appropriate animal noises is highly encouraged!


Problem: The Fighting Pit: a pit full of warriors who wish to fight the candidate
Solution: "Humakt already knew everyone in the Fighting Pit, and they could not stand before him. They were all disarmed, or surrendered, and Humakt climbed from the pit on their weapons."
Warriors who the candidate already knows are easy: use the rest of the PCs! (Don't ask me how they're both here and in their own challenges.) The candidate gets a major bonus to all combat skills, because he's emulating Humakt. The rest don't. Note that no-one gets killed: this is before Humakt acquires Death.


Problem: The Strange Gods, a nest of alien powers.
Solution: "Orlanth quarrelled at first with the Strange Gods, but some of them were friendly. With them Orlanth prepared a plan, and they escaped from the Prison of the Strange gods."

This is the fun one. Who are these Strange Gods? I took a look through the LBQ, and found that some of the Lightbringers were gods Orlanth had met before. This, I decided, is where he met them for the first time. So the pit contains Issaries, Chalana-who-calms, The Knowing God, and Trickster. Not that they are introduced by name, of course. They (and Orlanth, the last to arrive) have been put here by the Evil Emperor, as a punishment for causing trouble. The pit is guarded, and in any case the lid is too high to reach. The four Strange Gods might have been able to get out long before this, but have been too busy squabbling.  And they're about to be role-played by the rest of the players. Hand each of them a brief character description, and leave them to get on with it. Some GM intervention may be needed, but the idea is for "Orlanth" to get the rest to cooperate, using their joint powers to escape.

Player handouts:
Physical description Motivation and powers
Female, white robes  Stay calm. Keep the others calm. (Power: If you order someone to be calm, they will be!) There must be no violence here. We can handle this by persuading the guards politely and offering to help them. (Power: can heal anything)
Male, no weapons or armour except a staff Negotiate. Stay neutral if possible. Seek to change the situation through communication and harmony, then you can find a path out of here. Of course, this rash child who’s been dropped in with you may need careful handling. Maybe introducing his grand-parents to each other was a mistake? (Power: can speak any langauge, infinitely persuasive)
Male, bearded, educated accent  Your vast knowledge on all subjects will tell you the way out of here, as long as these morons will listen when you lay down the Law. (Power: knows everything. Yes, this does include having detailed knowledge of the guards’ weaknesses: make ‘em up, in nauseating detail. And be obnoxious about it).
Small, revolting, with a silly accent You can trick the guards into letting you out, of course.  But maybe you should stay around for long enough to wind up these others first? It might be fun! (Powers: illusionist, thief, sneak. Anti-power: most Tricks backfire)


Problem: The Pit of Darkness. A very dark pit, with unfriendly creatures in it.
Solution: Yinkin smelt where the dark-folk were, and silently avoided them. He climbed the steep walls and got out of the Pit.
Hand the player bonuses to all perpection and stealth skills, and to Dodge and Climb. They have some hungry trolls to avoid, and a wall to climb. If you want to get the other players really involved, a live game of blind-man's-bluff might be amusing. (Yinkin is blindfolded because it's dark: the others are blindfolded because he's good at sneaking!)

The end

By now we hope each candidate has been through their test, and passed. If by some mischance anyone has failed, the myth of the "other one" can be used. The rest of the group, now re-united, can form a Ring and lend him their strength to get him out of trouble. (Don't ask for the rules on how this works. They hold hands, pray, chant. Tell them to add up all their POW scores, then roll against the result, perhaps. Give them about a 50% chance of success, and as many attempts as it takes).

Everyone goes back to the starting place, back to the holy site and into the mundane. Time for a feast to celebrate!

Copyright © 1998,1999 Jane Williams