04 November 2018

Yet Another Excerpt from our Ongoing RQ:G Campaign

This is several sessions after Hervé’s session report from 15 June. Again, he liked the session so much he produced a write-up. Enjoy!

Chern Durel Campaign - Session 15
GM: Gianni. 6 players:

Hervé / Kro Tal the wallball champion,
Valentina / Belia the (former) God Learner warrior,
Patrick / Xu the black mystic,
Eric / Janar the Spolite sorcerer,
Teva / Skull-Sucker the uzko berserker,
Jean-Paul / Furfur the enlo bush alchemist 

“I am Kro Tal the Invincible, champion of the Tulufan arena, who crushed one hundred foes on the black sands. I bathed in the Red Light of Zerel Fan, glory to the Blood Sun. I served Can Shu the wise, true incarnation of Basko Black Sun, who would lead all Ignorants to freedom from the hated Kralori. Well, that is what I believed until my last caper.
As soon as we landed in Zhi Ti, I ran to Can Shu’s palace to tell him – or, in this case, of one his servants – of our plan to wake Black Stone up in Karaköse, to make him strong enough to kill the dragons. I and my comrades were immediately thrown into the palace dungeons by too many guards to resist. We were left to rot there for several days and my comrades were pissed off at me.
Yet I believed this was some clever ploy by glorious Can Shu, and when guards came to lock us up in rolling cages and we set northwest, away from the city, I thought we would be brought to proper authorities. It happened, but not as I expected. The caravan guards were attacked in the night, half of them killed and the other half taken away. Someone opened our cages and left our gear next to them. We decided to follow our liberators and ran across the land, for the dark holds no terror for the Black Sun.
The chase led us high in the Zeedian Hills, all the way to the ruins of Zakarath, whose king insulted Zerel Fan. We had to fight off some hopping zombies, strength-draining vampires and blue ghosts, one of which possessed Xu. The Spolite cast some sorcery spell at it* and it drained the blue ghost out of him. We hacked and bashed away at the monsters, though the vampires did weaken the Spolite and the enlo much.
After regrouping, we met several very surprising people: a circle of six six-breasted priestesses, maybe demigoddesses, all human [GM’s note: well, not really], invoking the powers of the six directions to destroy Can Shu! My comrades kept me from attacking on the spot, for they looked powerful and had many supporters gathered here.
The first was Can Ta, daughter of Can Shu and his eternal enemy; she wore black. With her was the Guardian of Treasures (earth woman), Daughter of the Storm (a wind child), River Mother (with a fish tail), Moon Daughter and Western Sun. They all cast powerful curses at Can Shu, calling him “enemy of our friends”, “betrayer” and “vile”, while sacrificing the captured guards. Each wore a mask with six glowing gems, except Guardian of Treasures who had only five. Her curse failed and stopped the whole ritual.
Can Ta then turned to us and explained that Can Shu’s ambition was to become… the new dragon emperor, master of all Kralori! He was using the Ignorants as mere cannon fodder to reach his goal and would gladly wipe out Chern Durel without a second thought. She spoke words of Power and made me See. As she had freed us from slavery, I offered her my services** on the spot, hanging to her every word. My comrades followed suit, more or less enthusiastically.
Can Ta had a task for us: find the missing green gem, lost to Guardian of Treasures, on the Other Side, immediately, while the stars were still right. We were each empowered by one of the six women. I became Zerel Fan (Fire/Sky Rune); Xu was Moon, the Spolite was Air, Belia was water, the enlo was Earth and Skull-Sucker, naturally, darkness**. Our mission was to ‘bring free the Potter but NOT THE GOLDSMITH and finish the task to be done’. We walked through the veil and came to the Other Side, in some immense green plain. There were SIX SUNS on the same path in the sky: red, blue, black, gold, green and orange! We knew we were back in the time of Heroes, before Ignorance struck our people.
We crossed a mighty river over a bridge of Light I created and reached the village on the other side. The locals told us both their potter and goldsmith had been taken away by “evil snake-men”, in a city to the east. We checked their workshops and found a nearly-finished woman’s mask with five green stones in the potter’s so this was the right path. We set towards the snake men city.
It’s hard to keep track of time on the Other Side. We walked long but made it to the city. Full with Zerel Fan’s power, projecting a blinding and burning corona around me, I scattered a snake-man patrol who tried to interrogate us and we descended into the crater that held the city. There were no defences and the snake-men (upper bodies and heads of men but legs like snakes) fled. We could read the petroglyphs and went to the Prince’s palace, using our Runic Powers to fly over / burrow under / slip through its wall, leaving the guards powerless.
We went straight to the throne room and the enlo earth-sensed that the Prince and Princess sitting there were of the Dark Earth, hungry for our blood. Their glances turned the flying Spolite to stone and he crashed to the floor. So I shot them with a Bolt of SkyFire****, blasting the princess to ashes and seriously burning the prince. He began spouting threats, so Belia / River Mistress filled him with her waters until he blew up. She kept his head as a trophy. Yet we still had no information about where the Potter could be.
After much searching*****, we found the palace’s library, where all information is recorded on snakes as the patterns of their scales. I had seen such sorcery before: snakes are put inside a glass tube and the information becomes clear to who can read. Xu could. The enlo cast Command Snake and both the Potter’s and Goldsmith’s snakes came to us. I wanted to keep the Goldsmith for myself but my comrades deterred me. We brought the Potter’s snake to his village, but he did not change back.
Moon Woman asked her mother what could be done. She found out that the potter was inside the snake’s belly! We had to go back to the snake-men’s city, inside their Dark Earth temple, and to use a ritual I forgot to make the snake big enough we could open it so the Potter could be pulled out. We did but it turned out the Potter was in fact copulating with a snake woman; both were so entangled it seemed impossible to tear them apart. Then Skull Sucker cast a cold cloud of darkness at them and managed to tear the potter away from the snake girl’s embrace.
The enlo darksensed the snake’s belly and found out it held a gem, which Xu delicately pulled out, even Healing the snake after his surgery. He said “no use in making more enemy that needed of the dark earth” and we all agreed. Then we walked back to the village, set the potter back to work, collected the six-gemmed mask for Guardian of Treasures, and walked back to Our World without difficulties.
This time the ritual was fully successful and all of Can Shu’s guards died from the different elements. Can Ta explained she is now ready for the “Hero War” with her father and that she would lead Ignorance to Glory again. She and her followers fed us and sent us away to Karaköse, to finish what we had started. She said there were no Huan To there, it was Kralori propaganda, but there would probably be Kralori sorcerers waiting to ambush us.
Best of all, this time spent as Zerel Fan on the Other Side unblocked my soul and let me worship again Blood Sun, not the Basko Black Sun weakling I had been forced in following. I can’t wait to rip the Kra Lor sorcerers to bits ! Hail Blood Sun. Death to Kralori. Death to Can Shu the Dragon.”

*Spolite sorcery at its best: a 12-point Drain Soul spell, with full augments applying to the POW vs POW roll against the blue spirit. It worked and it lost 13 magic points, driving it out of Xu and attacking the sorcerer instead. Now this was effective exorcism!
**immediately gaining a “Loyalty (Can Ta)” at 70%
***each of us had a Runic rating between 65 and 95% (depending on their success during the ceremony), and 6 Rune points
****my first Sunspear in 30 years of Glorantha gaming! It did 13 points damage (4d6) to both of them
***** using Darksense, Rune points for Find Gold, etc.
NOTE: all participating characters got +6% to their Reputation, a POW check, +15% to a single skill used in the Quest and normal skill checks.

03 November 2018

THE KRAKEN 2018 Report


the Schloss! Ⓖ

Here is my traditional post-Kraken report. As written on its web-site, The Kraken is an annual ‘gathering of international gamers, game masters and game creators to play, develop and test fine quality games’, organised by the über-efficient Fabian Küchler and his small team of volunteers. This year The Kraken was held between 19 and 22 October, as always at the incredibly isolated Schloss Neuhausen, which is in the least populated area of all Germany. One of the first conventiongoers described driving to the Schloss like the opening of a horror movie: “Every fibre in you tells you to turn around and drive back but you keep on going not knowing why.” That sums it up pretty well.

Anyway, apparently Fabi likes my inept write-ups, and he has requested a particularly detailed one for this year, so please bear with me as I shall start from the very beginning.

THURSDAY 18 OCTOBER, late afternoon

We (my daughter and I) jump into the car right after work and off I drive northwards. Travelling to The Kraken with my daughter means the car’s audio system is playing Baroque music, rap, System of a Down, and the Jesus and Mary Chain. Can’t really complain.
We now stop every year at the same place: a super cheap roadside hotel at the border between Belgium and Germany. The place is ugly and not particularly comfortable but it’s close to the motorway and to a very good patisserie – always a good place to start your day.

FRIDAY 19 OCTOBER

After an early wake-up and some excellent custard pastries and an OK espresso, we’re soon on the autobahn, in the vain hope of getting to the Schloss for lunch (ha ha). Well, even though it’s a mere 600km from the hotel to the Schloss, we only got there at about 5 pm because of the bloody Baustellen. Heed my advice, dear readers: don’t drive to the Schloss— fly! and take advantage of the shuttle bus between the Berlin airports and the Schloss. Alternatively, you can take the train to Karstädt; it’s only 12km from the Schloss, and someone will come and pick you up.

FRIDAY 19 OCTOBER, late afternoon

Anyway, once at the Schloss we immediately feel both welcome and at home. We greet our friends and start cutting the elements (counters, cards…) of a boardgame prototype we want to demonstrate (It’s a well-established tradition at The Kraken of always being late with boardgame prototypes and RPG props).


Conventiongoer's material! Ⓖ

Our room. Ⓖ

After a hearty vegetarian dinner (The Kraken provides an option for vegetarian or vegan catering), I get to chat (in Italian) with my Maltese friends from Malta’s Wargaming and Roleplaying SocietyThe Kraken truly is an international gathering.

Tired but happy. Ⓐ

FRIDAY 19 OCTOBER, evening

After the opening ceremony, I catch up with further friends, amongst whom Jason Durall, with whom we reminisce about Greg Stafford, who passed away on 11 October. The shock and pain we experienced one week earlier are now giving way to pleasantly remembering Greg and his incredible kindness.

one of the programme boards Ⓖ
sample minis from Petersen Games' Gods War

Then I go to bed early to get some much-needed sleeeeep.

SATURDAY 20 OCTOBER, morning

I have already mentioned catering at The Kraken. It’s not only compassionate, it’s also GOOD. At breakfast, for instance, we had home-made preserve. Now, I don’t know how many conventions serve home-made preserve at breakfast but I bet you can count them on the fingers of one hand.


German breakfast! Ⓐ
SATURDAY 20 OCTOBER, 10:00

Panel: ‘Building A Horror Scenario The Sandy Petersen Way’

The cool thing at The Kraken is that you have these panels with luminaries from the RPG industry with a scarce attendance, meaning you get to ask your questions and to directly chat with the host without any hassle.
Anyway, this was a really cool interactive panel with Sandy, in which he built a horror scenario only using input from the attendance. Sandy has actually adapted the ‘Sandy Petersen Way’ from the three rules of M. R. James, which the English author had established with regards to ghost stories:
1) the ghost must be malign
2) no jargon (jargon becomes dated quite easily; it also gets in the way of suspension of disbelief) Sandy—> importantly, this applies to in-game terms, keep them minimal!
3) set it where the reader can imagine themself
The above was adapted to Call of Cthulhu as follows:
  1. Setting
  2. Monster
  3. Scene
And we did it interactively (audience/Sandy)
1. Setting: submarine
2. Monster: undead
3. Scene: banquet
I won’t transcribe the whole scenario here. I will simply advise you not to go treasure hunting into an abandoned Soviet submarine at the bottom of the Norwegian Sea…

Saturday morning panels Ⓖ

Sandy's panel Ⓖ
SATURDAY 20 OCTOBER, 11:00

The traditional Chaosium panel, hosted by Ian Cooper & Jason Durall

In this age of social networks and internet forums, there is no need any longer to precisely write down everything that has been said. However, I am transcribing here the salient points of the panel.

Ian: Still working on the ‘Open Game Licence’ version of HeroQuest, which is forking from HQ 2.0, and concentrating on rules-only stuff —> basically, it will be a System Reference Document (SRD).
In print form, however, it will be a new core book, with new sample genre packs (rather than Glorantha), and it will be followed by standalone genre packs (of approximately 32 pages each).
A famous indie designer is working on an HQ-based game, which is currently in its playtesting phase.
So if you also want to pitch a genre pack to Chaosium, please contact Ian!

At the Gloranthan side, the third Red Cow book is nearing completion. It should contain some mind-boggling revelations about some Gloranthan secrets (e.g., the Boat Planet). It will be possibly followed by a pre-1625 Fonrit book.

Jason: The RQ:G Bestiary and GM Pack are at the printer (with the crowdsourced errors fixed). So don’t start asking when they will be available, because they will be available… when they’re back from the printer. (OK, if you really want to know, that should be Q1 2019).

The next books in the pipe are (and this is a non-Euclidean pipe since work is progressing in parallel on several titles):
  • The gigantic Gods of Glorantha (Jeff Richard keeps adding pages to it...).
  • Then a scenario book by established authors (Ken Rolston, Steve Perrin, Penelope Love...).
  • A book taking older out-of-print resources and adapting them to RQ:G.
  • A book of introductory short adventures for starting RQ:G referees and players.
  • In parallel to the main line of RQ:G books written by Chaosium authors, Robin Laws has been contracted for two Pavis & Big Rubble books, and the first drafts look very satisfactory.
  • And the 800-pound gorilla is always ART— what happens is that fully-fledged books are lying idle because there isn’t any art yet.
  • RQ Fantasy Earth. Pedro Ziviani has been commissioned for the first one (a rewriting of Mythic Iceland)

Q&A Session
1- Wyrms Footnotes
There’s lots of material (enough for 120 pages —> reduced to 64 pages, so enough material for two issues)
They have art for the next issue, which isn’t a themed issue but contains a little bit of everything (adventure, GM advice, NPCs, creatures...)
Looking for contributions!

2- Hero questing rules that will be in the upcoming GM book
Jason: they will enable any GM to create hero quests without being Greg or Jeff, or a fan of Jung’s writings.

the Chaosium panel Ⓖ

SATURDAY 20 OCTOBER, 11:00

Whilst I was attending the Chaosium chat, there was the traditional horror lottery to draw the lucky names who would get to play with the Only Old One himself… and my name was drawn (at last! after all these years!).

the traditional lottery... Ⓐ
SATURDAY 20 OCTOBER, noon

At lunch time I had a great chat with Ian Cooper and the Runeblogger about the behind-the-scenes movers and shakers of my Chern Durel campaign, and possible connections with Lunar cults, Sheng Seleris, etc. (which I’m not revealing here because my players read this blog).

SATURDAY 20 OCTOBER, afternoon

Sandy’s lottery game: The Monster of Poznań

Very satisfactory adventure with a pivotal twist (note to self: never trust an NPC in a CoC game ever again... the enemy of my enemy also usually ends up being my enemy!)

Puzzled investigators Ⓐ
Note that for the very first time in the history of Sandy's Call of Cthulhu adventures run at The Kraken, not a single investigator died. Hooray for us!

We did it! We survived! Ⓖ
SATURDAY 20 OCTOBER, afternoon

Replaced my daughter at the Harlem Unbound game because she had conflicting schedules. Harlem Unbound is a very interesting Call of Cthulhu offshoot, in which you play a person from an ethnic or racial minority in the canonical 1920s Call of Cthulhu setting. The second, updated edition of this indie game is going to be published by Chaosium, so hopefully it will attract more attention (well, Harlem Unbound won three Gold ENnies at the 2018 ENnies so it is already well-known amongst hardcore gamers, but I’m not sure about the larger public).

my friend Jean-Christophe refereeing Harlem Unbound

SATURDAY 20 OCTOBER, late evening

The Kraken provides an opportunity to test out one's prototypes of boardgames or role-playing games with seasoned players. On Saturday night, I found three players to play my four-player historical boardgame Siebenbürgen, and we played a very tight game until 3 a.m. The players provided great feedback, which I have now incorporated into the rules. Can’t wait to try out the new version.

situation at the start of the game Ⓟ

situation after the third turn Ⓖ
SUNDAY 21 OCTOBER, 10:00

Mythos Q&A with Sandy

This being Sandy and the Lovecraft mythos, it was mostly a display of knowledge, wits and humour, so I didn’t take notes… just enjoyed the time with Sandy. The best part of the Q&A was when Sandy’s wife asked him “Why do you love me so?” and he blushed!

Sunday morning panels Ⓖ
SUNDAY 21 OCTOBER, 11:00

Good Game Design Q&A with Sandy

Again, this was mostly us wannabe boardgame designers asking Sandy stupid questions and getting extremely valuable advice in return. Well, I certainly did.

Sandy's Good Game Design Q&A Ⓖ
SUNDAY 21 OCTOBER, 14:00-16:00

Impromptu seminar by Jeff Richard and Ian Cooper about Gloranthan mythology & running hero quests  (basically about next year’s book)

an impromptu seminar! Ⓖ
[Note: as a referee running hero quests using RQ:G, this certainly was one of the most valuable panels of the con.]

Jeff: Up to now, the usual approach was “let’s write a myth ahead of the game session”.
New approach: no real difference between a hero quest and a good story using Campbell’s archetypes.
How to present that information to GMs? Treating mythology as a sandbox, and using myth maps!
E.g., at the 2018 Gen Con (running RQ:G for newbies), Jeff improvised the following hero quest:
  • Get to the troll underworld
  • Get passage
  • Find the snake cave
  • Bring back the blue woman— not the yellow man!
All run in the context of a Gloranthan sandbox


Jeff expatiating upon hero quests & mythology Ⓖ

Other parts of the book will address the following:
  • what cool powers does my character get? (because this is what players are really interested in)
  • how to mechanically represent the “hero part” of the player’s character at the Other Side? (concrete rewards)
traditional Sunday Finnish pancakes Ⓐ

SUNDAY 21 OCTOBER, 16:00

‘Gated!’ a RQ:G adventure set in Prax, run by Andrew Wood from New Zealand (who had travelled all the way from NZ!!!)
As mentioned at the beginning of this report, it is an established tradition to always be late with props, and we had to wait quite some time for our character sheets. Once the wait was over, however, we enjoyed a classical but lively RQ:G adventure with lots of nice props, which saw my first use ever of the RuneQuest Strike Rank Tracker by Infinity Engine. The pregen characters were quite seasoned, with many Rune Points, and I enjoyed being able to cast lots of Rune spells! By the way, did I already mention on this blog how much I liked the new RuneQuest rules?

traditional axe-throwing session Ⓖ
traditional axe-throwing session Ⓐ
SUNDAY 21 OCTOBER, evening

Nice chat with Graeme Murrell about East Asian rock bands.



friends playing Petersen Games' Evil High Priest
SUNDAY 21 OCTOBER, night

I usually do not attend Sandy’s late night film showings because, well, the films are bad. This Sunday, however, he played a black and white Mexican horror film: The Brainiac (1962), which, except for the mucho cheapo latex max of the monster, was reasonably good.


Ooooh, inquisitors! Ⓖ
MONDAY 22 OCTOBER, 10:00

Closing ceremony… sad, sad, but we all pledged to reconvene next year in October!

We Are All Us! Ⓖ

Pictures by: Ⓐ Aliénor Perrard - Ⓖ yours truly - Ⓟ Pedro Ziviani

10 October 2018

Art Snippet from New Glorantha

This was posted by Jeff on MeWe. I am weeping with tears of joy— this is so much how I envisage Gloranthan art.

a fresco from the Holy Country



25 September 2018

Tunnels & Trolls Bundle of Holding

For some reason, Tunnels and Trolls has become intimately associated with solo role-playing. Personally, I have always used T&T to run 'normal' adventures (i.e., with a group of players) but I know that, for a lot of RPGers, "T&T" and "solo play" are almost synonymous.

Anyway, if you click here, you will be magically transported to a 'bundle' offer that will let you purchase 12 T&T solo adventures for a mere USD 7.95.

Amongst the 12 PDFs are well-known classics such as Naked Doom, Sewers of Oblivion and Deathtrap Equalizer.

I love T&T's Old School art


If you pay above the threshold price of USD 18.93, you also get the following:

 - the deluxe Tunnels & Trolls rules, my favourite incarnation of the T&T rules
 - Monsters! Monsters!, a spin-off of T&T that lets you play 'the bad guys' — it's really hilarious
 - the Adventurers Compendium, an 88-page collection of twelve classic adventures from the 1970s/1980s — Old School at its best
 - four extra 'GM' (i.e., non-solo) adventures

At USD 18.93 it's a steal. It's a shame I already own 90% of the stuff listed above.



21 September 2018

RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha News

Short blog post about the latest news with regards to RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha, the latest incarnation of our favourite Bronze Age fantasy role-playing game.

RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha is at last available in dead tree. It comes in two formats: the normal hardbound, and a leatherette edition. If you have purchased the PDF from the Chaosium web-site, you should have received the e-mail with the discount coupon by now.

The RQG Gamemaster Screen Pack is available as a PDF. Despite its name, it is much more than a mere GM screen since it contains an updated gazetteer of Sartar and the Dragon Pass area, three adventures tailored for Colymar starting players (which can be easily altered for other groups of PCs), and much more.

The RQG core book, the RQG Bestiary and the GM Screen Pack are designed to fit in the slipcase that Chaosium will release later this year.

02 August 2018

20 July 2018

Worlds United

The Design Mechanism, publishers of Mythras (formerly known as RuneQuest 6th edition), have announced a new source book for H2 2018, whose title is Worlds United, and that will enable you to play 50s Pulp SF planetary romance adventures.

The book should contain approximately 128 pages. I have no further details at the moment, as there isn't anything about Worlds United on TDM's web-site or on their forum.

The funny thing (well at least for me) is that the announcement has been simultaneous with my re-reading my fabulous Flash Gordon hardcovers by Titan Books. The books feature the admirably restored full-colour Sunday strips by Alex Raymond, which are incredibly evocative of the marvellous atmosphere of Flash Gordon's adventures on the mysterious planet Mongo, with its many villains, astonishingly beautiful queens and princesses, and monstrous creatures!


15 July 2018

Glorantha Bestiary Announcement

I guess most of my readers already know about this, but just in case I am reproducing the announcement about the upcoming Glorantha Bestiary for the last edition of Chaosium's RuneQuest.

Of course, 20 July 2018 is the release date of the PDF; the dead tree version will be available 3 to 4 months later (i.e., by November 2018).


And here is the contents page of the Bestiary to further tease you:

Note: the Bestiary will also contain all the character generation rules for the Elder Races, as well as their main cults; but no family genealogies.

22 June 2018

Gods War - The Final Rulebook

I have already mentioned the Gods War boardgame on this blog, since it has prominently featured at THE KRAKEN gaming retreat during all the stages of its creation and its playtest. Glorantha: The Gods War (full title) is a large, intense boardgame similar to Cthulhu Wars (but much better in my opinion) that pits the major factions of Glorantha against each other at the time of the, er, Gods War† — hence its name. The game was successfully kickstarted but, alas, I did not participate because I don't know where I'd store the huge box and its many expansions. It appears that some Texan people do not realise what the average size of a Parisian flat is. And I do not have a cellar. Anyway, Sandy Petersen has just announced that the final version of the Gods War rulebook was available (from here).

Even if you are not interested in overly-sized boardgames please do download it, if only for the incredibly evocative art, and for the scores of ideas that will inevitably pop up in your mind whilst reading it.

†For a description of the events of the Gods War and of the destructions it has wrought, please refer to the Guide to Glorantha, p116-117 and p684-693.

15 June 2018

An Excerpt from our Ongoing RQ:G Campaign

I have a RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha campaign set in Chern Durel and northern Kralorela that has been going on for about a year (since the time we received the RQ:G playtest pack).

Last Wednesday's session was so good one of the players (Hervé) wrote it down to share it with anyone curious about our RQ:G game. Warning: this is a GONZO game, YGWV.

in Tzu Ling


Chern Durel Campaign - Session 12GM: Gianni. 3 players: Patrick (Xu), Teva (Skull Sucker), Hervé (Kro Tal). 4-hour game

After escaping from the Slug-Men’s prison, Xu and Kro Tal go to the Black Sun Temple in the Ignorant Quarter of Tzu Ling. It is still Sacred Time and they pray to regain all used Rune Points (success). They also convince some of the younger priests to send them to the Other Side again, to establish contact with Blackstone, the God [GM: more like a Demi-God] who killed a Dragon long ago; they want to learn its secrets to help Ignorance fight against the Kralori dragon-lovers.
They are led into the Temple’s inner sanctum and wreathed in Basko’s black flames. The roof disappears, and a black sky appears, with the Black Sun in its full glory. It opens its maw and swallows both characters. Inside its mouth, they see its teeth change into stalagmites. They realise they are back to the entrance of Blackstone’s Temple of Bones, which they visited in their dreams a short while ago.

Inside the Temple of Bones, they invoke Blackstone with the sacrifice of a Kralori portrait of their Dragon Emperor Godunya, which they tear and spit upon. (Worship Blackstone 5% + sacred time /major temple / sacrifice bonuses). It is a success and “somewhere, a dragon whines” because of the outrage we commit upon Godunya’s effigy. Yet Blackstone is not to be found. It is Not Here. By focusing deeper and further, Kro Tal feels a great pain in the chest (loss of 1 HP) and realises Blackstone’s Heart is gone.
Using Spirit Travel (despite not being shamans, with the huge lingering bonuses), they set after the Heart, following its cold trail. On the way, they stumble upon the prone form of Skull Sucker, an Uzko warrior of Zorak Zoran with whom they have already co-operated in the Dream World (he has been dispatched there to fight the returning God Learners). He says Blackstone called him for help in his dreams; he came and fought off Kurix the God Learner lich, the eponymous master of the city of Kurix in the Dream World. It seems that the sorcerer’s magics got the better of him.

Further along the way, to their distress, they find a pool of the dark godling’s Blood and drink from it, also filling their water-skins with it. The Blood aids them to track the Heart and even gives some energy (Magic Points) back to Skull Sucker. They are then attacked by an earth demon rushing under the ground and trying to trap them in a pit it opens under their feet, but they jump or climb their way to safety. Upon entering a large cave, they must fight off a pack of Kralori zombies which they pulp. But the earth demon returns and swallows Xu, crushing the life out of him (12 point damage to ALL hit locations, enough to kill him outright despite 5-point armour and a 4-point Protection spell). It immediately rushes away.

Both Kro Tal and Skull Sucker rush to his aid and call upon their Gods with Heal Wound rune magic spells, barely bringing Xu back to life at the cost of their whole psychic energy (2 or 3 Magic Points left at this stage). By limping around to find a safe spot to recover, they realise the earth demon always follows the same “track” and pass its end.

After having somewhat recovered in the Darkness (both Xu and Skull Sucker have Darksense, and by now Kro Tal is developing something like it too), they notice the cave tapering at its end, with a chasm in the wall leading further ahead. Skull Sucker goes to investigate by Sneaking and Hiding and fails. He is speared by two light crossbow bolts and dies (one crit and one impale, both legs crippled). The mad race against death starts again but this time Kro Tal uses his False Healing spell, allowing Skull Sucker to limp back to safety and to call again on Zorak Zoran to heal his wounds. Some First Aid is also applied, but by then all characters are down to 1 MP each†.

They retreat in a side tunnel and after a long exhausting march (roll of CON×5 to press ahead), find themselves back among the Green Dragon’s bones, the one which Blackstone smothered and petrified! They decide it is a safe place to sleep or Meditate (Xu recovers about 10 extra MPs in 8 hours’ Meditation), but the place’s magics begin altering their Runes after a few hours, augmenting Disorder and Life. Both Skull Sucker and Kro Tal are Death worshippers and they leave the place, yet noting they now know a way out: the Dragon’s resting place leads to the ziggurat connected to the bottom of Tzu Ling’s cesspit, a way they went through before.

This time they call on Subere’s and on the Black Sun’s powers and use Dark Walk to approach the chasm and kill the crossbowmen, which turn out to be trollkin wearing the same colours as the servants of their Slug-Man captor! Pressing ahead, they find Blackstone’s Heart, levitating above ground, wrapped in many ropes and pulled by fifteen trollkin led by a Slug-Man. While Skull Sucker mows down the trollkin, Xu casts Attack Soul on the Slug-Man and keeps him too busy to notice Kro Tal jumping on the Heart, then close to him, then punching his skull off. The remaining trollkin scatter. Victory belongs to the characters, who immediately try to commune with Blackstone.
What they learn is… surprising.
Blackstone, whom we thought was bound by the Slug-Men and eager to break free and ravage the Kralori city, is actually happy with the current state of things, growing fat on the sacrifices his servants and clergy, the Slug-Men, siphon off the Kralori! He says this is in continuity with his battle against the Dragon and does not want the status quo to change. He also says the trollkin were pulling back his Heart to its rightful place, among the dragon bones where the characters slept! He explains a sorcerer called Kurix and his warriors had surprised him and beaten off his guards before he could chase him off, rescued by his Slug-Men worshippers.

After much doubt from Kro Tal, all three characters initiate to Blackstone, learning his special spell‡. The God marks them for recognition and acceptance from his Slug-Men servants. The dark godling reveals that his power over dragonkind could be given to them if they re-open his old and forgotten temple in Karaköse, the City of the Dead, many “li” to the west of Tzu Ling. For this, they would need his sacred book, which is now held by the sorcerer Kurix. Kurix seems stranded here, in this Dark Place, and most of his soldiers have been killed or wounded. They have taken refuge in a nearby Ziggurat.
The characters set off to hunt the Sacred Book, unsure whether they will kill Kurix or try to ally with him against their mutual enemy, Sturm Martex the talking head, dread sorcerer from Orathorn.

†upon reflection, this save should not have worked. A character at 0 general HP or below dies at the end of the melee round in which he was hit. But we did not remove the impaling bolts from Skull-Sucker’s legs, which should have been necessary BEFORE healing him. Yet this rule was forgotten by everybody, GM included; too many years of HeroQuest have made us less regarding of rules. 

‡it was decided on the spot that Blackstone’s Runes were Darkness and Stasis, and that a special, stackable spell would be designed, something like Coils (from the Book of Drastic Resolutions volume  Darkness) or Suppress Lodril, but working against Dragons and dragon-kin, including anyone with at least 1% in Draconic Mysticism, i.e. any Kralori.