This text appeared originally in
RuneQuest Daily, Mon, 18 Apr 1994, part 1
as a reaction to a remark that cults were stereotyping characters. The NPC description of Hrut or that Bison tribe raiding party were another spin-off of my "outrage" when I was challenged that it took different cults, at best different races to make an interesting party, or setting.
Non-humans don't really fit into any non-generic party of adventurers. Ok, Lismelder war parties might include a duck or two, and Kitori may have trollkin teams as spear fodder and a dark troll member. Apart from these, non-humans would be extremely unlikely. Orlanth-worshipping dwarves, while possible, smack more of AD&D than knights or wizards in Glorantha. Any party including a non-human would be treated like people traveling around with lepers, even in cosmopolitan places like Boldhome or Pavis. Remember the usual reaction of people to Griselda's friendly manners toward trolls and trollkin?
Now lets move into the West, and into the region allegedly most difficult to develop differences apart from roleplaying, Rokari Seshnela.
Let's imagine a hamlet inhabited by serf members only, apart from Mikael (and family), an elderly failed wizard's apprentice who cares for the local place of worship (a stele with a niche for a faded icon of Xemela placed on a hilltop amid the fields). The party consists of all the hamlet's able-bodied males between 18 and 32:
- Tomas, 25 year-old farmer, widower and father of 5 children. His 17 year-old sister Sue cares for the children, but she is going to wed Gavin soon, so he has to look out for another wife.
- Gus, 22 year-old farmer, first son of old Gus, and the best carpenter within three days of travel. His wife Elin comes from a neighbouring shire!
- Gavin, 18 year-old farmer, second son of old Gus, the robust, if a bit slow real worker on old Gus' fields. A bull of a man with a friendly smile, there is no real competition for pretty Sue, were there not the noble boys from the keep with their flashing clothes. Yet, under the maypole...
- Jarvis, 32 year-old universal crafter and spokesman of the hamlet. He runs the crude smithy, is in charge of the road and bridge duties to Sir Marcel, and has a half-stretch of field to grow some of the food his 7 family members (mother, wife, 4 boys and a girl between 5 and 16) need.
- Norman, 27 year-old farmer, best know for his proficiency at singing, story-telling, and brewing, has a wife and five daughters. His greatest wish, a son to inherit his farm, hasn't been fulfilled ever since his infant son died shortly after birth 2 years ago.
- His brother, 21 year-old Marcus, still works on his farm, and hasn't taken a wife yet. Without the farm, he cannot afford the bridal gifts, nor could he expect a reasonable dowry. He has been one reason why Mikael's younger daughter took the veil...
- Silent Rodolphe is the hamlet's herdsman and prime poacher. The 29 year-old's wife is the best seamstress in the hamlet, and somehow her clothes tend to have fur linings.
- Rudegar, his 19 year-old brother, helps with the herding, and is tending the nets in the village's creek and pond as well. He is called to butcher beasts whenever there is something to slaughter in the neighbourhood, and they say he can trim poached deer to look like goat.
- Ken, 24 year-old son of the hamlet's minister, Mikael, and his constant source of worry because he makes common with the hamlet's girls and boys. Ok, would he not plow the stretch of church land given to Mikael, this worthy's fare would be considerably worse, but Mikael had hopes for Ken's career in the church.
- Maybe his younger brother Simon, currently assisting minister at the
keep, will fulfil these hopes. Of his two sisters, one has married a minister five days of travel from here, while the other has taken the veil and has left the family.
Magically, only Ken has specialised a bit during his short time serving as junior minister at the keep. The others had to learn their spells during the two fairs at the keep held in the last 5 years. Their magic consists of simple blessings for their tools. Only Ken and Rodolphe know a little healing magic (Ken: Neutralize Damage, Rodolphe: Treat Wounds).
All men have served in Sir Marcel's levy now and then, such as three years ago when krjalki raiders from Guhan penetrated deeply into the shire, or when Sir Jerome came in force to claim the milling rights for Woodford last summer.
Scenarios for the villagers:
Rodolphe finds several goats missing. The men gather to hunt the predator (a lone wolf)
Flood! The creek threatens to destroy the bridge Sir Marcel lets the villagers maintain four miles away, on the duke's road. During night and thunderstorm the men try to reinforce the bridge, else they will have to rebuild it during harvest season.
Raising the communal barn: a joyous occasion with helpers from all the neighbouring villages, and plenty social interaction. Too much, actually, since one of the wives is found with a visitor...
While poaching, Rodolphe shoots a roving bear in self defense. The bear stays around with a gangrenous wound, and slays a lumberjack in service of Sir Marcel. Will the villagers stop the bear's rampage before Rodolphe's arrowhead will be found by Sir Marcel's gamekeeper?
A band of gypsies moves through the countryside and takes camp in a copse close to the bridge. Several pieces of fowl and a piglet go missing. How will the villagers react?
Bride-Quest: both Tomas and Ken are in need of a wife. Tomas' case is somewhat easier to solve because of his caste there is rich choice, but even so he will need his friends' help. Ken even needs to travel further abroad to find a girl of his own caste- the accompanying villagers might even visit a town!
Fire! A barn is hit by lightning. Will the villagers be able to rescue their food stores?
A hungry winter: How do the villagers replace the stored food lost in the fire?
Levy: the men are called to fight for Sir Marcel. While at the keep, one evening a boy comes running and tells the of a raid on their village. Will they be able to save their families from the brigands? Will they return to the keep before Sir Marcel will miss them?
Witch hunt: Strange diseases spread in the holdings of Sir Marcel. Several women have been found guilty and burned, now the investigating monks approach this hamlet. Will the villagers find the Malliant before Elin is tortured?
Strangers visiting: A peddlar, a wandering monk (wizard), a spy from Sir Jerome disguised as a messenger, a travelling noblewoman with small entourage, a King's Messenger, a wandering player with family, a Vampire appearing as a knight (only passing through), a heretic preacher, beastmen abroad, priests from Hrelar Amali, the King's army marching through and foraging
Crime: A traveller staggers into Mikael's hut and collapses. His last words tell about brigands at the bridge. Sir Marcel suspects men of one of his villages to have done the evil deed. Can the villagers wash themselves free from suspicion?
Ius Primae Noctu: Gavin and Sue marry at last. Sir Marcel's son Mortimer intends to usurp his father's right, but on a doubtful pretense only. Will the villagers play along? Will they oppose Mortimer?
A spirit plague: Woodland entities from the forest hamper village life. The villagers have to find out how to propitiate them (at an ancient shrine to Seshna Likita), and how to keep this from the knowledge of church authorities. (They might as well call upon the church first, get a wizard to banish those spirits present, only to get retribution as soon as the wizard has left again. The key might be an old woman from a neighbouring village, maybe the grandmother of one of the wives, who knows the old ways of the Earth. Interesting combinations with witch hunt and heresy possible.)
Heresy: a preacher from Castle Coast spreads spiritual unrest by teaching Hrestoli virtues and magic. Will the villagers fall prey to his heresy? Will they denunciate him, or will they protect him when church officials search for him?
Tax: the old theme of hiding one's wealth
Hunt: Sir Marcel has highborn guests and arranges a great hunt. The villagers help out as beast drivers, servants etc.
Feudal duties: The river needs to be dammed so that Sir Marcel's horse meadows stay dry (and can be enlarged). The villagers have to leave domestic work and live in a camp full of "voluntary" helpers.
Spiritual duties: The church at the keep is going to be rebuilt in proper Rokari style, replacing the current 500 year old building. The villagers are called in for service in manpower and goods. Interaction with city-born crafters, church officials and the local nobility.