Selkana’s Saga is a Chaosium blog series by Ellie and Scott Akers, following a long-format roleplaying campaign using the RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha system.
In the previous instalment, Selkana and her friends found lodgings at Geo's Inn in the high-perched city of Boldhome...
Now that the adventurers have made it to Boldhome we had a gameplay decision to make. If we wanted a long campaign we should spend some time exploring Boldhome and building a connection with the city. The other option was to skip forward rather quickly, focus on the parts of the story we were most invested in, and keep things shorter.
In the end, we were eager to move forward and not spend to much play time just roaming around. Instead of playing out lots of little adventures we went back and forth at the table and improvised a few vignettes. That let us fill in some of the details about what was going on, while limiting our time commitment. Having each player at the table add a few details or describe something that happens is a great way to get everyone engaged and involved in telling the story.
We decided Selkana was playing Madame de Pompadour style court games with Argrath. She was making a splash in the local social and religious scenes and making herself known to him without directly going to his court.
Meplep was acting the scribe and furiously fielding a slew of invitations, social obligations, House Hulta business correspondence and generally acting as the consummate bureaucrat.
While Kitha is Selkana’s normal bodyguard a Yinkin worshiper is a much more fashionable attendant when you are trying to project an air of uninhibited fertility. Accordingly, Laak was dragged around to an endless array of stifling social gatherings and itched to be back on the road under open skies. His only respite was the occasional rooftop sun nap. Kitha, barred from her normal duties, was left to run undignified courier tasks for Meplep. She also got into a fight with a man named Taiborn, a priest-in-training to the local Humakti temple who seemed to take a particular dislike to her.
We peppered all these scenes with ability checks when it made sense to. That let the dice decide the outcome which helped build out the narrative. For instance, Meplep sent out a letter of introduction to the paramount tribe, the Colymar. We rolled to see how well he did, and he fumbled! That gave us some really enjoyable roleplay opportunities to try and fix the mess:
Selkana: “Meplep, why do I have a very churlish letter from the Colymar in my hands? What did you send them?” Meplep fluffed his feathers defensively and let out a chattering sound of distress. “Just normal introductions I assure you, Mistress. I don’t understand why they were so hostile.” He began to rummage among a pile of scrolls and parchment scraps. “Ah yes, I have my original still, let’s see...” Meplep scanned the heavily marked up bit of parchment. After a few moments his face fell. “Oh dear, I see the problem.”
“What?” Selkana took the scrap from his hand to inspect it. “Meplep, this is...”
“Yes, it does appear I sent a letter of introduction to the Colymar in high Esrolian. Upon reflection, that likely implied a certain degree of.... haughtiness that the Colymar no doubt took amiss. Very unfortunate. ”
Our original idea had been to try and obtain lodging and hospitality with the Colymar, but that fumble changed the plan. It also added a great role play opportunity as we had to deal with the ranking Colymar we had insulted. Instead, we tried again and had better success with the rival Lismelder tribe, which ended up being a fun plot point later on.
Another vignette skill check that has a big say in what was going on was a simple picnic that became more. I rolled a one on what had been planned as a low key slice of life encounter.
It was Fertility week of Earth season and for days now there had been celebrations of the harvest, and gratitude to Ernalda for her blessings on the people of Boldhome. Just this morning Selkana had danced, sung and worshiped at the Earth Temple in another ritual of bounty. Now she and her companions, along with their gracious Lismelder hosts, were having a late afternoon meal perched on a ridge outside the city. Spread out below them were the rolling farmlands that surrounded Boldhome.
It was a friendly and leisurely affair. Tomorrow was the grand sacrifice and there would be feasting and revelry that lasted till the next dawn, but today was simply a meeting of companions. Sated by food and wine, the group asked Selkana to entertain them. Always eager for a chance to show off she agreed and took to the cliff edge. Something low key was in order, a casual song about young lovers and a simple dance to accompany it.
If her performance started as a casual thing it did not stay so. Some who were present say her skin turned green and her hair shimming copper, others swear that a writhing halo of snakes appeared above her head all seeking to penetrate her aura. All agree though that the goddess Ernalda manifested in that dance. It went on for ages, or possibly moments. Time doesn't flow quite the same when the divine are present.
When Selkana finally came free of her trance, she was shuddering and exhausted. With glazed eyes, she explained that she has seen a temple below her feet. Simple and ancient but deeply magical. Whoops and cheers went out, and messengers were sent to gather servants and digging tools. Many hours of excavation later the opening of a cave was uncovered in the face of the ridge, and two priestesses from the earth temple confirmed that it was indeed a lost holy site to Ernalda.
We decided that Selkana rolling a crit (01) for her Dance skill during the holy week of Ernalda was a big deal, leading to the location of a lost earth temple being revealed. It was also the perfect way to cap Selkana’s court games. Argrath would have to call her for an audience now. From here we moved forward in the story finally reaching Argrath’s court, and getting our first encounter with the man.