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.
Scott: So far in the saga we have been using RuneQuest’s systems narratively, to guide our story. The game’s combat, however is so dynamic and engaging that it generates stories all on its own.
Ellie: After a long night of revelry the caravan and our party sets forth from Whitewall and heads into the final stretch to Boldhome, where Argrath, the Prince of Sartar, resides. Kitha and Laak are heading up the caravan with Kulbran, the captain of the guard. It’s late afternoon and the warm day has the whole company relaxed and enjoying the journey.
Laak spots a strange shimmering up ahead. He calls the other’s attention to it, and before their eyes the ground buckles and rips open like a sword wound. Piercing screams sound a terrifying battle cry, and five scorpionmen crest the hills to either side of the road and charge the caravan. Laak and Kitha take the right flank with three scorpionmen, while Kulbran takes the left, facing two of the monstrous creatures alone. An all-out battle commences.
Kitha charges forward to meet the creatures head on. As a living scion of death, Kitha is a truly terrifying sight in battle. Heart filled with hatred for all chaotic creatures, she cannot help but throw herself completely into the fight. She ducks and weaves between the hulking carapaces and manages to run one foe through the chest with her sword. Laak, meanwhile, hangs back and uses his skill with his bow to even the odds. His arrows skin into chaotic flesh, while his shadowcat harries their flanks. The three of them quickly dispatch the more primitively armed foes.
Kulbran has a harder time. While he is able to cripple and ground one of the scorpionmen, the second lands a nasty gut shot on him with a dagger. Kulbran falls gurgling, as a scorpionman looms over him and draws back for the killing blow. Kitha charges to his aid and is able to behead the remaining attacker, while Laak dispatches the crippled one. With that our heroes have saved the caravan and won the day.
Scott: This is our first big combat of the game. RuneQuest has very detailed, well-defined combat rules, which causes fights to have a certain distinct feel to them. On one hand, fights are brutal and fast, with even the strongest fighter vulnerable to being taken out in an instant. On the other hand, nearly everyone has access to powerful healing magic, meaning that survivors can pop right up and be ready for the next challenge.
Ellie: If you were worried about poor Kulbran, don’t be. Selkana and Meplep were able to call upon their gods to aid in healing him. He was back on his feet in short order.
Scott: Magic is what really differentiates the combat from character to character. I keep saying it, but the universal access to magic is what makes games in Glorantha really sing. Among the combatants of the party, Kitha channels the power of death itself into her sword and armor, while Laak’s magic makes him stealthy, defensive, and versatile. The non-combat specialist have their roles in a fight as well. Selkana has a number of handy buffs she can cast. Even frumpy old Meplep has a nasty little spell that lets him summon walls of fire. Moreover, every cult teaches a number of “common” rune spells, including dispelling magic and healing wounds.
Ellie: Laak and Kitha earned their keep that day. Scorpionmen are rather vicious opponents. While human raiders are quite happy to take hostages for ransom (a common practice in Glorantha), the scorpionmen have no such interest. These are foul creatures of chaos and their desires are the worst. They will happily kill, eat and loot the entire caravan.
Scott: Even though we’re not running a very combat-focused campaign, this is a bronze-age setting with a bunch of fantastic monsters running around. There’s a reason why Selkana is backed up by two bodyguards. Violence is inevitable.
Ellie: RuneQuest’s d100 based combat system, with its hit location chart and huge range of possible outcomes, gives you more information than just a pass/fail result. The dice tell you how strong a hit was, if limbs have been severed, or if heads have gone flying. It never feels like a slow chipping away of hit points. The dice are always telling you something about what your characters are experiencing. That makes for fantastic storytelling. I’ll let Scott wrap up this part of our adventure.
Scott: Leaving the tainted bodies of the scorpion men behind to rot, the caravan makes the rest of the trip to Boldhome without incident. They pause briefly in war-torn Wilmskirk to take part in Ernalda’s weekly holy day ceremony. Selkana leads the caravan in worship which replenishes her magic. In Boldhome at last, the party makes fond farewells to the carvanfolk, take residence at an inn, and start plotting their next moves.
Join us next time as the party starts working their way into Boldhome’s social circles!