We played a second session of the new Gloranthan Solar System campaign last Saturday with Sipi, Tero and Esa. The place was “Living Room” in Iisalmi once more; a nice restaurant, although I’m detecting a hint of newness there – time will tell how their atmosphere starts developing as the mainstream crowd finds the place. The actual session was relatively laid back in terms of drama, but the style and atmosphere were fine, and I would expect the events to gain in speed later on.
Life on the Tula
Most of our session was about establishing the everyday facts of life – what it means to be a member of the Enferoli clan, Bachad tribe in Far Place in year 1612 after time began. I’d printed out a bunch of basic references to compensate for my go-to Glorantha books being on loan in Helsinki; I really should get that new Sartar book, it’d be a perfect source for this, I imagine that it lists all the major gods and their rules, nomenclature info, calendars and such, the sort of thing you need for fodder in this sort of thing.
We began the session with the inwards spiraling technique that is typical of heavy setting play for me: first we discussed the general political and religious situation of the Far Place (Harvar Ironfist, Yelmalite confusion, history of Alone and Alda-Chur), then segued into tribal history and geography, tribal neighbours and so on. As we got into the clan issues, it was established that the Enferoli clan lives on half a dozen largish steads (by Sartarite measure – over a hundred people per stead), of which one was such that all three player character youths lived therein. We even established that the stead was home for four or five different bloodlines.
(I understand that the Sartarite basic practice is that a bloodline lives independently on its own stead, sort of like old Finnish farming community was set up historically. However, in the Far Place life is sufficiently dangerous that it makes sense for the community to be more close-knit – the stead will often feature some walls and earthworks and such. In the case of the Enferoli clan, though, most of the steads are merely repurposed summer transhumance cottages at this point in time; they’ve just retreated in numbers to the wilderness from their old lands in the Hidden Valley, encouraged by the grim rulership of Harvar Ironfist. Time will tell if the clan will keep to the multi-bloodline steads or spread out once they have time to build more estates.)
The actual in-character play began pretty elegantly as a matter of procedure, I think. I’m a very structural and methodological Story Guide in Solar System (a game that allows quite a bit of leeway in technique), so it might be considered peculiar that the first thing I did was not to establish a scene, but to call for an Ability check: I asked the players to make an Ability check to find out how their characters had performed over the winter seasons, so we’d be able to frame things well for the Sea Season, with which we were starting the game. Each player chose an Ability and told the others what sort of things their character had done in the stead over the last winter. As it happened, Sipi’s character Ingman actually managed to fail in his hunting deeds, getting lost on the trap trail, while Tero’s Olric messed up the count of utensils he was tasked to take with his Tallying Ability. These failures would come back to haunt the two, as we’ll see.
My framework for the spring season was that the clan would have scheduled clan initiation rites for later on in the season, so all the boys would be keen to present themselves well to get into the initiations. (Orlanthi initiations are a serious thing, you can die in them; a boy won’t necessarily be submitted for the initiation if his bloodline doesn’t consider him ready.) As Sipi’s character had embarrassed himself recently, he heard from his father that the elders had opted to keep him back for the next round of initiations in 3-4 years or whenever they’d get around to it again. Olric and Esa’s Errol were home-free in this regard, at least as long as they wouldn’t fuck up too badly over the first few weeks of the season.
(I’m somewhat bemused by the fact that I’m not quite sure when Orlanthi initiations are supposed to happen – might be that I’m playing it “wrong” by having the initiations begin on Harvast Barefoot’s sacred day in the Sea Season instead of the superficially more logical Sacred Time. Well, if this is outrageously wrong, the justification is that this particular clan has a somewhat different mythic history that causes the difference.)
After establishing this basic conceit of approaching initiations I just started throwing out some low-tension setting detail: there were some Harvast’s lackeys visiting the stead, a couple characters were sent sheepherding to the spring pastures, the stead started burning the prepared fields so as to get the seed into the ground, the boys got a chance to flirt with some shepherdesses, that sort of thing. This is not to say that important events did not happen: Ingman proved himself to his father by bravely confronting some rebellious Orlanthi he encountered while herding sheep near Gamla’s Leap, while Olric took a step too far in being a spoiled brat (and was suspected of stealing utensils from the stead, too) and got himself sent to Alone to live with his uncle – the family is hoping that this will teach Olric that stealing from the family and being an insufferable little piggy has consequences. As the score stands after the first session and first 1½ of the Sea Season, Ingman is back on the initiation roster while Olric is out – I have high hopes to mess up the situation further before Harvast’s day rolls around, it’d be just great if one of the character manages to miss the initiations altogether by being unworthy of meeting Orlanth.
Next session we should have some interesting stuff abound in the game:
- Ingman and Errol have been established as something of a partnership in youth – they hang out together and have some chemistry, with their Keys pinging off each other’s personalities pretty well. Their deeds in the last session will come to haunt them, as their rivalry with Omger, the son of the local Godi, develops, and as Ingman continues his uncharacteristically lecherous advances towards the prim Meri Nevalasdottir. Then there’s the “magic” sword Ingman got as a gift from the rebels – lots of stuff to play with.
- Olric is in hot waters as his Harst-worshipping grandfather wants him to man up and learn honor; the man’s eldest son stayed behind in Alone as most of the clan retreated to the wilderness steads, so we’ll get to see what sort of household he’s running – I’m envisioning something related to Harst the Good Reeve, or perhaps Issaries. Regardless, Olric has a good chance of not getting back into good graces of the family before the initiations, especially if he gets seduced by the urban pleasures of Alone. Will Olric become an Orlanthi proper at all, or would the Lunar ways be better for him? Will his uncle, clearly a less hardcore traditionalist, understand him any better?
I expect that we won’t get into the massive initiation processes in the next session yet, but we’ll probably get to the brink, ready for it in the third session. The Orlanthi initiation is Serious Business, with massive vistas of cosmology and theology opened up for the characters to experience first-hand, plenty of instruction in the proper ways of being an Orlanthi and finally, the choice of gods – a god chooses a person, or a person chooses a god. Easy to take an entire session or more in that if we want to.