Hero Wars: Newtlings

This is campaign information that I prepared for my first stint at GMing Hero Wars. Hero Wars is based in Glorantha, the inimitable world that RuneQuest was based on years ago, and it's by the likewise inimitable Robin D. Laws.

The newtlings are based on the description and stats in Anaxial's Roster, the monster book for Hero Wars. The campaign is meant to be playable as a one-shot (which is the only way I've played it so far) but possibly to expand it to a slightly longer campaign (but not anything to compete with Elysombra).

Newtling Hooligan Adventure
Newtling Background
Newtling Spirits
Hero Wars Mechanics
Newtling Characters
Adventure Outline

Newtling Hooligan Adventure

[This is the adventure intro that I emailed to the players.]

Usually you screw around, but sometimes tribal duty calls. Like right around now.

One of the tricks that you newtlings know is how to hide your eggs. The stupid water creatures have to lay their eggs in the wide open water, where other water creatures can get to them. (You, for instance.) You newtlings can get up onto the dry and find hidden pools where you can lay your eggs. Then the bugs, that were created to be your food, come to those same pools and lay their eggs there, too. That way, little squirmer newtlings have plenty to eat and nothing to eat them. (Well, almost nothing.)

You use pools that are hidden away so that creatures can't find them. And it's the hooligans' job, every once in a while, to go find the pools and see how the little squirmers are doing.

Nothing to it.



[This is the information that I emailed to players to give them the campaign background.]

You're a little humanoid amphibian.

Young Hooligans: You're what the newtlings call a "hooligan," in a sexually immature stage that lasts two to three dozen years. (You're as likely to be male as female, but the gender doesn't mean anything to you. It hardly means anything to grown-ups.) In the last several years, you've become big and strong like a grown-up, and you were excited to become old enough to take on the life of a hooligan. When you become an adult, you'll have big family responsibilities, but for now you basically screw around. There are certain tribal duties that you have to satisfy, but otherwise you're on your own. You're a young hooligan. Older hooligans are usually tougher but slower.

Gear: You hunt fish and giant waterbugs with a "striker," a 3-pronged, wood and bone trident. It's more for catching fish and big bugs than for fighting, but you could kill someone with it if you had to. You hunt land and air creatures with a sling, and you could for sure kill someone with the sling. You've got a shield and some simple armor, both made from the shells of giant beetles. It is a point of pride to have unmarked armor; it shows that you're clever enough not to let something even get a swing in on you. (In other words, you go get new armor when your armor gets scratched.)

Magic: The spirit chief gave each of you some spirit gifts when you became a hooligan. Each gift, or fetish, has a spirit in it, and you can call on the spirit to serve you (but then it goes back to the Other Side).

Newtlings: You are descendents of the clever scouts and tricky warriors that led the invasion of the land long, long ago. You were the vanguard because, unlike other water creatures, you can go up onto the dry. The spirits say that the waters are almost ready to invade the dry and the sky again, and when they do, the newtlings will be called on once again to lead the invasion. In the mean time, there's plenty to do finding food and not becoming food.

The Tribe: You belong to the tribe, and the others in the tribe are your cousins. The tribe's health is your health. Its fortunes are your fortunes. You like some cousins and dislike others, but you would never kill one. (Well, practically never.)

Chiefs: The tribe has several chiefs, one for each important task. The spirit chief, for example, deals with the spirits and uses them to make the tribe more powerful. Only grown-ups can be chiefs.

Other Tribes: Long, long ago, other newtlings split off from the tribe to form other tribes, such as the Scalies and the Blood-drinkers. Other tribes need names so you can tell them apart, but your tribe doesn't. You know who you are.

Other Water Creatures: The waters teem with creatures of all kinds. Lots of them, you eat. Some of them try to eat you. That's life. You are more clever than the other water creatures because you can go onto the dry. That's how you avoid the ones the want to eat you and sneak up on the ones you want to eat.

Dry Creatures: The dry is home to strange and terrible creatures. Dry creatures were created to be food for the water creatures, but most have treacherously turned against the water creatures.

Dry People: There's a whole array of creatures that are like people except that they live on the dry all the time. There are creatures of night, of stone, of the air, of the earth, and more. They're all big, ugly monsters that are too stupid to catch you (except when they do).

Chaos: A long time ago, the selfish dry gods tried to destroy the universe rather than serve the water gods in their proper role (food). They almost succeeded, but Great Father Ocean saved it. Horrible, chaotic creatures, left over from that time, still stalk the dry and swim the seas. These are the descendents of the devils that the dry gods let into the world.


Newtling Spirits

[This is the magic information that I came up with for newtling spirit magic. Frankly, I didn't much know what I was doing, but it worked OK. For "Healing Water," I ruled that you needed water of some kind to make the spirit work, and that newtlings are able to purge excess water from their tails through the urethra (or cloaca). So when one newtling had to heal the other far from the stream, well, it was funny at the time.]

The spirit chief gave you fetishes (spirit gifts) in honor of your becoming a hooligan. You can have any five of the following fetishes. Each fetish houses a spirit that will serve you one time and then return to the Other Side. You can have multiples of the same spirit. The spirit chief can give you back a replacement spirit if it wants to (and it usually does).

Slipperiness +2: add to stealth for one conflict

Water Finder 17

Spiteful Bite 17: a bite so nasty that you get hurt, too

Guide Slingstone +2: add to ranged combat for one combat

Guide Striker +2: add to close combat for one combat

Healing Water 17

Torment Dry Monster 17

Eat Dry Creature 17

Quick Swim 17

Survive Dryness 17

Skin Real Hard 17

Steal 17


Hero Wars Mechanics

I'm not a really big fan of Pendragon-style mechanics, which is what you have with Hero Wars. They're OK, but I prefer straight roll vs. roll (as anyone who knows Ars Magica, Over the Edge, or D&D 3rd Ed might guess). Also, extended contests are a lot to handle for a one-shot with new players. So I basically ran it free-form style, using the same sort of system that I used with Over the Edge before I added hit points. It went like this:

Your score in a trait is your bonus on a d20.
Each Mastery is a +20 bonus on the trait.

Opposed checks are roll vs. roll.
Unopposed are against a Difficulty Class (default 25).

A natural 1 counts as -10.
A natural 20 counts as 30.

You fumble if your opponent beats you by 20+.
You crit if you beat your opponent by 20+ (same thing).

(When we played, I had 1 equaling -20 and a 20 equaling 40, but that was overboard.)

The great thing about Hero Wars is that it spells out the world, people, and creatures of Glorantha with free-form stats all rated on a d20 scale. Any GM who can run a free-form game can run a free-form game with those stats and d20.


Newtling Characters

The characters were simple: Use the standard newtling bachelor stats from Anaxial's Roster, pick five festishes, invent one personality trait (score 17). That's all you need for a one-shot with unusual characters on an unusual adventure.


Adventure Outline

[Don't read this if you think you might find yourself in a newtling game with me any time soon.]

It's pretty simple. The PCs are heading upstream toward a pool to check out the squirmers. They hear horrible sounds of battle and investigate to find a scorpionman who's killed some newtlings. (What are the newtlings doing there? I'm fuzzy on the details.) The point of the adventure is that the scorpionman is wounded from its fight, and now's the chance to face it down. So the newtlings track it.

Next, however, they confront some horned wolves that have made the scorpionman drop one newtling it had been carrying. Now the wolves are about to eat the perhaps-still-living newtling. The newtlings fight the wolves. (Where do these horned wolves come from? What part of Glorantha is this? Like I said, fuzzy on the details.)

The newtlings track the scorpionman some more and actually have to venture out onto the open plains to follow it. And they do, and theyhave a climactic battle. If some newtling dies, who cares? It's a one-shot.

If I do it again, I think I'll try to come up with a more "newtlingish" adventure, with more scuttling retreats and fewer heroic charges. Like maybe your next character is more powerful if you frist character dies in a way appropriate to a newtling.

April, November 2003