As you may have gathered from recent posts I’m really enjoying running the new edition of RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha. I’ve had so much fun that I offered to run it for some of my oldest and best friends in Perth whenever I’m there.
Spoilers ahead for the Defending Apple Lane adventure in the Gamemaster Adventures pack included in the GM Screen pack/slipcase edition. This is a relatively recent publication so if you’re hoping to play this scenario as a player, I suggest stopping here. GMs should read on.
Since I’ll cheerfully admit to not being the most creative of GMs, this means that both groups are likely to play the same scenarios, albeit that the Perth group will do so over a much longer timeframe than the every-Tuesday Canberra group. This will, hopefully, give me a better feel for how the scenarios flow, and the consequences of choices made within the scenarios.
Defending Apple Lane
OK, so the PCs arrive in Apple Lane and are approached to defend the village from Tusk Raider bandits, but need to plan how to do so when they don’t know how the Tusk Raiders will attack. Both groups gleefully Jumped at the Call and didn’t even bother trying to bargain for higher rewards. I suspect both groups would have done it for free.
The Canberra group tended towards more heavy combatants and went for a mobile response. In contrast the Perth group tended towards lighter combatants/archers and went for a static defence.
The two approaches had interesting consequences for the remainder of the scenario.
The attack starts with a feint from the west which the Canberra group honored, and the Perth group largely ignored.
That’s followed by an attempt at a straight charge by four of the Tusk Riders to break open the gate of the Tin Inn and take hostages.
In both cases that’s where the Tusk Rider’s attack was derailed, but because the Perth group had 3 archers targeting the lead Tusk Rider, they broke sooner. This scenario calls for the Tusk Riders to break and run if they hit heavy opposition or take significant casualties.
This is where the differences in the flow of the first battle get interesting: the Perth group achieved a significant casualty early, so the Tusk Riders broke and fled sooner. Clever use of a Warding rune spell over the Tin Inn had also given the static defenders inside the Inn a significant advantage even if the Tusk Riders did manage to break in.
In contrast the Canberra group were able to pin them down longer in the field, keep them out of the the Tin Inn entirely, and did more damage to the Tusk Riders in the first engagement. Although they did take some significant wounds in that battle, as well as some significant embarrassment for the Storm Bull Bison Rider (where DID that huge air elemental come from anyway?).
This completely changes the flow of the second battle in the Tusk Riders’ camp.
The Perth group had to face a relatively stronger threat without the advantage of prepared positions, and the battle did look fairly dicey for a little while. Admittedly not helped by the Humakti hitting himself in the head with his own sword.
In contrast the Canberra group were able to hit a relatively weaker group of Tusk Riders whilst they were at full strength. As I recall that battle ended up going relatively smoothly for the Canberra group.
Along the way I’ve observed some elements of the Defending Apple Lane scenario that could benefit from being addressed in a future edition:
1 – Going Off Plot
Both groups suggested trying to track the Tusk Riders down rather than fight them in Apple Lane.
The scenario doesn’t really allow for this so I had to divert it with the villagers being insistent that the attack could happen any day and that the defenders needed to be here. (To be fair I honored that by having the attack happen the next day in both groups).
Given that the later adventures are at least partially dependent on the PCs not going off plot like this, future editions would do well to address this explicitly
2 – Keeping Track of the Tusk Riders
One problem I had in both runs of the Defending Apple Lane scenario is the layout of the Tusk Riders stats in the adventure. It was occasionally quite difficult to keep track of which Tusk Rider was which, particularly as this is likely to be the first adventure run by a newby RuneQuest GM. I know that there aren’t a lot of options when you’re printing the adventures in a book, but maybe a future edition could consider:
- Separate/Removable sheets for each of the Tusk Riders, or
- Providing groupings/subheadings for the Tusk Riders by role in the original fight, e.g.
- Group Mardu and Yodram together under the Feint
- Group Zeoldan, Durug, Xiobalg, and Qualbalg together under the Gate, and note their position in the line up in their descriptions
- Group Kranag and Yaram under Reinforcements
That way the GM at least has sections to help keep things straight during the first battle which tends to have more moving pieces and is more difficult to orchestrate..
3 – How Big is Apple Lane Anyway?
A future edition of the Gamemaster Adventures would really benefit from putting a scale on the Apple Lane map. Having to guess based on how big I think the buildings are (and those maps don’t have scales either) was kind of awkward both times I ran this.
4 – Redeye the Boar
I’m honestly in two minds about Redeye the Boar in this scenario. On the one hand it’s an enormous amount of fun for the GM to dangle him as a potential religious crisis for any initiates of Maran Gor or Babeester Gor (whistles innocently). In my case I used Homeland Lore (Sartar) to let the Sartarite PCs know about Pig Hollow, and Cult Lore to let the relevant initiates know about the associations.
On the other hand, he would probably enormously overpower any brand new party of adventurers. See previous comments about this probably being the first adventure to be run by a newby GM.
So I fudged the die rolls to make him not turn up, but I’d be interested in hearing from other GMs who have used Redeye in this adventure.
The fascinating thing for me with the Defending Apple Lane is that it is an open ended tactical problem: the PCs are tasked with defending an open village (albeit one with some significantly fortified individual buildings) from an unknown number of raiders without knowing where the attack will come from or the exact numbers.
This means that there isn’t really a right answer, and the GM has to adapt the scripted attack to how the PCs planned their defence.
This does mean that the results of the first battle in Apple Lane can vary widely, leading to significant variations in the difficulty of the second fight, or even if there is a second fight. An argument can be made that if the first fight goes badly enough then the Tusk Riders will simply flee for good at that point.
A corollary to this is that the first battle will generally be a lot harder for the GM to orchestrate; there are more moving parts in more locations and the Tusk Riders can spook surprisingly easily if things go badly.
I’m also amused by how eager both groups were; I suspect that the early interaction with Aileena confirming that they are (from the perspective of Apple Lane at least) mighty warriors shuts down the tendency to bargain for more financial rewards. Even in this first adventure, there’s that sense of community affecting attitudes towards NPCs etc.
Finally, whether or not to have Redeye the Boar appear is a significant question for GMs to face, and not one that I suggest be left to a dice roll.
Defending Apple Lane, whilst it has some flaws, is a fine introductory adventure for RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha. It can however be highly variable depending on how the adventurers plan their response, and some some novice GMs may struggle with this aspect,
Questions of the Post:
- Have you run Defending Apple Lane as a GM? If so, what are your thoughts on the strengths/weaknesses of the scenario? Would you include Redeye if the dice roll came up that way?
- Have you played Defending Apple Lane as a player? If so, how was the experience, and what improvements would you suggest?