Bell Digest v941014p4

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Subject: RuneQuest Daily, Fri, 14 Oct 1994, part 4
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From: (Alex Ferguson)
Subject: [FormPlural(geas)]
Message-ID: <>
Date: 13 Oct 94 19:22:25 GMT
X-RQ-ID: 6589

Nick (self-confessedly) whinges:
> RuneQuest's "Geas" tables are unusual in that while they do make it clear 
> what "pure" Humakti or Yelmalions will be like, no "minimum standard" is 
> imposed by them. So (one presumes) a Humakti without the "Never use poison" 
> geas would feel no moral qualms about doing so [...]

I disagree, though granted there's a lack of any such statement.  I think
the geas-like behaviour is generally seen as admirable, though persons not
subject to it won't consider themselves to have strayed overly if they
fail to observe it in a "justifiable" way.  For example, using poison
against a 12 meter Undead Illuminate Yanafal Tarnils/Pocharngo giant isn't
likely to get you reprimanded by the temple hierachy, while doing so in a
Humakti dual wouldn't be so highly thought of.

> Perhaps a mechanic that encourages players to act in accordance with as 
> many Geases as possible in order to reap maximum benefits from their 
> deity-of- choice. Making temple POW gains, or MP recovery, or something 
> else magical, somehow dependent on correct behaviour.

This and Nick's other braindumps seem sensible ideas _as well as_ geasa,
rather than instead of 'em.  For things that really _are_ minimal standards
of behaviour, and not, as many of the geasa are, personal sacrifices.

> I just think people are more likely to publicly renounce some generally- 
> accepted "sin" (and afterwards, pleasingly, receive some benefit for it) 
> than to select or have imposed a *random* penalty to receive a peculiar 
> benefit.

Now this I heartily subscribe to.  There may be some at least arbitrary
element to the gaining of the odd geas ("The chief diviner has determined
you're a number 34, my son, in the lack of any obvious lack of moral
rectitude"), but most should have some gameworldsensical element to them.
The published table may also tend to exagerate the degree of variation in
any given locality, too: a particular temple may customarily issue
eat no bird meat, or wear no left leg armour, rather than the whole range
of eat/armour geasa, according to exactly what the local myth says
Yelmalio did, or had happen to him.

> [...] But this may 
> just be that the rule is presented backwards to what I'd prefer: picking 
> your (divinely-granted) benefit and *therefore* suffering your (non-self- 
> imposed) restriction. Should the shoe instead be on the other foot?

The shoes are on both feet simultaneously.  Cut out the table and swap over
the two halves if left-to-right reading is unavoidable.

> Of course, the fact that *only* the randomly-imposed prohibitions etc. are 
> described as Geases adds to the strangeness; if you rewrote Chalana Arroy 
> (for example) to say that "all Healers must take a Geas to harm no living 
> being", the term would feel more natural when encountered in its Humakti 
> context. Or we could call the aberrant "geases" "Vows", or "cult duties",
> or some such?

And wrong in the CA one.  A geas isn't simply a vow, it's a particular
magical state (or enchantment, but not in the RQ3 sense), with both positive
and negative effects.  (In the sense that a gift and geas are effectively
the same magic.)  The CA vow is a more social convention, though doubtless
a magically enforcable one.

> And, furthermore: whoever gave Yelmalions their ludicrous armouring Geases 
> obviously thought as hard about the techniques of Hoplite and Phalangite 
> warfare as MOB did in his memorable passage on 2H Spear w/Shield in Sun 
> County.

I sense Brookian understatement at work here.  What's the problem with
this passage, which is, BTW, more a word-for-word RQ3 transliteration
of the ole CoP section than any fresh hell?  Perhaps defence -> Dodge
loses a little in the translation.

Peter J. Whitelaw:
> I cannot envision a 'formula' for such rewards since they
> would be derived from he GM's appraisal of the players' good roleplaying.

Not really, geasa are pretty much either literally observed, or broken;
college tries or "breaching the spirit" are fairly beside the point, I

> If one is using PDP, however, the concept might well be abstracted in terms of
> the Traits & Pasions mechanism.

Only in very general terms (though I approve of using T&P, in any
case).  One could admittedly attempt to unify the two, say by making
breach or conspicuous observance of a geas cause for decrease or
increase of the most-obvious-related Trait (or by using directed
Traits).  Frex, one could say the various Never Eat geasa were
Temperate ones, the armour ones were Valourous ones, etc.  (So breaking
one of the former might get you an Indulgent check, even if you don't
"have" that geas.)

> In my campaign we are working towards some sort of system by which
> progress in a cult is a function of one's religious virtue total.  If
> it's above 60, you get access to Common Divine Magic, 70 gets you
> Reusable Common and One use Special whilst above 80 gets you the whole
> arsenal.  Obviously, these levels correspond to those of Initiate,
> Acolyte and Priest although we use those terms rather loosely.

Well, they don't, quite, and I'm not sure that Common magic should be easier
to obtain than Special spells.  Judging by spell availability at shrines,
Lodril temples, and for some flavours of Rune Lord, the reverse seems to
be more true.

> I also allow players to subtract one tenth of their religious virtues
> total from their 1d100 DI rolls.

Joerg and I were kicking round such ideas, though this was more of a
sidelight to the question of what DI should actually _do_.  I persoanlly
feel DI should be linked at least as strongly to religious virtues (by
perhaps a more general mechanism than Traits, though) as to POW.

Ian Gorlick reveals:
> Yelmalions at key points in their career undergo minor heroquests, and 
> their geases are apointed by the consequences of the quest.

Took the very words.  In the case of the Yelmalions, this seems to be
assorted collateral damage, while for the Humakti, the geas is an integral
part of the gift being quested for.  (In the Tales version, that is;
abjure utterly the shoddy fabrication in CoP.  Some of the correspondances
are a tad weak, mind you, still.)

Furthermore, I think this sort of thing _does_ happen to questors in other
cults, though not usually to initiates, or on such a systematic basis.
Most often they will be unforeseen, "bad" results: you flub a Hippoi quest,
and are forced into a geas prohibiting you from riding a horse, say, or
if a fox spirit defeats you, you get forced to Never Harm a Fox, though
sometimes they will be involved as part of the "good" result, a la Humakt.

> This interpretation opens a new possibility. If, in a subsequent ritual, 
> the Yelmalion managed to take back a corresponding piece of armour, then 
> the obligation would no longer exist.

I can see thias might come up, but it wouldn't simply be a case of going
back on the same HQ and hoping you roll better (or read fewer comics at
the back of the gaming group).  That quest, done at that "level", is a
Done Deal, and can't be directly reattempted without "upping the stakes".

This is, IMPO, what the WILL rules were (or should have been) getting at;
sustained HQing progressively reduces your freedom of action in particular
areas, both mythically and mundanely, until you become almost a godplane-
embedded charicature of yourself and your deeds.  Time to Light the Flame
of Sartar and Retire.

As to why Humakti have the "same" dumb "no armour on hit location [blah]"
geas: note that in the Healed Humakt writeup (over-healed, according to
Sandy, who's still to fill in the missing gifts and geases), you only
get this if you take the enchant weapon vs. that hit location gift.
There's presumably a myth explaining this, in terms roughly on the lines
of Humakt and [opponent] agreeing to trade blows to the [location].  Humakt
receives blow, taking wound, but surviving, being That Hard, then
spiflicates opponent.  Pardon my brevity and lack of ICness.