How to model this, rules-wise?

From: bethexton_at_...
Date: Tue, 29 Jun 2004 16:24:16 -0000

I have a magical landscape question. I've read the rules in HeroQuest, but I'm not quite sure how to adapt them to get the affect that I want.

(not that I have imminent need of defining this, but recent mention of the storm steads project on the other list reminded me a feature I'd been meaning to write up at some point, once I managed to define it).

Here is what I want:

Mud Lake is the home of a powerful spirit. The spirit is greedy, swallowing things and spirits (and probably occasional daimones or essences) that wander into its power. The clan conducts annual ceremonies to help the Broken-Head River raid Mud Lake and drain some of its waters, and performs other ceremonies to beat the lake back firmly from the rich soil that this exposes. Of course every storm season the lake swallows fresh melt water, swelling it up again.

In addition, occasionally old Auntie Ranatyr, a shaman of Earth Witch, comes by, and less frequently strange shamans. Ranatyr gets clan support and battles the spirit of Mud Lake to win small "Greed" spirits, which she uses as curses. In return for clan support she does other magical favors. Strange shamans are more likely to bargain with the spirit, giving it something in return for extracting some lesser thing that it had previously swallowed. Because the clan is wary of strengthening the spirit they seldom grant permission for this (or offer support), but as they only really control one shore of the lake they can't always stop it.

This back story has a number of rules components:

1)	Supporting the daimone of the river to weaken the lake
2)	Ceremony to weaken the lake and keep it from swallowing the 
crop land.
3)	The recovery of the lake each year.
4)	Shaman can extract "greed" spirits (passion spirits) which 
can be released to possess someone.
5)	Shaman can "bargain" with the lake, trading one item/ability 
for another.

So, my first inclination is to say that Mud Lake is a Landscape Spirit. Call this model A. As such it could be worshipped, granting three abilities (probably something like awareness: sense any being close to me, defense: swallow, blessing: greed). Common magic charms could also be made of these abilities, weakening the lake. To look at it this way, the five rules points would be:

A1) A standard hand-waving explanation, with the possibility of having to renew the quest that enables this ceremony.

A2) Probably actually takes the form of creating "swallow" common magic charms, which are not of great use other than for making Aunt Voratyr's cooking more consumable, but which weakens this ability of the lake, however this makes the lake less dangerous to everything/everyone, not just the fields, which removes some story drama. One hand waving side effect is that when it is weakened in this way, some of the things it has swallowed in the past might escape and have to be dealt with. Also weakens the defensive usefulness of the lake.

A3) Hand waving, the charms only last Sea Season through Dark Season, and expire at the lake's "holy day" in storm season.

A4) Not quite sure how to handle this without just hand waving. Not a quest because the Lake isn't on the other side. Could be modeled as a relationship, augmented by various shamanic abilities, which let's her gain these? (note, not taking "greed" common magic charms, as they are not effective curses). But can a landscape spirit "own" subsidiary spirits?

A5) Not at all sure how to model this. Again not a quest, because the lake isn't an other worldly creature.

So this model works in some areas, but not so well for the shamans extracting things from the lake.

The other standard model would be for the lake spirit to actually be an otherworld spirit (I forget the ranks, but a biggish fish in its local pond). Call this model B. It would be an independent spirit practice, in essence, that doesn't have any followers per se. Its only holy place is the physical lake. With this model the five elements seem to me like the following.

B1) Same as A1, but the quest periodically done to renew the river has a clearer layout now, as it has the dangerous voyage into a spirit demesne.

B2) This become more hand waving-ish. It could be modeled as propitiatory worship, but I would rather that not be the case, that it is more of a ceremonial, spiritual, struggle to defeat the lake and protect the land from it. I guess it could just be a ceremony that has such an effect, although this seems kind of random.

B3) Pure fiat, I think, but could more clearly have a holy day on which the lake regains its strength.

B4) I think this could be modeled as having the lake as a type of helper practice. She binds greed spirits (can she do this without becoming subject to them?) then releases them, somehow using spirit face or something to "herd" them towards the victim instead of them just drifting off into the otherworld.

B5) I think this is modeled cleanly as a sort of quest, with the usual shamanic ability to visit the otherworld, and the lake itself being the only holy place to the lake spirit. The shaman has to defeat the Lake's `greed" rating (very high!), but gets a bonus based on what is offered in trade. Of course enough of a failure and the shaman may lose part of himself, or simply never return to his body.

So each model works well in places, but not so well in others. Any suggestions on how these could be combined, or is there some other way of modeling this?

I realize that this is a pretty complicated question, but I hope hashing through it will clarify, at least for me, what one can do with magical landscape.



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