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An Entertainer's HeroQuest

Abstract

This is about a HeroQuest for (acrobatic) entertainers, designed for role-players in Glorantha. If you do not understand the last sentence, you are probably not interested in the following text. It may be of limited use to role-players and GMs in fantasy worlds other than Glorantha for some inspiration.

Keywords

Glorantha, Mercario, Donandar, Scenario, Entertainer, Acrobat, HeroQuest, Myth, role-playing, RPG

Status: Scratch Pad

This text is an unfinished work, yet not a work in progress, may be this is the final version. I decided to put it online anyway, without any context to my site. I allowed search engines to index it, so you found it! Okay, use as you like, I would like to be credited, though, if applicable. If you have feedback or questions, please come here. Especially if you did play it, and you had funny events, please let me know!!

I know this is a very lengthy text. This is due to the fact, that it is a lot in one: a personal note for me, a session write-up for my players, a scenario description for you.

Beware: Here Be Spoilers! Stop reading after this paragraph!

If you came here by chance, and you are a player in Glorantha, stop reading after this paragraph! It is more fun for you to play this HeroQuest, which is pointless after reading this. Instead, give this URL to your GM to let her check first, whether she wants to implement this in your campaign. If not, ask for her signal "go ahead" if you want to read on.

Glossary and Abbreviations

I am not explaining in depth, as I assume you know most. Just in case, I give enough info so you can investigate further with the help of your favourite search engine. Most other words you might not understand surely refer to places, peoples, gods, heroes... of Glorantha.

IIRC - If I remember correctly

PC - player character, as apposed to

NPC - non-player character, a notable, but GMed character in the story

IMG - In my Glorantha, in my game, in my campaign (sic)

YGMV/YGWV - Your Glorantha/game may/will vary

GM - Game Master, Narrator

Malia - Goddess of - and thus a synonym for - disease, especially of the chaotic type.

Mercario - God, patron of street entertainers: singers, actors, acrobats...

Minlister - an Orlanthi household god, the patron of beer brewers.

Donandar - God, patron of high entertainers: skalds, poets...

Glorantha - The game world we are talking about, created by Greg Stafford: In short it is best described by a quote from Kenneth Hite: "For those who came in late, Glorantha is a myth-heavy Bronze Age world [...] but much more than that. It's probably the best fantasy world ever created for a game." I second this, but Kenneth is even only half right. Glorantha was created with the idea to have a world for myths, and NOT for gaming purposes, which makes it all the better. Gaming came later.

Rune Lord - In Glorantha an extremely capable and highly respected person, with merits for the cult he represents. An inevitable side-effect usually means, this person is very highly skilled, contributes and earns cultural magic and support. There is no fair comparison with other worlds, but just to try to give you a scale: Of the Fellowship of the Ring, Gandalf, Aragorn, and Legolas are Rune Levels, Boromir and Gimli perhaps become while on their adventure: Far above the powers of even well-trained professionals, not to mention commoners. All others of the Fellowship become formidable high level adventurers - but not at all Rune Levels!

RW - Real World - Our world.

HQ - Hero Quest - In Glorantha a means of interfering with myth and history.

RQ - RuneQuest - A skill based d100 rules system originally designed for play in Glorantha, but now grown up to be all-genre.

My motivation

I want to share this scenario, because I really looked hard to find a HeroQuest for entertainers, especially of the acrobatic type. Failing this, I decided to create my own. The scarcity of this kind of of scenario and the fact we had tremendous fun playing this, made me want to share it with those who stress the search engines like I did before. ;-)

I needed something special for a Dara Happan entertainer, Thorius Bendix (called Bendix only, so it doesn't sound so DH or even worse, Lunar, since he “turned” and joined a Heortling adventurer party). He is revering Donandar, but I was looking for something more adequate for the acrobat he is. So I wanted to point him towards Mercario, not by lecturing or even guidance, but through play. So this HQ has an emphasis on acrobats, but you can easily turn it into any kind of entertainer. Secondly I always want HQs to be demanding to each and any PC, and entertaining to all players. So for my group I also needed at least little tasks or highlights for a Praxian shaman, the typical Sartarite fighter type, a hunter, an Ernaldan follower... Concerning this, your requests will vary, and you should adjust this scenario or just scavenge ideas to your liking.

Attention: In this scenario the PCs slide passively (not willingly) into a HeroQuest. I am not sure at all, whether this is possible in canon. IMG it obviously is. The PCs are kind of drawn into it through a combination of a) personal dedication, b) standing on “holy ground”, c) trying (but failing) to contact an important spirit, who then in turn d) calls them... and of course the GM who wants them to be caught totally unprepared, by surprise ;-) If this does not fit your Glorantha, you must think of an alternate way to start the affair.

Have Fun!

I don't want anybody to take this adventure/HQ too seriously. Besides the mentioned motivation (see above), my intent was to give players a lot of fun (not just game excitement, the humorous type of fun), PCs some insight into myth and skills typically not too tight knotted with – but still useful to1 - adventuring, and spend them quite a handful of experience ticks (RQ-rules-wise spoken) on these, if they are just clever enough to collect them!!! As you will see later, as a GM you should be benevolent concerning all ideas the players have when trying their skills and inventing any tool as sports equipment and later as weapon. Create a lot of fun with help of the NPCs!

Inspirational Input

If you want to prepare yourself as a GM, gather some information about entertainers, thieves, tricksters or other traveling troupes in Glorantha (or in fact any world in an archaic age, even RW) and their patrons: Donandar, Drogarsi, Eurmal the Trickster, Mercario the Street Entertainer, Hyaros the Harper, Thelados the Contortionist, Lanbril the Thief, Skovara the Puppeteer, Molamin the Choreographer...

Reads (Gloranthan and other by book and chapter/subject):

Movies

Listenings

How I tell you

I created this write-up of a HeroQuest and how it came to pass in my campaign in a mix of scenario description and adventure transcript, sometimes as if "I am addressing you in character", you will note by the "quotes". In scenario books this is usually prefixed: Read this to the players.

Plus my remarks, tips and ideas for the GM with a party of a different background, in special paragraphs marked like this one.

A few times I will speak in rules, and this looks like what you just read. By the way, we played my mix of RuneQuest rules of all versions, plus my home brew. But this scenario is written very rule-light anyway, so you can easily adapt it to yours. I know, nowadays you play HQ rules in Glorantha. Do not try to convince me. I play RPG since 1978, I know almost all rule systems, and I am convinced of skill-based d100. I could never cope with the "betting" system of HQ. I would even prefer "sheetless" (2, 3), but admittedly I fear the heavy duty on the GM, costing flow of game...

The Cast

Your party will differ, of course. I give this just to aid some understanding in reading the transcript.

Thorius Bendix – Donandar (Mercario-to-come) follower, entertainer, acrobat

Meretseger – female Praxian shaman

Selene – Ernalda follower, "The Witch"

Solana – Selene's twin sister, Odayla / Yinkin huntress

Knut HellesSon – Fighter, Orlanthi smith

Mangerlon FieryBreath - strong NPC, acrobat

Party Background

To understand parts of the transcript, I give some background. The fellowship had some really bad time in their recent scenarios – game fun for the players, but gruesome to the PCs....

Motivating PCs

The morale of the population is as low as it possibly can be in a situation the recent affairs have produced. It is that bad even, people disdain the adventurers, though in fact they had done good jobs to prevent even more dread. But the PCs are the persons reminding them to the bad losses (literally any villager has lost several family members... First by Muriah's curse / Malia, then The Rain (they will even invent the era "Before The Rain"), now the child – it is all too much to stand.

Once the party hear the High Healer say: "Never underestimate the healing power of laughter, and that of starry-eyed children." It took only moments to understand this was not just an analogy, but meant literally. “Okay, we need an entertainer troupe.” Of course they remembered Mangerlon.

In your campaign you may need some entirely different motivation. The PCs could get hold of the story all by themselves, instead of being told by Mangerlon. So perhaps you can even skip "Finding a troupe" as you do not really need it. On the other hand, finding the information leading to Juggalar's atrium may be fleshed out as an adventure of its own.

The healers still had their jobs to do here and intended no travel for some more time. Thus the PCs' presence as guards was of low importance, so they decided to leave in....

Finding a Troupe

For their travel, I put in some minor encounters that connected a bit to the party's last quest, Heler's Wrath. This was easy, as they needed to travel through rain-devastated land. This encounter is not important to your story. You should also fill in something.

Well, to make it short, they backtracked their travels in the direction where they had met the troupe several days before. They found them half-way, as those had travelled this way, only slower because of their stops for performing. Or rather, they found the leader of the troupe alone, Mangerlon. They recognised him in the only inn and tavern where they intended to stay over. Mangerlon also remembered, after the PCs addressed him, even though he was more than halfway through to drown his sorrows with several Minlister's Best too many. Or at least he recognises Meret. Of course, this exotic Prax nomad girl! "Oh my Prassian bird, shou shanged your mind? Uant to dansh wish ush?!" gleaming eyes. Meret blushed again, but the party changed subject and asked what the matter, why so sad, why alone? Mangerlon explained:

There was an edict: No entertainers! They were not allowed to stage, and this in quite some area around this place. Mangerlon never found out why, even the local authorities were only passing down orders and could not explain. The troupe had decided to do the best out of this misery, and use their idle time, and the fact they are in the vicinity, to find Juggalar's School of Acrobats. Mangerlon – or the whole troupe – had intended to do a pilgrimage to the ruins of the study since long. And it was said to be in the vicinity. There they wanted to pray to ease their situation. Mangerlon knows Juggalar's story, and in a contest had won an artefact, a pointer to the exact location... or so the former owner claimed it to be. But Mangerlon never found out, how.

"Juggalar?... Juggalar! You do not mean the Juggalar as in 'Your performance was like Juggalar's!'?!" Of course, Bendix knows (test best of any entertainment skill as a knowledge skill, easy) the name since his troupe days, but only from said flowery phrase.

You know so many of these, and you are never sure that person really existed, as in "As rich as Croesus" (or a Lannister, if you prefer), "According to Adam Ries", “As strong as Herakulix2”, “Not the Wat Dabney? Inventor of the inverted firkin?” or now: "Juggling like Juggalar!")

"Him! Exactly Him!" Mangerlon cries out. He regains control over his tongue astonishingly fast while he continues: Juggalar, the only Mercario Rune Lord Mangerlon know about, lost his school some decades ago, when it fell victim to a fire set in an act of banditry for some unknown reason. Most of his then students lost their lives in the flames – as did Juggalar himself.

"While my companions are searching, I stay here as the cental contact and the best educated person to do research in town. My troupe swarmed out to find hints, while I searched the House of Documents, I talked to elders, authorities, the crone... all to no avail. I even showed them this useless thing, that does not help a bit!!" With these last words he throws a bundle of knotted strings onto the table, obviously not knowing what it is. So did not the party. But Meret. Taking and looking at it, this illiterate nomad girl mouthed scarcely audible and incidentally: "Dis I know read." - Heads turning "What?!"

Of course, this was a map in Praxian knot writing: anfractuous directions

To make it short: Bendix is eager to join the pilgrimage anyway, and the rest of the party needs little persuasion, since Mangerlon promises to help them with their original goal later. One day of preps, next day they left for two exhausting days to get there. (Or more, if the party makes no beforehand-use of the map and do their preps well. IMG Meret knows the general layout of terrain beforehand – need to cross a river, have forest and rough, the general length of travel. You as the GM think of something.) The land became less populated and a bit rougher, requiring makeshift overnight camping. (The GM should fill in some minor encounter or event that explains physical tiredness later. IMG I added rough weather, straining body and killing sleep.)

The PCs quite surely will ask why should one run a school for artists in such an off area. The GM better thinks ahead for a good answer, or... well, does not place it far off. But this puts up other questions: Why was this place not popular and well known then, but so hard to investigate?! I had to think quick and Mangerlon said, that Juggalar had the opinion you need to be ascetic if you really want to learn, and he even had an almost military-style drill. So I later narrated him really like that.)

Juggalar's School of Acrobats

Equipped with the knotted map, Meret is the perfect pathfinder (Prax knot reading skill, augmented by any skill to find your way in the wilds) and leads the party to the ruins without much indirection. It must have been like a little stead. There has been a spacios main building, obviously an atrium, the perfect gymnasium. It was surrounded by a few small functional buildings. The foundation was stone, so the layout of walls is still clear to be seen. Everything above hips height or so, had been wood obviously and had burned long ago, leaving some charcoal timber, but most is rotten away by now. You can see the land around must have been in agricultural use long time ago. The small vineyard uphill is overgrown, but still discernible as what it once was. (craft: gardening, lore: plants or any knowledge skill concerning plant life.) If this all was a school for entertainers, it was quite obviously meant to be self-sustaining, too.

Spirit

Nearing the end of the day, Mangerlon searched the ruins, Bendix joining in immediately. Lack of proper light forced them to give up for now, and wait for Elmal tomorrow. They knelt and prayed instead. Meanwhile the others decided to build camp close to a grove a bow-shot away, so they would not disturb the entertainers in their doings. Mangerlon and Bendix fall in trance, and even without special skills find a spirit! They know in their hearts, this is Juggalar, and they try to reach out, but cannot come close enough to win his attention.

This is very special! As a GM you should find some extremely flowery and emotional description: The excitement to have this spiritual experience at all, as a non-shaman!! The awe they feel (it surely IS Juggalar), the struggle to reach him, the disappointment when they fail...

If you do not want this linear, pre-determined way, or if in your session a shaman supports, then use skills and dice-rolls and think of something, if they do contact Juggalar. He would surely ask for help. Perhaps in your game the HQ starts right away!

Mental exhaustion adds up to the physical (after two days of enduring travel and nights with extremely little sleep). They turn to the camp to meet the others, supper waiting. After a refreshing meal, Mangerlon pleads: "You two, shaman and witch, you must help! Let us try again." (Also a trick of the GM to have even more of the party exhausted.) They do, for the same result, but everyone is excited – but also extremely tired – now, because they felt the presence of a Rune Lord Hero. But again they could not win Juggalar's attention. This leaves most PCs as exhausted as... (you think out this one!), and the rest very tired. As always when camping out, they agree on a guard duty schedule, but not to much help...

HeroQuest

Do not explain your players how an re-enactment HQ works, unless they seem helpless with the concept, trying to break out of their role... YGWV, I explain my concept, in case yours differs, or you are new to it, or you even use this scenario outside Glorantha. Skip this, if you do feel confident.

In a HQ you pass - usually willingly and prepared - into some plane of myth or history (which is one in Glorantha) perhaps to try to meet a Hero, or even God, to persuade for some help, or to find an artifact, or to gather wisdom to ease the current affairs in the mundane plane. In a special kind of HQ, the re-enactment, you repeat a heroic deed, and the outcome may help in the mundane world - or worsen the situation. Example - thinking Germanic: To ease the overall threat through dragonkind, you go through Sigurd's (Siegfried for the Germans) fight with Fafnir. Depending on how the HQ succeeds (or fails) you may gain know­ledge about a special trick on how to kill dragons, or a weapon, or perhaps you do not even notice the benefit until you witness: You tuned the fighting morale in the mundane world, so every warrior wants to become a dragon-slayer, or what not - as a GM you must be inventive, how the outcome of the HQ may be different from the "original" and what will be the effect. Re-enactment means, when you enter the plane of myth, you actually become a Hero. Deep behind the corners of your consciousness you still know why you are here now, and who you are, but now you have other things to do! You are brave, you are a Hero, you know you can succeed... Still this is dangerous. Especially overconfidence and bad preparation are your foes. In our example, if you do not even know enough of the original Sigurd myth, and how he found his personal gain, your chances are lower. On the other hand, you may succeed in an entirely different way. Failure will have a negative impact on the mundane world, opposed to what you wanted: Dragons become stronger, or immune to your weapon (if Fafnir learned about human weakness or weaponry), human morale drops.... And you can even die in a HQ!

In this case, our PCs will recognise what happens to them as an re-enactment of what they had learned through Mangerlon. And now they are students of the acrobatic arts! And they even remember daily routine, like the morning bell:

Awakening I

"You wake up to the morning bell. As always you jump out of bed immediately. You do not want to be late to attend the morning drill!! You throw over your tunic and run to the training ground, the space in a big atrium, lining up with the others to attend the muster. Juggalar stands in front, hand at his chest, counting heart beats. When all are lined up, he appears satisfied with your performance, but not overjoyed."

In front stands Juggalar of course – in this HQ personified by Mangerlon! The students in line are from many different peoples, skin colours, both sexes, wide age range (but of course youth prevailing). I played this illustrious company as colourful as possible.

I put the miniatures in a line, seemingly in a more or less random order of NPCs and PCs (but actually one that made me comfortable with the order how anyone had to respond to the muster one by one, so I had a way to introduce names and obvious features (dialects) to the PCs, and give players a chance to learn what is expected when it is their turn. The PCs may miss their usual gear. At least no weapons and armour are at hand. As I will note later again, the GM should be benevolent to let them find some sport equipment suitable as weapons.

Then there is a formal greeting during mustering:

Juggalar: “May Elmal be your light!” In choir: “And may it be yours”

Juggalar: “May Mercario guide your steps and jumps” - “And may he secure yours”

… and what ever more you want. Name as many or few (entertainer) patrons as you want, but Elmal and Mercario surely are mandatory. If you plan this HQ to last over several days, you could put an emphasis on a certain style (acrobatics, singing, acting, dancing...) every day and vary the named patron(s) accordingly. This would be the way how Juggalar anounces today's "Working Title"

Then comes counting through:

“I, Juggalar, stand in front of you”

“Bean-Pole reporting”

“Piek lined up”

Dumb Blownose only lifts his hand, accepted by Mangerlon's nod

"… reporting.", "... Here!" ".... To service!" Or any reasonable formula.

I gave each NPC a (nick) name I could easily remember just by looking at the miniature, either by a feature of that, or by name/feature of the Asterix person the miniature presented. Quite surely you will not have these same miniatures, but you should try likewise with what you have and prepare a table at hand (or in mind!) like the one below. This speeds up things and makes the upcoming play fluent and more fun. Of course some of the personal description (especially accents) are German based. For example you should replace Bavarian with Welsh (or Texan if you prefer), select a speech defect or quirk that connects to an actor/comedian in the minds of your players! This is an eternal trick of a good role-player and GM anyway: For any NPC have a movie character, politician, comic character or any RW person in your mind!!! Take my hints in the table below or create your own. Peoples, ethnics... up to you, if you care to delve into depth. The students themselves are extremely tolerant, the colour of your skin or who were your ancestors... If you can, tell us a good story about it, and we will laugh and applaud. If you cannot, don't you dare to boast about or affront others!

Displaying the Asterix miniatures put smirks on my players' faces, and it encouraged them to try out fun stuff. Sadly the once superb painting is broken. The miniatures are flexible plastic, and the paint did come off with the years.

Any entertainer can a bit of everything (as it has to be, according to Juggalar!), so almost everyone takes part in singing, dancing, as seesaw jumpers (at least as weight), but everyone has his specialty and kinks as listed below.

Who Description, Attitude, Features... What the GM uses in game Appearance... The PCs' perception
Juggalar, Mercario Rune Lord, tutor, jack of all trades This master acrobat, athlete, and fire-eater is highly educated beyond entertainer skills: Leadership, literacy, several languages fluently, world lore, all gathered in his travelling years. He wears a strange item at his belt, when not wielding it: The whole or a better part of a big bone, perhaps an upper arm, or even shin-bone, if it was human. While supervising his students, he uses it as baton, pointer, stick, often dealing "encouraging" blows with it. As a trainer he is of the type "harsh but fair", often scolding, but usually ending the affair with an encouraging smile. Still, not even Methus dares to disrespect Juggalar. JuggalarPast his best age, but still going very strong and fitter than most students, impressive body, high charisma, well clothed (even a bit dandyish). Firm, loud voice, augmenting his leadership. He wears a funny item at his belt... a bone!?
Bean-Pole "BP", wrestler, heavy athlete, seesaw weight He will trip you up, throw you judo-style or wrestle you down, but then reach a hand to help you up and explain how you do it. Knows some weaponless martial arts, is even good in disarming his opponents. If no-one approaches him for training, he will try to encourage the (obvious?) fighter in the party, or starts solitatry training with weights and sandbag. Bean-Pole Bavarian slang. Rough appearance, but nice guy. His nick-name absolutely mocks his shape. He is big, even fat, but muscular and flexible as well.
Piek, contortionist, falconer He does not just climb a ladder, he climbs through it! GM: Squeeze your nose while he talks. The bird follows commands and behaves well, but has a tendency to shit onto Methus (for some unknown reason ;-) PiekTwangs extremely (like German actor Hans Moser) “DON'T DARE to touch the bird!!”
Blownose, pantomime, seesaw jumper, and rope artist Signals when he needs help with his rope, but as a pantomime he usually acts alone. He is educated and literate, so in his pantomime he acts historical, political themes, often with a wagging finger, but also with a twinkle in his eye. Funny how he can impersonate people just by gesture and facial expression. Once in a while he mocks as one of the other artists. BlownoseDumb. Likeable person. By using his whole body he manages to bring messages across, just as if he had a voice.
Corba, Snake charmer, musician seesaw jumper Most people keep a respectful distance to his constrictor snake. You don't want to experience this out of control. CorbaLike the pirate look-out in Asterix, and the same silly speech defect. The snake has a name, but nobody guesses how many "R"s are in it ;-)
Cleo, Musician, singer, dancer If your dance skill is low, she will show you how to dance and do simple, but effective (pretty-to-the-audience) patterns. But when she performs at the peak of her skill, the typical male caught by surprise is extremely distracted by this body, while those standing close enough just wish they could drown in her eyes. The only person allowed to wear jewelry while training and performing. CleoSexy Spanish accent. Most beautiful and perfect body, perfect hair, perfect everything. Barefoot, but otherwise well-dressed. And she has got such a sexy nose...
Dixa, Singer, ventriloquist, and puppeteer Handles any kind of puppet. From a glove with faces painted on the fingertips, over string puppets up to his own perfectly disguised body.
DixaBerlin slang – at least his favourite puppet. He never seems to speak by/for himself. But his singing is loud and clear.
Methus, Jester, Thimblerig, Trickster, Master of flaming flatulence Naturally a follower of Eurmal. Bad Guy, practical joker, always makes fun at your costs. Full range of silly (reach a helping hand, but it comes off when you pull yourself up...) to very inventive tricks and effects. As a GM think of some things beforehand.
The only person who uses minor magic (and is allowed to) to enhance effects. He wears an ever-changing face on the back of his head and can act as if it is real. (Perhaps it is!) To people not knowing him well, he may appear as two different persons.
MethusMiddle aged, perhaps more, no obvious acrobatics, but master of extremely silent, fluent movement and impossible stance and shift. Blink your eye, and spot him elsewhere! Even more so his extremities. It seems he invented "sleight of hands".
Enough? Too many!? Adjust to your liking. You may want to add some elder race NPC, but IMG nobody missed it. Perhaps an animal with a character? (But you DO have a predator bird and a snake!) Perhaps the seesaw team can be numerous but easy-to-play NPCs without distinct features. Add two partners to Methus and let them do (Three Stooges?) slapstick... But don't overdo with the number of NPCs and be sure you can handle the lot!! On the long, the PCs should be the stars and creator of ideas! IMG the mentioned ones were just right, or perhaps even too many. I could not play all NPCs as lively as I wanted. One or two became like background actors.

Stats & Rules

To be honest: I had few. Almost everything is makeshift or even spontaneous decision. Only guidelines:

Stats: The NPCs of the table above should have plausible values: Firstly obviously no-one is clumsy – define an all-minimum for DEX and INT. Secondly slightly above average for most stats. Thirdly well above average for primary stats (i.e. STR and SIZ for Bean-Pole, DEX for rope dancers etc...)

Skills: Average to good in all agility/athletic skills and high in their specialist skill, minor magic. Juggalar is a Mercario Rune Lord, so he is an exception with truly high values in all agility/athletic and acrobatic skills, with 150%+ in at least two, and even quite some high values in off-subject skills like some weapons, communications, leadership, and considerable magic.

Rules: Standard or makeshift to suit the situation and the air of this scenario. Remember, one goal is to make the gift of some experience ticks (in unusual skills?) to players. You have a suitable skill at all? You have assistance/advice (when applicable) +10%. Juggalar assists? +20% Still a failure? Do not roll again, but WOULD the use of the bone help? Then he does, that is another +20%, but only once per person per day, plus unlimited in a dangerous situation. If you do not like all this, you can use standard rules for skill advancement with training by expert teachers at no monetary costs for a given number of days.

Action!

Juggalar claps his hands and shouts “And now: Go! Go!! Go!!!”

The students break “formation” and swarm out in the patio, everyone immediately starting some form of training. There is an emphasis on acrobatics, of course, but all kind of entertainment is accepted. And any mix: An acrobat must be clown as well. Most begin with a simple warm-up like jogging about, slalom around the pillars, swinging arms, shadow boxing and such. The GM should spread the miniatures over the training area and explain in a few words their doing. The PCs should join in. After some time everyone turns to his specials e.g. Corba sits down with his flute and lets dance the snake and such. The PCs are encouraged to find their specialisation. The GM should be benevolent to any idea – if a PC looks for darts or knives and a target, she should find. Climbing-rope hanging from the ceiling? Of course there is. Wallbars, swinging rings? No problem. Whip? Balls, stilts? Fetch from the equipment shed. You get the idea. Any PC should find a niche or join others. In my game the huntress indeed turned to throwing knives, the fighter went sparring with Bean-Pole, then both join the seesaw jumpers, as BP's weight is needed... Bendix has his golden age time!!! He just tries to be everywhere...

All the time, Juggalar walks in-between, watches, judges, corrects, suggests, even takes part as he likes... He teaches watchful eyes and caring for each other: No difficult acrobatics without assistance! If you get hurt or let it happen to someone else, he is after you!! Often he organises assistance “You stand here, you do the handstand now! Hold! Flip!” then he corrects posture with the bone. Funny but strange: Every trick works, if the active person or object is touched by the bone... ropes stop swinging, instruments tune, frog in the throat jumps...

Once they spontaneously form a human pyramid (BP, Knut, Juggalar [athletics] at the base, Bendix shot up to the top by seesaw [acrobatics])...

Later, Knut is sent out to fetch a ladder. (When Knut is almost out, Methus: “Hey, Knut, one word!” Knut stops, turns around. "?!" Methus: “Don't let me keep you!” Slapping his knee, laughing!) This ladder is used as sport equipment (climbing while balancing it), and actually a weapon in the fighting scene later.

As the GM you should be prepared in case your players lack ideas. (Let an idle person by chance catch a glimpse of a looming accident... assist!!) More or less anybody should climb, seesaw, try to resist being thrown by Bean-Pole... collect some experience ticks!! PCs and NPCs should ask each other to help and join.

Without warning there is a call "Who prepares breakfast today!?" Juggalar expects 2-3 volunteers. One should be a PC, but not a must on the first call. If so, this gives some opportunity for talk. While outside of the atrium in the open, they lay table, cut lots of fruit, bread... mostly healthy stuff. (A clever player may deal for a tick in food preparation.) Then let them HAVE breakfast all together. Even at the table they juggle cutlery and food to each other, sing or act their wants. Methus does not stop telling jokes or doing practical ones, wantonly spilling wine over your tunic, talking with his back face while eating with his real... and so on. After breakfast, training continues.

Play this as long as you want, and the players like it. Repeat several days, if you want. In this case you must prepare for a daily routine. What is the students' pass-time (if anything else than exercising), how is night-time (If anything else but sleep? Heavy fatigue) What about a heated debate about all the different entertainer patrons... Some work in the gardens, some maintenance, crafts required... Lots of oportunities for the GM to find...

The day(s) pass(es) by. The investigative kind of PC/player might want to know about his surrounding. Describe the atrium, the whole stead if need be: No palisades around the stead, the atrium is the only defendable building. The portal will be closed and barred at night, there is no reason to do this all day, the area is generally peaceful. Actually quite some day-to-day action is outside. There is a stable, a workshop for crafters (carpentry and joiner at least), a kitchen, garden, patches, a vineyard... Just think for yourself, before players get you flat footed. The gymnasium obviously has everything to be self-sustaining...

IMG I kept the PCs so busy, they did not "prepare", but YGMV: Perhaps PCs "remember" and may want to use their knowledge about the fate of the atrium and Juggalar. You should not entirely forbid, but discourage a preparation by help of "fore-telling", as this is not the way of a HQ. Be prepared for this change of flux, perhaps you have some fun when NPCs do not believe a word the PCs tell. Either way, you should try to have the game fun of an "acrobatic" solution.

A strange secret

Suddenly there are visitors. No alarm, they are obviously known to and accepted by Juggalar. "Continue your training, I'll be back na-na!" Talking is outside but through the open gate PCs can view Juggalar talking to a "Boss", while his henchmen fetch some heavy load off the coach. They carry a chest into the building, but turn, guided by Juggalar, to the lockable back rooms. The strangers leave, Juggalar returns, while slipping a key into some pocket in his clothes... He does not tolerate idling. "Jump, run!" No questions, no answers! Picking Juggalar's pockets is extremely difficult and futile. At least he will notice. A critical success will do, just to find the pocket – empty! Just in case one tries: The bone will not yield to your touch, unless it is offered to you! And there is no other thing on his body you could pick.

I just needed a reason to justify a burglar assault without offering more insight to the players. If you do not like this secret thing, create something more feasible to your own liking, and perhaps in your story Juggalar might talk to his students, and then perhaps prepare?! This will perhaps change the story from spontaneous acrobatics to a preps-for-assault like in "Home Alone". Your choice or players' acting.

Assault

All of a sudden, ruffians with bare arms, sorry, who bear arms, jump the open gates, start fighting their way inside, immediately engaged by students by reflects...

I did this while they were training. You could do it the next day or at night time, if you prefer. Add your spice. I give a rough outline of the ruffians' plan only: They want the chest. The offenders rush in, expecting no or little resistance, but will be taught better! Knowing Juggalar wants to prevent the burglary is enough motivation for his students to bravely jump in to stop the intruders, thus starting a fight. If and when the open fight turns against the intruders, they will turn real mean: Set fire from the outside (which was prepared anyway), retreat, close the gate... If and when it comes to, the GM must describe dramatically how fire and smoke will become a chief threat.
Stats and Skills: Again, generally the same sane logic as with the students applies. Just think beforehand of a general layout (number, skills, weapons, armour) of the ruffians, one boss, one or two archers. Think of the relative strength of the students. Perfect balance would mean: Juggalar's school would stand very little chance against the ruffians without the PCs, but a good chance with. How can a group of (almost) unarmed physical artists beat a group of fighters? This is the question we want have answered in an entertaining way!

Warning: Things will NOT run as YOU (GM) plan, as the situation leaves a lot of room for ideas by innovative players on how to deal with ruffians if you are an acrobat team!! But this is the whole idea, and again you and the players can have a lot of fun by producing some slapstick. Have fun, be benevolent to the ideas of the players, increase ruffian manpower instead, should it become too easy.
The GM must prevent Juggalar from becoming the hero of this fight. This is only plausible, if he is absent in the beginning of the fighting scene. Otherwise his inactivity would lower the reverance the players should feel for him, while activity would steal the show. Only when the fight is nearing the end anyway, will he engage. He will support others by magic and bone from the distance, or preferably do some healing to the already wounded. He will engage in close combat when running out of magic, then perhaps finishing off one of the last standing ruffians extremely impressively with a whole lot of artistic finesse! You think of something, create some awe, the PCs shall admire Juggalar, but let them do the chief work before the Rune Lord can steal the show.

There is no doubt the PCs are superior to the NPCs entertainers when it comes to plain fighting (safe Juggalar and perhaps Bean-Pole), but they are without their weapons and armour. Still the PCs should make the difference, in this HQ and most people and Juggalar should stand a good chance to survive!

Everyone is a fighter, everything is a weapon, almost every skill is a fighting skill! Generally everyone is fast, evasive, agile. You run a risk of being hit, but acrobats can dash through enemy lines! (Unless these use formation to prevent this, but such is beyond the ability of ruffians, or at least was not coordinated by the unsuspecting.) You may even think Bud Spencer and Terence Hill. If you do enhance air by background music, I recommend "I Due Superpiedi Quasi Piatti" = "Crime Busters" main theme during the fighting scene.

I had planed some in advance, but only to seed player ideas. Always let the latter take priority!! This is a mix of preplanned and player ideas, just as hints:

You get it: Be benevolent to the ideas of the players!

There will be wounds, and perhaps losses, but players should be able to win. The house is smouldering, but subject to repairs.

I didn't have much aftermath, some spice can be added if you want. Quench the fire. A hint about the bone? Some first aid / healing done to the wounded. Some inspection to the damage in the house? Talk about the secret? Searching the bodies of the ruffians? All up to you, GM.

Awakening II

"You wake with a start. You have the smell of burning timber in your nose. Expecting fights, you jump up, but regret it the very second. Muscle ache! Never before did it hurt so much! You are used to swing your weapon, yes, but acrobatic stress to your untrained body… Then you realise the burning smell is only the smoke of your dying camp-fire. Bendix and Mangerlon stand there relaxed, obviously no problems with muscles, inocent question on their face. “What the matter?” You hear neighing. Your horses look at you from the meadows. Well, will you tend us?!

"You slowly realise you returned from an HQ you did not even plan. But you know you succeeded! You even saved a Hero Rune Lord from a fiery death! Well, the ruins still to be seen deny a direct change to reality, but surely you must have stirred up an immense effect...

To make it short (you as GM make it MUCH longer, of course!): They search the ruins and find a bone. Then after arriving back in the inn, Mangerlon's troupe companions scold him really bad: "Where have you been? We needed you! We had to stage without you! ... What nonsense is that?! What interdiction against entertaining?!"

Later of course Mangerlon keeps his promise to the party. The performance in the ill-stricken area, where you lead them, turns out to be a grand success no-one has ever experienced before in such a small and insignificant village... If the PCs did REALLY well in their HQ, even Bundalini and his All-Skeleton Musical Troop might show up and perform without charge!

Addendum

The Bone

Hah! Whose bone?! You think of a relict as powerful as... and tell me! Unless you do, I wont tell you my version! Just one more thing: IMG, when the troupe united again, they frolicked, and jumped, and somersaulted, and in a misshap... broke it in twain!! But happily it kept its power halved in both parts. This made it possible to share this relict between Mangerlon and Bendix without having the slightest argument... ;-)

The Atrium

I had a simple map as floorplan to scale with the miniatures. Perhaps I will show it here later. You need a spacy patio with ovhanging roof from the surrounding building (so you have both ceilingless height and high roof where climbing ropes, swinging rings and such dangle down...) The building around has small rooms with cots (2 or 3 each) for the students, Juggalar's flat, tool shed for instruments and acrobats equipment. It has one big double-winged portal to the outside. All functional rooms are around the atrium in seperate buildings, like kitchen, store, crafter facilities, the well, toilets...



1 I always encourage players to consider all skills useful in almost any situation. Esmeralda's dance performance prevented the mob from lynching an innocent man. Surely, she had 100%+ on dance, with boosts through erotic charisma and such, or rolled critical success, but still... it is always worth a try instead of confronting a mob with arms.

2 One note to you ignoramus bastards of Hollywood: Whenever you made a film about Herakles, you misnamed him Hercules.