viernes, 24 de mayo de 2024

Sacred Earth, Sacred Water - Praxian adventures for RuneQuest

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Sacred Earth, Sacred Water is a 172-page-long supplement for RuneQuest Roleplaying in Glorantha including 4 scenarios set in Prax, plus the description of a Praxian clan and Praxian encounters. Therefore, this fan publication from the Jonstown Compendium is ideal if your player characters are adventuring through Prax or if you want to run a campaign in which all PCs belong to the same Praxian bison-riding clan


The cover of Sacred Earth, Sacred Water by Kristi Herbert depicts a Praxian worshipping ceremony


The semi-desert land of Prax extends to the east of Dragon Pass and is an awesome location for running adventures and campaigns. It is a land of hardship and brutality, where anything good has to be fought for, including mere survival. Sadly, most of the official publications dealing with Prax have so far focused only on Pavis County and the Zola Fel valley, which are great regions of Prax, but the land has much more to offer! And the main inhabitants of Prax, the animal nomads, have never had their own book yet, except for the old Cults of Prax, and an out-of-print fan-made supplement titled The Book of Drastic Resolutions: Volume Prax. Luckily, Sacred Earth, Sacred Water focuses fully on the Praxians and brings to the fore its culture and way of life, using a particular bison-rider clan as an example.


Click to enlarge the contents page (but beware of spoilers!)


Originally, the Beer With Teeth collective published the four scenarios separately on the Jonstown Compendium, and they are still available so. But in 2024 they decided to sell them together as a short Praxian campaign, with lots of added material. This group of authors including Diana Probst and Kristi Herbert have published many other adventures like Vinga's Ford and Cups of Clearwine, and has even co-authored some official RuneQuest books such as The Pegasus Plateau and Weapons & Equipment. They sent me a copy of the PDF so I could write this review. Still, below you can find my unbiased assessment. Please let me know if you think otherwise!


The four scenarios in Sacred Earth, Sacred Water are also sold separately.

The look


The authors have taken pains to make Sacred Earth, Sacred Water a beautiful book, and it shows. The standard Jonstown Compendium template is enhanced with bronze-looking decorative sidebars as in the official RuneQuest books, and the art by Kristi Herbert is awesome. She has done many NPC portraits and other artists like Juha H. have done depictions of items and weapons that help visualize the Praxian culture, and the landscapes and monsters are also at the level of official publications (I love those hideous broos!). There are full-page pieces of art, maps only for players, handouts, and even tracking sheets to help the GM record some data for a couple scenarios. On top of that, a lot of care has been put in the layout, with small pieces of art filling every possible space so that nothing is left blank. These production values are hard to beat.


The cover by Kristi Herbert depicts the women of the Straw Weaver clan performing a ceremony where their protectress Bison Daughter has materialized and is dancing in the middle of a circle. With a bison head and a young woman's body, she is holding a small fruit tree in her right hand, possibly a fertility symbol, and in the other she has a hunting or shepherd dog on a leash, while the worshipers around her power the ritual by sacrificing their vital force (aka magic points!). It might seem an unusual choice for a cover and perhaps a group of bison riders patrolling their herds would have made for a more classic picture. However, depicting a Praxian goddess during a clan ritual shows both how magical Glorantha is, and how vital fertility magic is for Praxians. For in such an unforgiving land as Prax, no life is possible without it.


A landscape showing some tents and herds of a bison riding clan


The Straw Weavers


The book includes a full description of this clan of the Bison Tribe, with all the detail you need to run adventures with it. It includes its own Eirithian hero cult, some small myths, cult distribution, places they often visit, their wyter or tutelary minor deity, as well as full stats for notable NPCs like the khan and his wives, the best warriors, and the shaman. These NPCs include their main motivations and personality, and are well rounded.


The authors specify this clan has not joined Argrath White Bull's army yet, which means you can play with it independently of the main canon storyline. On the other hand, if your adventurers are already loyal to Argrath, they could be tasked with convincing the Straw Weavers khan to join Argrath's army! And obviously, that would entail volunteering for the missions described in the scenarios.


Gallaf Hairhide is the veteran khan of the Straw Weavers clan


The scenarios


The authors provide the GM with a lot of flexibility on how to use these four adventures. Firstly, they provide advice on how to play the scenarios in a different order. Secondly, since nomads tend to move around, the scenarios are not set in any particular place in Prax (except for The Lifethief, see below) although the authors suggest several possible locations. Thirdly, there is advice on how to scale the scenarios up or down depending on the power level of your player characters.


On top of that, the book assumes player characters will most often not be Praxians, so every scenario has hooks and reasons for them to participate. Of course, it its also perfect for a campaign in which all PCs are Praxians of the Straw Weaver clan. Finally, at the end of every scenario the authors suggest several plot hooks that can be developed for further adventures and complications.


Two pages of the scenario The Gifts of Prax


Stone and Bone


This pretty straightforward, short scenario kickstarts the rest of the campaign. The PCs must escort Erhehta, a shaman, into dangerous territory in order to find an item. Combat will be hard to avoid, there will perhaps be a chase, and there is little interaction with NPCs, except for the shaman. But mostly, this scenario has the PCs think hard how to deal with an obstacle in their path, and face monstrosities. Will they survive? Will they keep the shaman alive and thus save their clan? This is a good scenario to get things started with an uncomplicated plot, so it could be ideal for a one-shot at a convention, for example. I'm actually planning on doing just that.


SPOILERS:

Two pages more from the scenario The Gifts of Prax


The Gifts of Prax


Here the adventurers must travel around Prax to fetch several items the Straw Weavers' shaman needs for an important ritual. The more of them they acquire, the better. Getting these items will require different sets of skills (combat, magic and social), interacting with many different NPCs, and overcoming several tests. At the end, the amount of ingredients has a direct influence on the ritual, which is important for the reputation of the shaman and the whole clan. This scenario can be the perfect excuse to have the players visit several places around Prax and face several encounters, so you can easily make it longer if you want. Finally, it is even more flexible because the PCs can fail to acquire some of the items but still manage to pull off the ritual in the end.


SPOILERS:

Beautifully rendered hideous monsters


The Lifethief


This is the confrontation against the evil that lurks in the Dead Place, a blasted region in Prax where most magic does not work. It closes the story arc started in "Stone and Bone" and continued in "The Gifts of Prax". Adventurers must prepare themselves and then, guided by a shaman Maserelt, face the Dead Place and the monsters within, so it is basically a combat scenario. The interest lies in the challenging conditions of the place. It can also have some survival horror elements if the GM manages to push the PCs to their limit, as the PCs need to deal with the problem quickly.


SPOILERS:

Two pages from the scenario The Temple of Twins


The Temple of Twins


This scenario is a small, unplanned heroquest through Praxian myths in order to re-establish a temple's harmony. This is an original idea, and heroquests are a unique aspect of RuneQuest, as they allow you to bring the myths of Glorantha to life. Moreover, the PCs might be confronted by a dilemma in the end. Still, some of the tests are bound to fail, as it is highly likely the PCs lack the specific skills required. Luckily, they can also fail all the tests and still get to the end, but pretty battered. I want to like this scenario, because I love myths, but I'm not sure it is going to be fun for the players, so I would make some changes before running it. For example, you could run the campaign with an all-Praxian party including at least one initiate of Eiritha (see Cults of RuneQuest: the Earth Goddesses for more info about that cult). That way, this scenario would make that character (and player) shine as she leads the way through the heroquest while the other PCs follow her and help keep her alive.


SPOILERS:

There is a lot you can miss if you are bad at survival skills while traversing the Praxian myths


Praxian encounters


To round up the book, the appendix includes 34 pages full of stats for many kinds of encounters in Prax. These range from herders and raiders from the main Praxian tribes, to fauna and flora such as the waterthief plant, and ghosts and weird spirits such as the hyena spirit pack (my favourite). More than enough to make your life easy when running adventures in Prax, or to spice up the 4 scenarios in the book.


The encounter section is full of stats to make your life easier as a GM


All in all


Sacred Earth, Sacred Water is a wonderful book. It is a crash course on Praxian culture and it immerses the players in a harsh way of life. The writing is good, and the art and layout are top-notch. The scenarios include original ideas throughout, and even if you don't run them as written, there is a lot to use in them. Moreover, a lot of care has been put into making this both a useful and nice-looking book, and the authors' effort to make the scenarios as flexible as possible is specially commendable.


The negative aspects are few. One is a certain tendency for linearity in the scenarios, which is partially countered by the flexibility they allow. Another is I would have liked to see how to solve some scenes that might happen often in a Praxian campaign, like raiding a rival clan for cattle or how to defend your herds from a cattle raid. Some rules for managing Praxian clans as a base for adventurers would have been cool. Finally, it would have been great to include some scenarios dealing with well-known locations in Prax like the Block, the Winter Ruins or the Paps. Maybe in a future Jonstown Compendium publication? So, to sum up:


This book is for you if...

  • You are running a campaign in Prax or love Prax as a location for adventures.
  • You enjoy good art and layout.
  • You love scenarios with a lot of flexibility on how to use them.
  • You want to have lots of stats for Praxian NPCs and encounters for your campaign.
  • You agree it is about time there was an official book about Prax! :-P


Don't get close to it if...

  • Your adventurers are never going to set a foot in Prax and do not like that place.
  • You dislike linear scenarios.


Sacred Earth, Sacred Water is available from DrivethruRPG both in PDF (20$) and in hardcover format (36$), with the Premium Color version costing 40$. Buying the hardcover does not include the PDF for free, but buying the pack of "Standard Color" hardcover plus PDF saves you 5$ over buying both separately. Oh, and you can download a map and some handouts for free. Have you read it as well? Tell me if you agree with my assessment! Even better: Have you played or run it? Please tell me how did it go! Either way, I hope you find my review useful.

 
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