First Impressions—”The Pegasus Plateau & Other Stories”

Chaosium recently published their third adventure pack for the newest edition of their tabletop roleplaying game RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha, titled The Pegasus Plateau & Other Stories. I’ve just finished reading it. In this post, I’m going to take some time to go chapter by chapter through the new book, and talk a little about each. I’ll try to avoid spoilers, but I give no guarantees—if you want to avoid spoilers outright of any of the adventures in The Pegasus Plateau, turn back now!

First I’d like to state what this post is not: a comprehensive review. I don’t believe that I can review a game product if I haven’t actually played it. While I’ve played the adventure “The Rattling Wind” (which Chaosium released for free back in October), I haven’t gamemastered any of the adventures in this book. Further, while I did completely read the book, it was in the mindset of “Ooh, new content! Must read now.” A proper review requires a more robust reading, which I plan to do when the print edition is produced, in the process of running some of the adventures for my gaming group.

I should probably note that I skimmed, but did not fully read, “The Rattling Wind,” since I had read and played it previously.

Finally a disclaimer: as a publisher for the RuneQuest community content program, the Jonstown Compendium, I do have a slight financial bias beyond being a fan of the system. If RuneQuest does well, I have chance to financially benefit. In addition, I’m acquainted with a few of the authors of this work, and naturally inclined to view those portions more positively.

Well, with all that muck out of the way, let’s move forward to the fun bit: The Pegasus Plateau.

The Pegasus Plateau

The introductory materials are pretty staple, with a reminder of YGMV—”Your Glorantha May Vary”—and a handy guide for applying ad hoc ratings to non-player character abilities, and then the book jumps right into the “title track.”. In “The Pegasus Plateau” the adventurers are called to attend the Wind Games celebration at Three Emeralds Temple, and to climb the eponymous Plateau in an attempt to tame a hippogriff (which I believe in Glorantha is the same thing as a pegasus). Don’t worry, that’s not a spoiler; the adventurers find that out right away.

3 emeralds
Three Emeralds Temple, © Chaosium

I really like this adventure. The meat of it is fairly linear, but there’s enough sketchwork done with characters and locales that a gamemaster should be able to play it pretty fluidly. There’s a good diversity of challenges, from skulduggery, to duels, to negotiation, and multiple possibilities are noted for most challenges. This is probably my favorite adventure in the book at the moment, and I really want to either play it or run it.

What really draws me to “The Pegasus Plateau” is its blend of linearity and non-linearity. That’s a difficult line to draw, and it looks like the authors did it pretty well. Plus, the final reward is a huge, cool benefit for an adventurer.

It also has good follow-up suggestions, which I won’t comment on since it could, potentially, be a pretty interesting plot twist for players. These aren’t developed thoroughly, but they don’t need to be—they aren’t the adventure itself, but suggestions for how it could create more story during a longer campaign.

For my group, I’d expect this adventure to take two or three sessions to run. Our games are usually 4-6 players, and we typically get to play about 3 or 4 hours. I figure you could probably hammer out the adventure in a single 4-6 hour session, depending on the gamemaster’s play style.

The Locaem

The next chapter describes a tribe of the Sartarites, the Locaem. They’re neighbors with the Colymar tribe—the heart of the first adventure pack, which came with the GM Screen—and are also inter-woven into several of the adventures in this book. The chapter is predominantly background, talking about their history and places in their territory. Although it’s described as useful for both players and gamemasters, I didn’t feel the same. Unlike “The Lost Valley” in The Smoking Ruin & Other Stories, “The Locaem” doesn’t have the same sections about typical members of the Locaem tribe and rules for creating adventurers with a specific “Locaem” feel. While I suppose the answer is probably “just use the Sartar Homeland from the core rulebook” … that just feels unsatisfying somehow. When it was presented as useful for players, I was expecting more.

On the upside, it’s got a killer illustration of someone getting nailed by the Sunspear spell. And the background is still a pretty interesting read; I just felt underwhelmed when I finished the chapter.

The Grey Crane

In “The Grey Crane” the adventurers are called to recover a set of lost relics, worn by the clan’s (locally) famous hero, the Grey Crane. The premise really needs the adventurers to be living with that clan, due to a week gap between the first and second events, but I figure the adventure’s still pretty playable with only minimal modifications if you want the adventurers to be strangers to the clan.

The adventure’s got potential for some neat intrigue, which gets addressed but feels a bit abbreviated. This is a simple, short adventure, and it seems to work quite well. There is a “dungeon” element, sort of, but it’s totally underwhelming. Lots of stuff hinted at, but not really anything cool or unusual to find. The final fight has some good potential—I’m interested to see how my own group would handle that encounter, and I’ll probably transport it into a different adventure at some point.

I imagine this adventure would probably take my group one session as written, but I could make it drag into two sessions without a lot of difficulty. The more you play up the roleplaying elements involved in the intrigue and the traveling portions, the longer this adventure should last.

A major plus for me is that the lost relics are described, and that it creates intentional problems and story hooks if the adventurers claim them, instead of returning them. Their abilities aren’t that wild, but they work well thematically, and are pragmatically useful.

The Rattling Wind

In “The Rattling Wind” the adventurers face down a curse killing villagers in the hamlet of Farfield. Also, and slightly unrelated, there’s some ducks (and some great duck art). I have actually played this adventure, although I wasn’t the gamemaster.

This one’s pretty interesting, because the opening fight can really swing for or against the adventurers. The antagonist is pretty dangerous, but there’s a few choices which can make the fight become completely one-sided. For example, there’s a major undead element to this adventure, so our party’s worshiper of Humakt, the God of Death, simply cast Turn Undead, and the fight was pretty much over.

The second half of the adventure (which was more follow-up, in our case), works alright. Depends a bit on how willing the adventurers are to negotiate, but it does ultimately come down, pretty much, to a rematch with the antagonist. Overall, I enjoyed playing this, but it didn’t really leave a huge impact on my experience. Probably because we had a Humakti on our side.

This adventure took us two sessions, but I think it’s pretty doable in a single go, especially if you’re playing for four or more hours.

Crimson Petals

In this adventure, the adventurers need to explore why a curse is plaguing a clan. While the premise is similar to that of “The Rattling Wind”, the execution is very different. This adventure is much more heavily built upon investigation, with an emphasis on roleplay. Coming from the fan authors of Beer With Teeth (Stone and Bone, Rocks Fall), this feels similar to their prior adventures with its detailed, conflicted characters, and its focus on letting the gamemaster scale the adventure to their game group.

However, previous adventures in The Pegasus Plateau and by BWT are pretty linear. This adventure is not. While it does provide suggestions and notes for where the adventurers might find particular pieces of information, there isn’t a specific, unified story here to be told. I’m inclined to think that’s not a bad thing, but it does increase the workload on the gamemaster. In thinking about how I would prepare to run this adventure, I imagine I’d need to make notes for each of the major non-player characters and be sure to know which knows what information and their personalities.

Basically, I don’t think I could read this adventure once, and then wing it on the fly. Which is the main thing I’m looking for in a pre-written adventure. That aside, it seems to be a solid adventure. While it’s set in a particular clan, “Crimson Petals” seems pretty movable to almost anywhere in Dragon Pass, which is a solid plus for me.

Gloomwillow’s Hollow

The longest adventure by nearly ten pages (provided I’m doing my math right) “Gloomwillow’s Hollow” is less a particular adventure, and more a horror-filled sandbox. Set in the Woods of the Dead, in this adventure the adventurers must dare hordes of ghouls and ghosts while trying to find a dozen kidnapped children.

Apart from “The Pegasus Plateau” this is probably the adventure I’m most interested in running, although it would require an increased time investment to prep. “Gloomwillow’s Hollow” provides an additional level of danger over the other adventures—reasonably so, since Pegasus Plateau is mainly meant for use with newer adventurers. It has a thorough description of the Woods, providing a variety of encounters from creepy to horrifying.

For me, the highlight is definitely Brangbane, the King of Ghouls, who is fully statted and is nasty. Including him, his fort, and his treasures makes this book really playable for me. My group has been playing for about a year and a half, now, and the adventurers aren’t exactly “new” anymore.

That said, the actual adventure of “Gloomwillow’s Hollow” is also pretty tough. It’s totally the gamemaster’s call if adventurers actually have to run into Brangbane, or any of the other encounters in the wood, but the Hollow itself is a solid, grindy dungeon in a giant tree. The last fight is tough, with interesting terrain and wave after wave of enemies while you fight the antagonist, Gloomwillow. Better yet, the climax is epic!

This one’s probably not great for newer adventurers, but it’s certainly an enticing adventure. Unfortunately, the presentation is a bit rough. A lot of the elements suggest that the gamemaster measure how far the adventurers are from particular spots in the Wood, and keep track of how far they’re moving … on a map which doesn’t have a scale. Fortunately, the “adventure proper” doesn’t require much of that, just the sandbox exploration.

Overall, “Gloomwillow’s Hollow” is really cool. I’m not especially into horror-themed adventures, but it’s definitely grabbed my imagination.

This adventure definitely has multiple sessions of play. It’ll vary widely, depending on how much sandboxing your group does, but I figure the “adventure proper” of this should eat up at least two longer sessions—one to get to the “dungeon,” and one for the dungeon itself.

The Ruin on the Stream

In “The Ruin on the Stream”, the adventurers explore a remnant of the Empire of Wyrms Friends, and don’t really discover anything interesting.

This adventure disappointed me. I love love love the theme, I really enjoy Glorantha’s dragonewts and the mysteries of the EWF history, and so on. It’s some of my favorite stuff in the setting. So, when I read this, I was really let down. It’s basically a collection of Climb and Meditate rolls over the course of several days. Climb a tower in the ruin, make a Meditate roll. If you fail, roll it again.

The whole adventure hints at and implies that the adventurers will learn new, exciting secrets and abilities, but it ultimately comes down to +5D6% in their Speak Auld Wyrmish skill, and hints at a “Lost Egg” prophecy, which are utterly unexplained. It’s reflective of the worst writing about Glorantha, which attempt to be interesting by being allusive and vague, and ultimately end up being bland.

I feel like I either need to give this adventure a closer read, or I need to try playing it, to see if this impression is accurate or not. Overall, I had high hopes, and they were let down.

I can’t imagine this adventure taking longer than one session to run.

The Pairing Stones

In “The Pairing Stones”, the adventurers end up getting wrangled into chasing down a kidnapped bride, and have some important decisions to make.

THIS SECTION INCLUDES A SPOILER.

trolls
An adventurer confronts the coolest troll you’ve ever seen. Art © Chaosium.

I liked this adventure quite a bit. It’s not especially complex, and ultimately boils down to one question: how much do the adventurers, and the players, value love?

Basically, the bride was actually “kidnapped,” and wants to elope with her captor. This will have major consequences for her tribe, and her actual fiance’s tribe, because their marriage was key to a peace treaty.

There’s a good bit of action in this adventure, and the premise is, to be fair, a bit cliche. What makes me really like it is how it hammers the consequences home for the players. I feel like players are likely to choose love over duty, being modern humans, and as I read it, for Gloranthans this is the wrong decision. It allows the activity of roleplaying to put a great twist on a tired trope.

I’m almost certainly going to run this adventure. While the meat of it isn’t super long, I feel like this adventure will probably take my group three or more sessions to run, just because of the amount of combat. There’s plenty of chances to crack heads. Negotiation’s possible, but I would guess that it probably won’t happen with my particular group.

If you took non-violent options, you could probably hammer this adventure out in a single session.

Renekot’s Hope

The final chapter of The Pegasus Plateau describes a small village built up from both Lunar and Orlanthi cultures, which are typically antagonistic toward one another. It’s a neat little setting, but struggles with one big problem: its distance from all published adventures.

Most adventures published so far, whether fan or official, focus on play within particular areas, as members of a location’s society, and dealing with that society’s problems. Renekot’s Hope is well-built for play as members of it—but it’s a setting with no adventures!

Okay, it does have some adventure seeds, but I think the point is still relevant. The setting’s purpose is that cultures don’t clash because it’s not in the center of the action, and because it’s not in the center of the action, there isn’t much published material for the setting.

Overall Ramblings

All considered, I like The Pegasus Plateau. I think it’s more useful to gamemasters than The Smoking Ruin in its adventure design. While I never did end up writing a review for TSR because I haven’t yet played one of its adventures, my general impression of that work was “intrigued, but unenthusiastic.” The presentation felt clunkier, and the adventurers weren’t the focus of TSR‘s stories. In contrast, the adventurers are making important decisions and doing important things in a majority of these adventures, and the adventures give me a greater impression of “I could run this easily.”

There is a slight challenge, in that The Pegasus Plateau‘s adventures don’t exactly cohere well. For example, if you were to play a game centered on Renekot’s Hope, it would be hard to play most of, or all of, the adventures. Likewise “The Locaem” provides more history than a specific setting with a settlement and characters for play.

Combined with the Gamemaster Screen PackThe Pegasus Plateau provides the materials needed for a great campaign! It does seem to mesh fairly well with the setting and adventures provided there, and it seems easier to get Colymar adventurers involved than it would be to get adventurers all the way down south from Renekot’s Hope. Plus, I think the adventures in this work are generally more interesting than those in both of the prior. I’m quite pleased with The Pegasus Plateau, and I’m excited to play it.

If you want to pick it up, The Pegasus Plateau is available both on DriveThruRPG and on Chaosium’s website as a PDF. I suggest their website, since they count the cost of the PDF against the cost of the physical book once it’s published, essentially making the PDF free.

Disclaimers: All links to DriveThruRPG are affiliate links. If you make a purchase on that site, I’ll get a small kickback. Additionally, all art in this article is © Chaosium, and I’m making no claims to ownership. I’ve specifically chosen images which Chaosium or its employees have shared on social media, in order to avoid spoiling the other great art included in this product.

2 thoughts on “First Impressions—”The Pegasus Plateau & Other Stories”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s