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Created On 30 December 1998
Last Updated On 10 September 2002
Copyright (c) Simon E. Phipp 1998
At the end of the Second Age, Zzabur the Sorcerer completed a great spell. Some say the spell was to remove the land of Brithos from the Mundane Plane, some say that it was designed to clear the seas, some say that it was designed to sweep the Jrusteli away. In any case, it had two main effects, it shrouded the Sea of Brithos in mist, removing the Isle from this Plane, and it cleared the Seas of vessels. The wave of power triggered by the spell swept the Seas, forcing ships to shore or destroying those that remained at sea until no vessels were afloat. Even the Waertagi, allies of Brithos and master seafarers were affected, some of their Dragonships were wrecked on remote coasts, while the majority formed immense rafts and sailed the Doom Currents to Hell. This situation remained for centuries, isolating far-flung places, separating islands and continents and making the Oceans places of dread, avoided by most coastal people.
Nobody knows how many people tried to break the Closing for all that tried were lost. The Pharaoh swam ashore but never told how he managed the feat. Eventually, a HeroQuestor called Dormal set sail from the Holy Country on a flotilla of boats built from ancient designs. He braved the Seas and faced the Terrors, defeating some, making pacts with others and driving a few from the Seas forever. Dormal sailed to many places on his voyages, teaching others his secrets until he eventually sailed to the Primal Ocean and away from the World, achieving Herodom. Now, those following Dormal's way can use special magic to negate the effects of the Closing and allowing for travel on the Seas again.
When Dormal negotiated with the Terrors he made a few concessions. One of these was the setting up of a safe haven where the Terrors could safely live without interference from Dormal's followers. There, around a group of islands, any sailor who enters the area will always be affected by the Closing, unable to sail the Seas in safety.
Now, a generation later, many people sail the Seas. The Vadeli control the sea routes to Pamaltela, the Kralori have closed off their land and occasionally trade with outsiders, the Elder Races sail from Jrustela, the Wolf Pirates raid coastal cities, Holy Country Trolls sail an Ebony Fleet and the East Islanders and Vormain Pirates continually bother each other. However, all can do this only through Dormal's intervention.
Effects of the Closing
Any ship sailing the Seas without the benefit of Dormal's spell is affected by the Closing. What this means is that the ship will be forced from the Seas. Often, all that happens is that a strong breeze or current pushes the ship back to shore. However, if a ship continues its journey it will be affected by one or more of the Terrors.
In RuneQuest terms, Dormal provides the Open Seas spell which is a Sorcery Ritual Ceremony Spell. If successfully cast this allows the ships to sail the seas from Landfall to Landfall and be unaffected by the Closing. It has been incorporated into the cult of Dormal, stolen by the Vadeli, gained by Malkioni Sects and is available as a Blessing from Saint Dormal. I play that the Open Seas spell remains in effect until landfall or a safe harbour is reached, safe harbours being those outside the effects of the Closing. If the spell is failed then the ship is affected by a minor form of the Closing (pushed back to shore, many Bad Omens etc) and if fumbled the Ship is affected by one the Terrors.
Open Seas Blessing (Cost 4 POW, 1 POW to cast)
This is granted by Saint Dormal to those who accept him as a Patron Saint. Such people are sailors and must follow the Way of Dormal. When Invoked, this acts as if the Open Seas spell had been successfully cast. It cannot fail and is often used when an Open Seas spell has failed or when a ship is attacked by the Terrors. In such a case, the Terrors will act as if the Open Seas spell had succeeded. This Blessing has no effect on those Terrors summoned though a Curse of Magasta or present through other reasons than the Closing.
Magasta, as Lord of the Seas, agreed to help Zzabur and used his powrs to wreak vengeance on those who sailed the Oceans. Magasta's descendants and servants form the greater part of the Terrors. Sometimes Magasta curses his enemies, often this happens on a HeroQuest, sometimes as a result of birth or some other unusual event. Occasionally the Curse takes the form of the Closing and the cursed person is always affected by the full Closing, no matter whether the Open Seas spell was successfully cast or not. Usually these cursed sailors always meet the same Terror on each of their Sea journeys. Obviously such people are not desirable companions on sea journeys and are treated as Pariahs. In the event that their particular Terror is destroyed, the Curse may or may not be lifted, sometimes a greater Terror is encountered instead.
Ships affected by the Closing are not affected by vague, undefinable forces but are affetced by physical or magical entities, collectively known as the Terrors.
Those ships that venture out into the Oceans without Dormal's protection are normally forced back to shore, maybe with a Storm, sea breeze or strong current. Sometimes the ship is warned by bad omens or even by denizens of the Oceans.
If the ship continues its journey, or if the Open Seas spell was fumbled, or if the Ship contains a Cursed One it is affected by the Terrors. Cursed Ones normally attract the same Terror on each voyage, otherwise the Terror is randomly rolled or chosen by the GM. If a Terror is defeated another will appear and another until the journey ends or the ship is destroyed. These Terrors will be progressively more dangerous until they are the kind of thing that mortals cannot defeat. Heroes and HeroQuestors may well be able to avoid the Closing by defeating each Terror but they will soon gace spirits such as Tidal Wave, The Smasher, True Sea Dragons or maybe Wachaza himself.
Terrors can be broadly categorised as Natural Phenomena, Monsters, Intelligent Foes, Spirits and Demigods.
These include Ocean Storms, Gales, Currents, Becalming, Whirlpools, Waterspouts, Reefs, sumberged Rocks, Shallows and other natural hazards. Even though these are natural they also have a supernatural side and may be bargained with. So, an Ocean Storm will have a Spirit at its centre who may be appeased, threatened, bargained with or dismissed by HeroQuestors.
Generally these will suddenly affect a ship and will destroy it. Storms will be incredibly violent, Rocks will try to rip the ship apart, Whirlpools will try to drag the ship below the waves, Waterspouts will throw it into the air. Becalmed ships will stay until the occupants starve to death or die of thirst, "water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink".
Most of these Natural Phenomena are descended from the Water Gods or Storm Gods, so Storms are descended from Ygg, Orlanth or whomever, Waterspouts are descended from Brastalos and Magasta, Whirlpools from Magasta, Becalmings from Brastalos or Still Air and Reefs or Rocks from the various submerged Land Goddesses. A cunning HeroQuestor will have Quests to befriend each of these before he attempts any serious crossings of the Ocean.
These are generally large, ugly and dangerous. They are your typical sea monsters and include sea serpents, giant sharks, octopuses, squids, whales, sea dragons, dinosaurs and even giant fish. They usually attack singly but may attack in shoals if necessary. Normally they attack to destroy the ship first then to devour the sailors. If badly wounded they can be driven off but may well come back later to wreak vengeance. If enough monsters are driven off, larger ones will appear until the ship encounters such monsters as in the Strangers in Prax supplement or even a True Sea Dragon which should guarantee its demise.
There are not a huge number of intelligent foes in the Oceans so this encounter seems to be limited. However, with a little imagination it can become very challenging and varied.
Intelligent ocean-goers include Triolini, Sea Trolls, Sea Elves, Ocean Nymphs and Voughs. They often attack with magic and allies, sometimes using Magasta's creatures as backup.
Pirates include the Red Vadeli, Wolf Pirates, Vormainers, East Islanders, the trollish Black Galleys and occasional Kralori Junk. If the GM is particularly nasty then he can throw rogue Waertagi around with gay abandon, such encounters end in misery as the Waertagi wish to remain hidden. Pirates normally travel in numbers and attack out of the blue, taking the ship and crew. Often they are backed up by magic, Vormain Pirates having Wachaza Water Walkers, Vadeli having arcane sorcery, Wolf Pirates flying on Ygg's winds or Wind Walk using Gagarth's powers and the Kralori use sorcery and even dragon magic.
Other encounters may be more bizarre - a troupe of Indlas Somer surfers, water-walking zombies, sunken ships risen and crewed by the corpses of their sailors, even zombie surfers make amuzing encounters. Any sailor killed by the animated dead and dragged into the water is animated as a protector of the Closing. Ships sunk by zombies are disgorged and their crews sail the seas for eternity. Rarer encounters include Weresharks, dolphin and whale hsunchen, hunters, intelligient monsters and even the occasional Wind Child troupe blown off course.
These are the minor spirits of the seas, not powerful enough for major worship but powerful enough to be terrifying. These include the White Lady who kisses sailors in their sleep and infects them with a terminal disease reducing their STR and CON through continual vomiting of blood; the Old Man of the Sea who makes crewmen turn on each other and slay their comrades; Sirens who lure ships to rocky graves; Fog Spirits who hide the way and push ships onto reefs; Old Man Long Fingers who prises timbers apart and sinks ships; the Black Lady who fouls drinking water and infests stored food with mould and rusts; Mistress Calm who takes the Winds from ships' sails; Rudder Thief who possesses helmsmen and steers the ships onto reefs or rocks; Oar Breaker who attacks galleys; Old Man Fingernails who climbs the rigging and tears sails.
(The Jrusteli thought that the Old Man of the Sea, Old Man Long Fingers and Old Man Fingernails were the same but they could never prove it.)
The Greater Gods are forbidden from acting within the world by the Compromise, but this does not affect minor deities who just love to mix it when they can. These Demigods only appear to ships on HeroQuests or to those ships that have driven off minor Terrors or maybe to ships containing Heroes or certain Cursed Ones. Commonly encountered Demigods include Tidal Wave, Robber, who appears as a Vough with a Black Net of Deat, Wachaza with his Turtle Shield and Ivory Trident, Glubaw the Drowner, Golod Father of Fishes, The Gloomshark, Waterspout, The Triloini Ancestors - Tritons of immense power, the Gods of the Ocean Currents and even the deities of the Surface of the Seas. For an excellent account of what can happen during the Closing, read the Strange Fragment in the King of Sartar, even though it describes the Crossing of the Oceans by Harmast on the Lightbringer Quest, many of the encounters hold true for the Closing.
The Closing is a unique event that wreaked havoc on Glorantha for centuries. With Dormal's Quest its effects were lessened and mostly removed. Most people will not be affected by the Closing. Those that are normally escape with warnings or bad omens telling them to turn back. The Closing should never be used as an excuse to attack PCs or to bring out nasty creatures. GMs should exercise restraint when dealing with the Closing. However, having said that, if the PCs are so stupid as to tempt fate then there is nothing wrong with showing them how insignificant they are - hit them with the Gloomshark or a Waertagi Dragonship and watch them brick it!