As the Hill of Gold is such a well-known and well-discussed HeroQuest, I have drawn on the works of others as a guideline for these articles. This is because I subscribe to the idea of a "Group Glorantha" where more than one person builds the world up, so where things have been published I try to include them wherever possible rather than to re-invent the wheel.
Many people have been influential in the formation of these Quests, in particular Sandy Petersen and Nick Effingham for fleshing out the Yelmalian version of the Quest, Stephen Martin for giving me access to a large number of variant myths, Shannon Appel for the excellent description of The First Tree (It's roots are the Earth and its Branches the Sky - I will definitely use this for Elven Yelmalio in a revised format) and David Dunham and Stephen Martin for "How Inora Preserved Ice Mountain" which gave me the myth of Inora freezing Zorak Zoran's flesh and hence giving me the Ice Armour. In particular, Stephen Martin showed me how Orlanth fought Inora and forced her back which I will also use elsewhere when possible, and gave me a number of general ideas about the Hill of Gold and the Kingship variant. He certainly made this far easier to write.
The Hill of Gold is a series of HeroQuests that are linked. Ever since the Quest was first mentioned in the Yelmalio write-up it has generated interest. Why is this? After all, it is only a minor Quest with no earth-shattering effects.
First, it involves three of the major RQ2 PC cults - Orlanth, Zorak Zoran and Yelmalio. Secondly, it is a simple Quest which is documented in a small way. Thirdly, it has been used to illustrate HeroQuesting techniques. Also, it can be used to gain magic items and new powers in a simple way.
What have I tried to do here? I have used existing theories on the Hill of Gold and expanded them to include my own ideas and to create a series of Quests, one for each of the major participants, which can be used as stand-alone Quests or as interconnected Quests. It should be possible to run a Zorak Zoran Hill of Gold Quest using these Quests or to run Quests for a Yelmalian and a Zorak Zoran PC which interconnect at the important point. I have tried to put each Quest in terms of the particular Deity's perspective, so the Mythos for Orlanth's encounter with Yelmalio is different to Yelmalio's encounter of Orlanth, for instance, in the way that the encounter is portrayed.
The individual Quests are in my standard format which should be close enough to previously published formats to be easily understood and used. They are designed as stand-alone Quests and can be run by themselves. In fact, the Mythos should be given to the player when he/she begins the Quest so that they are familiar with the mythos. However, the Mythos in this section should be kept secret as it gives a general view of the Quests from a perspective that no Gloranthan would have. In essence, this is the "God Learner" point of view, or an independent non-partisan view. It is the Quest how a GM should see the Quest. Whereas other Quests have been expanded by people's co-operation, this Quest is unique in that most of the participants are hostile to each other, so they do not share information. The major exception to this is the Orlanth/Elmal version of the Quest where the participants tend to help each other and lessen the damage done to Elmal, but this is a particularly rare version of the Quest only performed in certain areas of Dragon Pass and even then very rarely.
Once, Zorak Zoran heard that his enemies were at a Hill in Good Hunting, so he determined to face and defeat them.
Orlanth, King of the Gods, wanted a Winter Wife. His Summer Wife, Ernalda, was good and bountiful but was also fickle and unfaithful and he wanted a steadier wife. He looked around at those from other Tribes and saw none suitable. When he looked at the Storm Tribe he saw the daughter of his nephew Valind and his own half-sister, Inora, and decided to court her. With this in mind, he put on his best tunic and travelled to Winter Hill where she had a Palace.
Inora, Queen of Winter dwelt in the Mountain Tops and at one stage covered the lands of Saird, Dragon Pass and Dagori Inkarth with her power. She had many Palaces, one of which was on Winter Hill in Saird. There she would sit, watching the world and accepting suitors who tried to win her heart. One day, four suitors came, three she knew and one who was a stranger.
As he climbed Winter Hill, Yelmalio was seen by Orlanth the Rebel who had slain Yelm, the Emperor and Yelmalio's Father. Orlanth, who had no honour, hid in the Shadows [concealed himself so Yelmalio would not see him and run away in his normal cowardly fashion] and leapt out as Yelmalio passed by, ambushing him from behind and dealing him the Coward's Blow. Orlanth stunned Yelmalio with a blow to his head and knocked him to the ground. As he lay there, Orlanth took his Shield as a Combat Prize and his Armour in lieue of his life [leaving Yelmalio naked in the snow].
When Zorak Zoran arrived at the Hill he had to ask permission to hunt of Inora, Winter Queen, who ruled the Hill at that time. He brought her a Meal of Plenty made of Aldryami, humans and Earthshakers from the Elder Wilds but the Winter Queen was hungry and devoured them all. Zorak Zoran offered Inora a gift of Snow Trolls to guard her in her Ice palace, but Inora had a Heart of Ice and laughed at his gift, her laughs tinkled on the icicles above. Enraged, Zorak Zoran grabbed her in his embrace and wrestled with her. Inora chilled his flesh with her Dread Embrace and turned his flesh to glass. In return, Inora took Zorak Zoran's essence and later bore a tribe of Snow Trolls to guard her. Zorak Zoran was kin to Himile, Master of cold, and the Ice did not hurt him, but his flesh was now glass and he was afraid that his manhood, which tinkled upon his thigh as he walked, would shatter and be destroyed, so he walked very carefully.
Naked except for his Brilliant Cloak yet strengthened by his Heart of Fire, Yelmalio pushed on expecting to defeat the Winter Queen with Amanstan. However, he met the Dark Destroyer, Zorak Zoran, who hated the Light. Zorak Zoran saw Yelmalio and realised that Yelmalio's Heart of Fire could melt the Ice Armour and free him from his predicament, so he decided to take the Heart of Fire and struck from the Shadows. Yelmalio would have defeated Zorak Zoran had he had his Lightning Spear and Bright Armour but the Dark God fought well. Eventually Yelmalio fell and used the powers of his Heart to force the Dark God back, but Zorak Zoran had Armour of Ice and the Fire merely melted the Glass that covered him. Zorak Zoran reached down and tore the Heart of Fire from Yelmalio. With a last gasp, Yelmalio hurled the last of his Fire at Zorak Zoran, burning his face and allowing Yelmalio to crawl away.
Orlanth came to the Winter Palace and roared so loudly that the icicles fell to the floor and Snow Pixies died of fright. He entered the Winter Palace brandishing the Lightning Spear to show Inora how powerful he was. He gave Inora the gift of the Golden Armour and asked to embrace his sister. As they embraced, he made his offer for her to become his Winter Wife and they fell to the floor in their embrace as he whispered in her ear that he could take her anyway if she refused his offer. However, her heart was of Ice and she kissed him with her Icy Kiss and refused his offer, saying that his breath was too fierce for her and freezing his beard. He stormed away in a rage, ashamed at his actions, vowing that as she had refused him, she must stay in the Mountains where her home was and may not come to his lands to disturb his people. It was at this time the Winter's grip on the land was loosened. Afterwards, Inora's daughter Snowdrift was born and she used her father's Winds to deepen the snows in her home.
Yelmalio now wandered in the cold, weak and wounded, until he reached the Ice Palace. There Inora found him and invited him in. Inora was touched by Yelmalio's beauty and his vulnerability and wished that his warmth may melt her Icy Heart. She was a lewd goddess and tried to seduce Yelmalio. She held him in her cold arms and offered him his Bright Armour which now hung on an icicle in her Palace. She tried to suck the last embers of warmth from Yelmalio but he resisted her wiles and remained Chaste and True to his ways because he had been robbed of all that he had and was merely a limp plaything for her. Enraged, Inora turned on Yelmalio with her Icy Rage and ripped away his Brilliant Cloak, attacking him with Freezing Winds, Winter Chill, Snow and Hail, driving him into the Cold Night amid a raging Blizzard. Inora put on the Cloak of Brilliance and her beauty was even more enhanced.
Zorak Zoran put Amanstan away and went searching for his other enemies. He saw Orlanth and ran roaring to him. Orlanth hurled the Darkwind at Zorak Zoran but the Great God knew those of Darkness and bathed in its breath. As he held the Darkwind, Zorak Zoran created a new god, Hell Roar, who later came to serve his father. Zorak Zoran and Orlanth fought long and hard, Zorak Zoran used his Fire and Orlanth used his Lightning Spear. Eventually the two gods tired and Zorak Zoran summoned Shadows and Smoke to cover himself as he left the field, riding on Orlanth's Breath.
After Orlanth left the Winter Palace he determined to go to the top of Winter Hill and see what he could see. He met a burned and disfigured God whom he had fought before and the two gods bellowed their challenges. Orlanth hurled the HellWind at Zorak Zoran and was amazed when the Dark God caught the Wind and swallowed it only to breathe it back at Orlanth, for Zorak Zoran was of Hell and feared nothing that came from his own domain. However, Orlanth was Master of the Winds and it could not hurt him. Zorak Zoran then roared the Hell Roar for the first time but Orlanth had no Fear and caught it in his right hand, whirling it around his head until it roared with a different voice, one of submission, thus was born the first Bull Roarer. Then he thrust with his new Lightning Spear but Zorak Zoran countered with a new power of Blazing Fire which seemed to make the Dark God nervous allowing Orlanth to cut his legs from him. Zorak Zoran filled the area with Shadows and Smoke and Orlanth could not see the Dark God, so he tried to blow the shadows away, but his breath was so powerful that he blew Zorak Zoran from the Hill and the Dark God rode his breath to the other side of the Hill.
Naked, cold, exhausted and bleeding, Yelmalio knew that he had failed in his task. The only comfort he knew was that he had remained true to his convictions and that he had not betrayed his nature. He decided to travel to the Summit of Winter Hill to see what was left of the world, but he was met by evil, biting creatures of Chaos. He fought bravely, but he had no spear, no armour, no fire and was already wounded. At last he fell and would have been devoured, but was rescued by forgotten friends who came and drove off the Chaos. Arroin healed him and High King Elf dressed and armed him. Together, the three True Friends left Winter Hill to return to their beloved Forests.
Finally, Zorak Zoran met his worst enemy, Chaos. These evil, biting creatures bit at his parts but he howled and stomped and smashed and burned until they were destroyed or fled before him. Zorak Zoran returned from Winter Hill emboldened and undefeated. He had faced the Winter Queen, defeated Yelmalio, Orlanth and Chaos and had gained Amanstan, Hell Roar and a new tribe of Snow Trolls.
Finally, Orlanth reached the Top of Winter Hill and saw that the most Evil had even been there. He thundered and roared and attacked the Evil, biting things with his new Lightning Spear, whirling his new Bull Roarer and frightening some away. With the Chaos defeated, he looked out on the devastated world, seeing its Pain that he had caused. That is when he determined to act to make the world good again.
Finally came Evil whom Inora had never seen. Nasty, biting creatures ripped at her, threatening to devour her, but their teeth slid off the Bright Armour that she wore. She looked deep within herself and used the Dazzling Cloak to blind them, the Snow Drifts to bury them and the Snow trolls to eat them. Thus did Inora defeat the Evil that is Chaos.
If the Quest is run as a Riddling Contest it takes the form of the participants meeting and asking each other riddles. The loser of any round must give the winner a magic item, teach him a spell or offer him a service. In this case, the Hill is played by an Earth cultist or Mountain cultist. This is a purely ritualised Quest with no real danger except the losing of magical items and is the least important version of the Quest. Many cultists use this as a practice method to become used to the Mythos. The riddles may be abstracted as an INT roll, Cult Lore, Riddling Skill, Luck roll, Skill roll (as Nysalor Riddles) or whatever. I would strongly advise against the actual asking of riddles as this victimises players who do not know riddles or are not good at them - Role-playing is all about the abilities of the character being played, not about the player's intelligence or whatever.
If the Quest is run as a Wagering Contest, the participants are set up as the Riddling Contest, with the Hill being played by an Earth Cultist or a Mountain Cultist. Each participant wagers an ability, skill, spell or magic item against the other participant. The loser loses that wagered, the winner gains it. This allows certain abilities, even those gained on HeroQuests, to be transferred to other people, although to deliberately set out to lose stations on the Quest in order to pass abilities on to others is considered to be contrary to cult doctrine and is grounds for Excommunication or a visit from the Spirit of Retribution of the cult. The result of each wager can be best determined by a dice roll abstracted on a skill roll relating to the wager, the better roll (normal success, special success, critical success, failure, fumble etc.). For instance, in the Yelmalio vs Zorak Zoran contest, Zorak Zoran could use his Maul Attack skill against Yelmalio's Shield Parry skill.
In some Stations, one of the participants is at a major disadvantage, for instance Yelmalio is normally defeated by Zorak Zoran. In such cases, the mythical victor is given an advantage. This advantage may take the form of a bonus to the Riddle or Wager, several attempts at the wager/riddle or even a powered wager or riddle. Similarly, in the combat forms the victorious Questor may have a powered attack, do double damage, have a bonus to hit/parry or other such advantage. Certain Stations force the participants to Riddle in certain ways or to offer certain abilities as Wagers, for instance Yelmalio must Wager ALL his Fire Powers/Abilities/Spells/Magic Items against Zorak Zoran. If the Questor does not do this then he will have cheated on the Quest, invoking the Cult Spirits of Retribution.
If the Quest is run as a Combat Quest it can be run in two forms, a Short Form and a Long Form.
The Short Form of the Quest is performed at a Temple or Holy Place of the cult concerned and involves moving between certain rooms and performing tasks. So, for instance, Zorak Zoran would start at the foot of the Hill, meet Inora in her Ice Palace, then climb the hill, then meet Yelmalio, then climb the hill, then meet Orlanth, then climb the hill, then meet Chaos, then return. The opponents would normally be captured prisoners, slaves, associate cultists or whatever and would generally be expected to lose. In this case, Inora could be a Himile Cultist or even an Inora Cultist, Yelmalio would be a Yelmalio cultist but could equally well be a Yelm, Lodril or Balazar cultist, Orlanth is normally an Orlanthi but could be any Lightbringer, Chaos could be a trollkin dressed up in funny clothes or broos captured and brought in as opponents. However, in some cases, the Quest brings real opponents who gatecrash in the same way as Hon-Eel did in the Tarsh Earth Rites or as the Lunars did in Starbrow's Lightbringer Quest. If this happens then the Questor could be defeated and damaged by the experience, after all if you are expecting to fight a broo and Granny Keeneye decides to try and eat you, then you are in trouble.
The Long Form can be performed at any Mountain or Hill. It can be staged, where captured prisoners or invited guests take the roles of the participants or it may attract Questors. Since the Quest is performed at favourite and well known locations, there are often standard participants. For instance, if the Quest is performed in the north of the Storm Hills then Zorak Zoran is normally played by a member of the Sazdorf Clan, Inora is performed by an Inora Cultist from the Storm Hills, Orlanth is played by the Orlanthi starting the Quest and Yelmalio is played by Sun Domers. If performed in Balazar then Yelmalio is played by a Balazar/Yelmalio cultist from Dykene or Elkoi, Orlanth is played by an Orlanthi from Trilus, Inora is an Inora cultist and Zorak Zoran is played by a Zorak Zoran cultist from the Troll Hills. If the Quest is performed at the Hill of Gold then Inora is played by Inora cultists from the Hill of Gold, with the other participants coming from cultists who have travelled there for the purpose of taking part in the Quests. In this case, the Yelmalian PC may gain a Fire Crystal (from Plunder) as a reward for taking part.
Of all the forms of the Quest, the chances of danger are lowest in the Riddling and Wagering forms and highest in the Long and Short forms receptively.
I have tried to include the Riddling, Wagering and Combat forms of the Quests in each Quest, but I prefer the Combat Form and have probably made that form more detailed. Many people may feel that low level characters would benefit from the Riddling or Wagering forms of the Quest before attempting the Short or Long Forms. Short Form Quests are involved in Holy Day Rituals where they are celebrated in the Hill of Gold.
Generally, only the Long Form Quest involves full Quests for all participants. The Riddling, Wagering and Short Form Quests all have participants who only take part in the Stations that are involved in the particular Quest. For instance, in the Wagering form of the Zorak Zorani Quest, Yelmalio takes part without his armour or Spear but does not fight Orlanth, Inora or Chaos, he merely exists to lose his Fire Powers. Quite often, cultists will volunteer to take part in Short Form of the Quests in order to avoid the other parts of the Quest, so a Yelmalian may take part in the Zorak Zoran Quest in order to gain the Zorak Zoran cultist's Fire Powers or at least gain the ability to use Fire Powers, of course they usually lose.
If PCs take the role of more than one participant on the Quest then the GM must co-ordinate the Quests so that the PCs meet at the same time. The best way to do this is to run both Quests simultaneously, either in the same room or in different rooms - I prefer to run these things in the same room for convenience and so that the players can enjoy the other Quests, after all it is a game. Run each Station at the same time, so if two PCs were an Orlanthi and a Zorak Zorani, the Stations would be played like this: Zorak Zoran vs Inora, Orlanth vs Yelmalio; Zorak Zoran vs Yelmalio, Orlanth vs Inora; Zorak Zoran vs Orlanth; Zorak Zoran vs Chaos, Orlanth vs Chaos. The Stations on the other Quests need not be played out as they are background material, however the GM should be aware of what happened on those Quests (i.e. the Inora and Yelmalio Quests).
The GM must generate NPC Questors for the other participants, normally these would be rivals whom the Questors have faced before, often they would be personal enemies, if any still live. So, if the Orlanthi in the above example has had run-ins with a Yelmalian NPC then that NPC could well be used as Yelmalio, especially if they had met on HeroQuests before. These NPCs should be similar in level to the Questors unless they have personal enemies of different levels.
The GM must check each Station to see what powers each participant will have by virtue of the magic items they possess. He must also think of what may happen if the participants invoke other Quests to gain powers/abilities/spells. This makes the Quest flow better and makes him look especially proficient rather than having to leaf through pages of information at every turn. He must also determine what tactics the NPCs will use and what they will say to the PCs.
At each stage, he must determine what benefits the PCs are likely to gain from being victorious or what penalties from being defeated. Above all, he must be consistent. It is no use giving the Orlanthi an ability of Heroic Casting of Lightning for gaining the Lightning Spear and the Zorak Zorani a Fireblade spell for gaining the Heart of Fire. Generally, benefits should reflect the levels of the participants. If they are Lay Members (rare but possible) they should gain Spirit Magic, if initiates Spirit Magic, one-use Rune Magic or Matrices, if Rune Levels reusable Rune Magic, Heroic Casting of spells or Magic Items. Yelmalians should gain Geases if they lose (or maybe if they win as well). People who do evil things on their Quests should be punished with Geases or Curses. Invoking exotic abilities should be punished with exotic foes, especially where the Quest Invoked has certain effects associated with it.
Cragspider first developed this Quest in an early variant of the Hill of Gold. She wanted a shortened form of the Quest and did not want to fight Orlanth or ask for Inora's Permission, so she took a short cut. However, as she did not meet Inora she did not gain the Ice Armour so the Fire burnt her horribly, forcing her from the rest of the Quest and making her trade her fertility for the healing of the fire damage. A variant was developed where Zorak Zoran asks Inora for permission but does not mate with Inora and does not receive the Chill Embrace and hence no ice Armour with the same results, but not annoying the Inora Cult. Some Zorak Zoran clans have the secret of Fire maul without losing Fertility as they have learned the normal Hill of Gold Quest and also the Fire maul variant, so they know that Inora gives them the Ice Armour, thus allowing them to take the Heart of Fire, Fire Fist and Fire maul without suffering the Unbearable Pain. These are rare, however, because very few people belong to CragSpider's Zorak Zoran cult and of those that do, most were born into it and know of know other versions. Those who join from the outside are not always trusted by CragSpider and are rarely taught the secret of Fire Maul. Those that are only teach the good version of the Quest to their followers in the best tradition of Clan-based cultures.
Yelmalio in Prax does not know of the Hill of Gold as they knew him before this happened. If they are involved in the Quest it is a rarity and they are at a disadvantage unless they have learned the Quest from Sun Domers or other outsiders.
Sun Domers in Prax, Balazar, Dragon Pass, Peloria and Saird know of the Hill of Gold and perform it locally and even make pilgrimages to the Hill of Gold itself.
Zorak Zorani in Dagori Inkarth, Dragon Pass, the Holy Country and Peloria know of the Hill of Gold and perform it regularly. Those outside these areas do not know of the Quests and do not perform it or take part in the Quest.
Orlanthi in Prax, Dragon Pass, Saird and Peloria know of the Hill of Gold and perform it regularly. Those outside these areas do not know of the Quests and do not perform it or take part in the Quest, although they know the myths they view the Quest as "foreign" and hence not worth performing. However, they could perform the Quest if they found a way to learn it..
Inora cultists know of the Hill of Gold wherever they are as the Quest is local to her areas of worship.
The Quests can be run at any level, from Lay Member up to Super-Rune Level or Hero Level, with benefits gained at different levels. It is particularly suitable for initiate or Rune Level where most people play.
I think that the Hill of Gold can be extended so that it can include other participants with ease, as extra Stations to be met by the participants, but these would be local variants. For example, Eurmal can be included to distract Zorak Zoran from killing Yelmalio, for leading High King Elf to Yelmalio, to try to seduce Inora or whatever.
I have tried to not give accounts of the mystical meanings of the Hill of Gold, how it reflects the struggles of the Gods in the world, how each stage reflects Orlanth's battles in the Ages of the God Time, how each of the Gods learned from it. I leave that to more knowledgeable people, and in any case people should be able to draw their own ideas from the Quests and use them as a basis of the cults' mystical natures.
Above all, the Hill of Gold should be fun to run, great to play and full of adventure and daring. Enjoy.