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Char-Un Rider Initiation

- by Wesley Quadros

Many thanks to
Jeff Kyer for
his input.

As is it practised among the Laguros Clan in the far north.

Char-Un RidersIntroduction: When the children of the Char-Un reach their 13th summer, and they are deemed ready by the clan elders, they are taken by the shaman onto the spirit steppe of Kargzant the Bright Ancestor and initiated into the ways of Morgzil the Hunter, patron of the Riders. On their quest they are shown what it means to be a Rider of the Char-Un and the joy of the hunt; this is the first step into along the path of adulthood and both boy and girl take it. They explore the four parts of their lives: their values, spirituality, physical skills and mental abilities.

Benchmark: This initiation is designed for characters with most skills around 13 and with Ride and Archery around 16. This can be used as background for starting characters to give them a flavour for their traditions; run the episode as a flashback and reduce their skills to the appropriate level. Give any bonuses they receive to their starting character.

1. Cross to the Spirit World

The clan has settled into its summer pastures and the elders have selected those children they think are ready to meet Morgzil. The shaman has spoken with the spirits and selected an auspicious day and gathered the clan at Kargzant's Print, a large hoof-shaped hollow in a nearby hill. This is a holy site to your clan and its location is jealously guarded. You fast for two days while sitting in the sun in preparation for your journey.

The shaman paints your faces with red and yellow dyes while singing the calling song to the ancestors. His apprentice beats the sacred horsehide drum calling the spirits to witness the ceremony. When the shaman is finished he leads you into the spirit circle that he prepared earlier. When done properly this takes place at noon when Kargzant is directly overhead. The families and clan members, led by the lo-Pan (clan chief) continue the chanting. The il-Pan (war captain) stands as the North Guard defending the circle from enemies. Other warriors stand to the east, west and south. The north is the most dangerous point and there is almost always some danger that comes during the ceremony. The South Guard usually falls asleep for everybody knows that nothing ever comes from the south, neither friend nor foe. The shaman leads you in the sacred dance that Morgzil taught the Sun-sons during the Hard Times and you are soon covered in sweat and feeling faint from the presence of your ancestors.

The drumming starts to fade and mighty warriors appear among the crowd, the clan's ancestors come to watch you. Kargzant's light grows brighter, as the drum grows fainter, until you cannot see through the glare. When the light fades you are on Kargzant's Steppe. The drum continues to beat in your heart, very faintly. Behind you stand the shaman, his face hidden in mists, and your fathers, their souls radiant in their glory [1].

The characters have now entered the spirit world. As this initiation takes place on Kargzant's Steppe in the spirit world - a favourable place - all Char-Un gain +5 to their abilities while they are there. For ease of play assume that the shaman provides 4 points of carry-over from the initial ritual.

2. Select a Spirit Mount

You are standing on a wide plain bathed in Kargzant's light. Your spirit mount stands before you eager to stretch its legs across the steppe. Before you stands a man holding your mount. Does the man have the head of a deer, of a dog, of a hawk, of a horse, of a wolf or is it shrouded in shadows?

Each player needs to chose which man holds his mount and should describe, in detail, what their spirit mount looks like and what its name is. They should add this to their character sheet.

After the quest give each player +2 bonus to listed the abilities depending on who brought them their mount; if they do not have the ability then give them one at 12:

Deer (Wise, Agile)
Dog (Loyal, Hunting)
Hawk (Honour, Hawk-Eyed)
Horse (Stoic, Ride)
Wolf (Brave, Close Combat)
Shadows (Crazed, Spirit Sight)

Now you must prove yourself worthy of the mount.

Master Mount (10): Ride horse.
Complete Victory: Character greatly impresses the spirits. When they return from their quest their horse will have gained a talent, at 17, related to their spirit mount. +3 to Ride.
Any Victory: The character successfully masters their mount. +1 to Ride.
Any Defeat: The character needs help to mount, they have embarrassed themselves before their father and the watching ancestors.
Complete Defeat: The character cannot mount until the shaman steps forward and calms the animal. With his help they finally do mount. Gain a Reputation for Poor Horsemanship 12.

Now that they are mounted, the characters ride towards the horizon followed by the clan's ancestors; they are headed to Kargzant's Yurt, his camp, to join Morgzil in the Great Hunt.

3. Kargzant's Yurt

Your ride over a ridge and see spread on the plain before you Kargzant's Yurt. You can see that preparations are being made for the Great Hunt. Bands of riders are approaching from all sides and threading their way through Kargzant's herds. There are many gers, tents, in the yurt with riders gathered around them. In the centre of the yurt rises a great golden ger that radiates light like the sun it self. Twenty and four, how the Char-Un count a man [2], mighty champions stand guard around the ger. Around the golden ger are the gers of the noblest ancestors and among them stands a small tent that emits a muted glow and is warded by four warriors of fire. Outside the ancestral rings stands a tattered black ger. A dark owl sits atop the felt [3]. Which gathering do you join?

Each player needs to select a group of men that they will join.

Golden Yurt: Kargzant's tent. (Relation to Morgzil, Ride)
Ancestor's Yurts: (Relation to Ancestors, Char-Un Myths)
Glowing Yurt: The Shaman's tent. (Tradition Knowledge, -1 to Relation to Family)
Black Yurt: The Slayer's tent. (Intimidating, Relation to Foilen)

Prove Your Lineage (10): Char-Un Myths, Relation to Family.
Any Victory: You are accepted as a child of Kargzant and allowed into the group.
Any Defeat: You fail to prove yourself and are rebuffed. Your ancestors grudgingly take you into their group, load you down with their spare wineskins and hitch a wagon to your mount to carry the catch back to camp. You will suffer -10 to all ride rolls for the rest of the quest.

Give them +2 bonus to their abilities, depending on the tent, when they are accepted. If they don't have the ability then give it to them at 12.

4. The Hunt

Morgzil gathers the hunters, you among them, around him and leads them onto the steppe; you all spread out into a long line seeking prey. Char-Un hunt in bands that seek prey and then harry it, in a group, across the steppe. The primary weapon of the hunt is the bow and to a lesser extent the lariat, some large prey - like bears and wood bison - are hunted with the lance.

Find Prey: Track, Listen, Ride (-8), Know Prey Animals
Complete Victory: The character spies a large predator, a small pack of wolves or a bear and may pursue.
Any Victory: The character spies a herd of antelope and may pursue.
Any Defeat: The character fails to find any prey but may follow a more successful hunter. With prey spotted, all of the hunters race to encircle the animals felling them as they fly across the plain.

Chase Prey (13): Ride, Run Fast (-5)
Any Victory: The character catches an animal and holds it in attack range. There will be 1d6 other pursuers including other characters that failed their hunting rolls within range of your animal. The best success reaches attack range first.

Catch Prey (12): Archery, Lariat (-2), Lance (-5)
Remind the players at this point that they are trying to prove themselves before their gods and the ancestors. Don't accept little bids. If they bid small then somebody else will come roaring up on their horse, bid everything they have and take the kill. Give them one exchange before another rider arrives.
Any Victory: The prey is brought down by the character's actions.
Any Defeat: Somebody else catches the deer.

Any character that manages to fell their prey on their own should get a bonus to the skill used. Also award one fetish or talent to each successful hunter. This should be a Morgzil spirit that related to some aspect of the hunt that the character did the best at.

5. The Feast

Back at the yurt the hunter's bounty is roasted and consumed. The riders gather before Morgzil's ger. They sit on their saddle blankets, illuminated by the light of ma-Tamara shining from above. The Hunter's Ger is large enough for the assemblage to gather within but none wish to on the night after the Great Hunt. The mare's bladder, or wineskin, is passed around and Morgzil's slaves dance before the assembled warriors and hunters. Those who did well during the hunt are praised, those who did poorly are ridiculed. Boasts are exchanged among the gathering, tales told and rebutted. Everybody has a great time.

Encourage the characters to engage in the boasts and tale telling. Remind them that they are now adults and are, for the first time, allowed to, in fact are expected to speak at an adult gathering. Also remind them that this is the first time they are allowed to drink koumiss, the fermented mare's milk and that they probably get roaring drunk in no time.

Impress Audience (12): Boast, Knowledge of Other Clans, Char-Un History
Complete or Major Victory: You gain the roaring approval of the gathered riders and a smile from Morgzil. The Hunter gifts you with an arrowhead, formed from three hawk's talons [4].
Marginal or Minor Victory: You impress the audience with your knowledge and impulsiveness.
Any Defeat: You embarrass yourself and your ancestors.

6. The Return

After the feast you ride out of the camp and find the shaman waiting for you. You rejoin him in the sacred dance and hear the drumming, that never stopped, grow louder. Kargzant's light grows brighter and until everything is white, as the light fades the drum grows more distinct and your families reappear around you.

If the character was successful in three or more stations in the quest then they are now adults in the Laguros clan. They are riders and are now responsible for herding the horses and hunting for their families. They will be given their first adult composite bow, though they need to make their own arrows, and they are given a horse of their own - remarkably similar to how they described their spirit mount. Failure in the quest means that they are still children and will have to work hard over the next year to regain the favour of their parents and the elders so that they may gain initiation next year.

Any character that chose the Shadowed man in stage 2 AND the Glowing Yurt in stage 3 has a fetch that can be awakened. The shaman will probably, unofficially, adopt them and will train them as his apprentice. When he deems them ready their fetch will be awakened and the character will become a shaman. If the character is not currently a shaman do not tell them this. Any character that chose the Shadowed man OR the Glowing Yurt may have a fetch, or may gain a special affinity with the spirit world that may lead to the future gaining of a spirit ally.


Any Critical Roll: If the players roll a critical during any contest then the GM should note the skill and give the character a +1 bonus to the skill at the end of the quest.

[1] This may be the appropriate time for some flaw in their father's being to become evident, some shadow on their soul.

[2] To most people, a score, the count of a man, is 20. The Char-Un know that this is wrong. No man is complete without his horse. Therefore the count of a man is 24, 10 fingers, 10 toes, 4 hooves.

[3] The owl is a creature of the night and is thus the opposite of the hawk, Kargzant's bird. Owls represent death to the Char-Un.

[4] Morgzil's Arrow has a weapon rank of 6. Its use must be declared during bidding and may only be used once during any contest.


October 11, 2000

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