RuneQuest is copyright 2023 Chaosium Inc., Old-School Essentials is copyright 2023 Necrotic Gnome

This new initiation episode features Matt, a school teacher who recently moved to Virginia and does the Lord of Chaos’ good work by introducing kids to roleplaying games.

Show Notes

Things we mention in this episode include:

  • Starting with D&D (of course).
  • Getting “sucked” into Vampire: The Masquerade and the World of Darkness setting, particularly Mage: The Ascension.
    • We don’t need to get into the weeds of the WoD metaplot.
  • Discovering the OSR movement, and especially OSE.
  • Going from Troika to Seth Skorkowski to Call of Cthulhu to RuneQuest 2nd edition (classic reprint)
  • Reading RQ2 cover to cover. It has layers of complexity but somehow in a simple way. It’s less crunchy than, say, Lancer.
  • Rurik’s saga in the RQ2 rulebook gives a fascinating glimpse of the setting.
  • The idea of ransom is very interesting, especially to prevent PCs from always killing everyone.
  • Cults of Prax also has a very interesting narrative, and expands nicely upon the cults glimpsed at in the RQ2 rulebook.
  • The new RQG books are like RQ2 but with a lot (a lot!) more pages, and great art (some of the best ever found in an RPG product).
  • Matt had a false-ish start as an RQG gamemaster, but has now found a player spot in someone else’s game.
  • RQG character creation is way too long and complicated.
    • Too many choices to make.
    • Lots of information that that needs to be looked up about the setting.
    • Somehow RQ2 did a better job teasing the setting but implying that “nobody knows more that this”. Comparatively, RQG teases the setting in a way that sends the reader to the Glorantha Sourcebook and other lore books.
    • This might be because reading RQ2 puts the reader back at the origin of the game.
  • Matt ran the Broken Tower but the first character took three evenings to create. He therefore used a more “we’ll figure it out as we go” approach, coupled with pre-gens, for the other characters and the lore.
    • Not looking up all the lore you don’t need for an adventure is important.
  • The Glorantha Sourcebook might be required reading to explain a lot of stuff from the rulebook (like the many places, events, and NPCs mentioned in the Family History).
  • Dreaming of a simpler character creation system, like Call of Cthulhu’s faster creation options from the Investigator Handbook.
  • Matt experienced the Broken Tower a second time as a duck, and is now on to more adventures in Dragon Pass… including going to the Shaker Temple and descending into Hell!
  • Matt wouldn’t necessarily recommend RQ2 as a first dive into Glorantha, but he recommends it as a good rules system read.
  • Matt recommends the RuneQuest Starter Set and its world-book as a first contact with Glorantha.
    • But Sartar is Matt’s least interesting place to game in.
  • Matt changes his mind and recommends Khan of Khan instead to get started… but we discuss how the game is now out of print.
  • Ducks are real cool, and the Spirit World is cool too.
  • Matt isn’t really interested in metaplots in general, and Glorantha’s Hero Wars isn’t any different.
    • We talk a bit about various ways of playing around a metaplot, or ignoring it.
    • Joerg argues about taking on the role of the main heroes of a metaplot.
  • Matt wishes there was more information outside of Sartar and the River of Cradles, and outside of the Orlanthi pantheon.
    • Again, the Sourcebook is recommended reading, but (at the time of recording) the release of the first few cult books was imminent.
  • Matt asks his question for Joerg, about how the Mindlink spells aren’t in RQG.
    • Ludo talks about the dark-elf walkie-talkie hack, and Joerg mentions the Waertagi sort of did that already.
  • As we go through the wildcard questions, we also go on a tangent about Yelmalio (who else?) that leads us through the God Time, the Dawn, and up to the Sandheart campaign.


The intro music is “Dancing Tiger” by Damscray. The outro music is “Islam Dream” by Serge Quadrado. Other audio is from the FreeSound library.

In this episode which we finally get around to talking about 13th Age Glorantha. Ludo and Jörg are joined by Becca of “Dames & Dice” fame on the Iconic Podcast, and by Evan Franke, of “Exploring Glorantha” fame.

  • Becca is part of the Iconic Production Podcast, a bunch of podcasts and channels dedicated to talking about 13th Age, which includes 13th Age Glorantha. Becca has Glorantha experience not just from a multi-session game of 13th Age Glorantha, but also from two RuneQuest Roleplaying in Glorantha games (one of which she talks about in episode 5 of Dames & Dice).
  • Evan has already been on this podcast together with J-M in episode 19 of our podcast, talking about Jackals and Ancient World-Building. He may be more familiar to you as the source of deep Glorantha lore on the Exploring Glorantha YouTube series. He jokingly describes himself as a “hanger-on” of Iconic Production podcasts and actual plays.

As Ludo expounds on the history of Glorantha as a setting for games, Becca drops that she has the board game: a copy of the original White Bear and Red Moon, gifted to her at Christmas last year by her dad who did a lot of roleplaying in college along a couple of AD&D 1st edition books.

13th Age

Ludo admonishes people to not just buy the 13th Age Glorantha book thinking of it as a full game as you need the 13th Age rules along with this book. (Ludo claims it has to be the full rules book, but it is possible to work out the rules from the SRD which is free from Pelgrane Press)

Becca outlines 13th Age: a fantasy D20 roleplaying game which feels somewhat similar to D&D 5th edition with a few exceptions (no skills, backgrounds, the idea of failing forward) and being a lot more heroic in scope than your usual start into a D20 game.

Ludo quotes descriptions of 13th Age as a mix of D&D 3.5 and D&D 4th edition, usually in reflection of its authors’ involvement in those two iterations of D&D.

Ludo comments on the tone of the writing in the 13th Age rules book, and on the emphasis on the player characters being the heroes (and movers and shakers) in the world rather than just another bunch of schmucks.

Becca agrees that beginning characters are a lot more powerful than in D100 games or like roughly a 5th level character in D&D 5th edition.


One thing to put your character on the hero’s path is your Iconic Relationship, a connection to one of the 13 Icons in 13th Age. (The number 13 comes up a lot…)

There are 13 Icons to the world, great beings who can influence your character and how that character is made.

Jörg asks what an Icon is: a god, a demigod? Becca gives a few examples, like the Emperor (of the Dragon Empire) who has a lot of resources and followers behind him, the Great Druid who lives in the woods with an agenda to let nature take down civilization, the Diabolist, the Crusader, the Orc Lord, etc.

In Gloranthan terms, these would be people like the Red Emperor (a reincarnating demigod) or Zzabur (immortal sorcerer supreme). Ludo points out that while these Icons may have agendas antagonistic to one’s own personal or cultural agendas, there are no outright good or evil individuals among these Icons.

Rob Heinsoo and Jonathan Tweet went into the rulebook saying “It is your world, nothing has to work in it like it does in our world.” That means that the Emperor might really care about running the Dragon Empire down to the details, or he might just use his position as highest authority in the Empire to acquire some certain personal goal or object of power. Likewise the Orc Lord may seem like a terrible person leaving a trail raiding and pillaging behind him, or he could be a liberator for all the monsters in the Empire suppressed by human (elf, dwarf, …) supremacy. Which sounds a lot like Prince Argrath to Jörg.

Ludo points out the conversational style of the rulebook, with little jokes, designers’ notes (at times contradicting one another),

One Unique Thing

In 13th Age, each character has one distinctive feature that sets them apart from all the rest of the people in the world. It may be something big and major from the onset, or it might start as something simple and small but possibly growing as your character acquires levels and more powers.

Becca tells us about her and Evan’s characters in the Iconic Production playtest actual play game. Becca’s character was the last heir to the Ringsome Dukedom, a formerly lovely place now swallowed by a Hellhole. Evan has something that can either destroy the Lich King (one of the 13 icons) or restore the Lich King to its former glory, the wizard king. Evan describes this as his gift to the GM to shape the campaign, not as an in-game benefit to the character but as a campaign hook for the unfolding story of the characters.

Jörg concludes that this concept might be translated to Glorantha as something like “I am Arkat Reborn” (although Evan points out that that claim is actually not that unique as there will be five Arkats in the foreseeable course of the Hero Wars at the same time).

Ludo asks how that collection of Unique Things for each player character works out in practice for the GM who has to balance these rather different personal spotlights in the course of the campaign, but Becca points out that these reduce the number of Icons the GM has to keep track of for that campaign, with Becca’s heiress having a negative relation to the Diabolist (as source of that Hell Hole), and Evan’s character having (to build) a relation to the Lich King and his activities.

Becca describes Evan’s One Unique Thing as more of an end of campaign (arc) item when the decision which way to go is made while her own theme of dealing with the Hell Hole might be more mid-campaign,

Jörg asks how these rather specific directions of such a campaign align with pre-written adventures for 13th Age. Becca describes how 13th Age adventures too are written in a conversational tone, asking the prospective GM about the main Icons and giving some ideas how each of the Icons might influence this specific adventure, giving 3 or four ideas for each Icon.

Becca quotes some of her own writing for Pelgrane Press for the to be released in a near future, “Behemoths: Path of the Koru”. In her contribution, Becca outlines how the impending death of the Behemoths will affect the Dragon Empire and the future of the setting, providing advice for each Icon how they are involved and what their interest in this event may be.

Ludo points out a narrative mechanism where the players roll on their Icon relations and giving the GM a roll for the Icon which is going to be involved in the next leg of the game, providing another narrative clue to the GM about the direction this play-through of the scenario/campaign is going to take.

Becca gives a practical example how to spend a relationship point to the Icon in a situation where the player characters are stuck, invoking a narrative reason to apply said relationship. And also how a creative GM can take this approach to insert another complication to the lives of the characters.

Ludo rambles about how a gritty D20 game has such narrative mechanics, and Jörg feels reminded of how Fate Points are used in Fate.

Montage Technique

While Ludo is in the spirit of raiding 13th Age for other games, he points out a mechanic that might not even be in the core rules, the Montage technique, allowing you to go through “half the dungeon” in just about 15 minutes.

The GM challenges the players asking one of them to come up with a problem they encounter on their way into the story, and the person next to you will solve it, going through all the players to create a shared idea about the story so fat. Unless it is a big ask, you don’t typically spend spell slots or similarly limited resources on these but just solve these narratively.

Failing Forward

When designing their rules, Jonathan and Rob observed that in many games there was a danger of getting stuck in a station of a scenario if nobody rolled well enough. In order to keep the narrative going, the player attempting e.g. to pick a lock still fails their roll, but the GM still allows the door to open, but introduces a complication. The door opens, and behind it there have gathered a bunch of armed and angry orcs…

Ludo talks about how old-school investigative games (or scenarios) may get stuck by the players (and/or their characters) failing to find or to get the clues, where some more recent games like Robin Laws’ Gumshoe (also published by Pelgrane Press) have the philosophy that the players automatically get the relevant clues but modifying the narrative (and possibly the sense of personal achievement).

Escalating Combats

The Escalation Die in 13th Age is meant to reflect how the momentum in a fight builds up as it progresses. In the first round of the combat, the Escalation die is not used, but in the following round it is turned to show a 1, resulting in the player characters’ attacks gaining plus 1 on their D20 roll (where rolling high is good), giving +2 the next round, maxing out at +6. This helps speed up combat by reducing the chance of the big heroes missing all their rolls in combat. Normally this applies only to attack rolls, unless a character has a special ability allowing the use of the Escalation Die. Equally, normal monsters don’t benefit from the Escalation Die unless they are special monsters like dragons, who do. There might also be special circumstances where the GM may deny the Escalation Die to the player characters, like subjecting them to a fear power, making monsters scarier or forcing players to approach a fight more tactically than just dicing out attack rolls.

The Escalation Die may also be used as a timing device for the GM to trigger an additional event, helping to build more dynamism into a scene.

Porting this over into other game systems as a cumulative attack bonus could easily be done, e.g. a cumulative 10% bonus. Whether this makes a good timer when ported to say RQG is another question.

Monsters Have Fixed Damage

Which makes player “death” rather predictable once you have suffered a few hits, especially since you don’t get to do anything actively to block damage, as Jörg observed in a game he sat in.

Evan points out that the player characters have always the option to run away from an opponent (unlike RQG which penalizes such retreats), and also that player characters have a go at a heroic return, a game mechanic familiar to players of the WBRM/Dragon Pass board game and repurposed to simulate the “backdoor from Hell” heroquesting reward that seems to have been one common heroquesting bonus in the Stafford house campaign.

Other Features of 13th Age

Missed rolls by player characters still deal some minimum damage.

There is a whole chapter of advice on building battles and staging opposition.

When Jörg asks about how non-combat specialists fare in battle, we learn that with very few exceptions all classes will have combat or at least combat-supporting abilities. There is no idea how to model a pacifist Chalana Arroy healer as a 13th Age Glorantha class yet, though.

13th Age Glorantha

Next, we move on to 13th Age Glorantha specifically.

The “Chaos Rises!” Campaign

When translating Glorantha into a sandboxy framework for fighting monsters, the designers opted to go with Chaos as the existential threat that needs to be dealt with rather than politicking or intrigue.

Chaos Rises! is the framework for 13th Age Glorantha. While the Kickstarter for 13th Age Glorantha also financed the publication of the (system-less) Glorantha Sourcebook which provides the background for the upcoming Hero Wars, the main premise of 13G is that the world is breaking as Chaos rises. You need to pull together desperate player characters to prevent the world from falling apart as a separate thread from the geopolitical conflict between the resurging Kingdom of Sartar and the Lunar Empire. While that conflict spawns some of this, there are other places where Chaos rears its ugly head, like the scorpionfolk queen Gagix Twobarb down south in Larnste’s Footprint or chaos monsters boiling out of Snake Pipe Hollow and other notorious dens of Chaos. In keeping with the general design philosophy of 13th Age this is not an absolute requirement, the basic idea is that heroes set out to patch the world together so that there is a stage for the Hero Wars to happen at all.

Given Evan’s credits as a big Glorantha expert (Ludo said nerd, but…), Ludo asks whether Evan’s games feature elements and protagonists of the official Hero Wars prophecies, or whether he just lets loose fighting Chaos. Evan tells of two different paths he has taken, one GMing published introductory scenarios for newcomers to both Glorantha and 13th Age, such as The Next Valley Over where something chaotic destroyed your neighbouring community and you have to figure out what it is, or The Horn of Snake Pipe Hollow which is from the 13th Age Glorantha rulebook itself.

Evan then mentions his “little side project” Red Moon and Warring Kingdoms which is set in Fronela, far away from Dragon Pass and exploring playing 13th Age Glorantha with Lunar characters (although not from the Lunar Empire). Parallel to Chaos Rising, there is the problem of the Kingdom of War in Fronela, distracting from the (Sartar and Lunar Empire focus on the) Hero Wars. For Evan, this is also a return to the spirit of adventuring in RQ2 in distant areas like Balazar where the local adventures and dangers make up your experience of Glorantha, a sandbox of dungeons as Ludo puts it.

Runes as Icons

Ludo points out that even the description of the setting in 13th Age Glorantha is not by region, but by rune, providing Chaos places like Snake Pipe Hollow or Larnste’s Print, Disorder places like the Big Rubble and the Rockwood Mountains, Dragonewt places, Earth strongholds etc. Not so much a cohesive whole but locations to pick and insert into your campaign regardless of geography.

Ludo refers to a map pointed out to him by our listener Uzz, a map of Dragon Pass and Prax without any labels at all, leaving this up to the GM and the campaign to develop or to randomly re-interpret.

Evan elaborates that in standard 13th Age the Icons are important movers and shakers in the world, and that the authors could have ported that into the world of 13th Age Glorantha framing Jar-eel, the Red Emperor, Argrath etc. as Icons. Rather than these transitory characters, you have a relationship with several runes that dominate your life and personality. We see something like that in RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha, but in 13th Age Glorantha this is limited to a set of three runes, one of which (at least) should be connected to your deity and cult.

This extends to framing the scenes by rolling which rune will be influencing the upcoming scene. Ludo admits that he had to re-read the “Narrating the Runes” chapter a number of times to get an idea how to make that work.

Similar to the Icon relationships in 13th Age, a character’s relationship to three of the runes can be positive, neutral or negative/conflicting. Rather than the augmenting role you get from Runic inspiration in RuneQuest Glorantha, in 13th Age Glorantha the runes allow the player to frame the scene from a story-telling or atmospheric approach.

Ludo describes how RQG might force a player to spend a rune point for such atmospheric enhancement of a scene when all they wanted was to look cool when taking the narrative spotlight, something more easily achieved in HeroQuest Glorantha/Questworlds, and in 13th Age Glorantha.

Character Classes

13th Age character classes start with a short blurb about what the role of members of this character class is in the world.

We start with the Trickster class, which is a unique approach and definitely not for everyone. The core idea is a role for a heroic Trickster. Evan describes his experience playing such a trickster as the rest of the party playing in Beowulf or the Iliad while the Trickster was playing in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Everything the Trickster does serves to make the other characters look and act more heroic while causing pain and danger to the Trickster. These powers include to “take possession” of a fumble rolled by another player, applying that to the next roll done by the Trickster, or to cause critical success for another player by taking on a ridiculous disadvantage for the Trickster.

Evan describes a scene where his actions as a Trickster enable the party Humakti to make use of an ability that the initial miss on his attack would otherwise have wasted, resulting in the comic relief granting the Humakti their great moment.

Speaking of comic relief, Jörg asks whether you can play a duck in 13th Age Glorantha. This brings us to cultural backgrounds and races, of which there are several human cultures with different advantages and disadvantages in the book, plus Dark Trolls and Ducks. Ducks get one of two powers – the grim death-wielding power or the wacky comic-relief power. Evan mentions that his upcoming opus will contain not just human followers of the Lunar Way and other Fronelan cultures, but also Mostali, Aldryami and Waertagi as ancestral backgrounds.

Ludo suggests that all the class-based powers in 13th Age Glorantha are good ideas to be used as Heroquesting boons or abilities. There is also a chapter on heroquest gifts by runes in 13th Age Glorantha.

Ludo describes how especially the Earth Priestess and the Hellmother have entire hosts of spirits they can summon repeatedly in different combats, unlike the very restricted rune power economy in a game of RQG.

This leads to a more heroic style of Glorantha, perhaps the anime version of Glorantha (rather the Saturday morning cartoon version, to allow some adult content). While RuneQuest does offer a toolkit with which you can ultimately construct such effects, with the 13th Age Glorantha powers you simply get to use these in play without fine-tuning and developing your character in that direction. Jörg points towards the RQ2 Runemasters supplement where each of the sample rune masters had zoos of spirits enabling them to overcome some of these limitations, but Ludo feels that with new limitations like the RQG Charisma cap for spirits controlled by a character the RuneQuest resource economy remains more stingy.

Glorantha Through Different Systems

After all this talk about how 13th Age compares to RuneQuest, Jörg asks about how the experience compares to playing HeroQuest Glorantha/Questworlds. Evan refers to his experience of playing with Ian Cooper at Chaosium Con. 13th Age Glorantha is a lot crunchier than Questworlds, with classes, powers etc. providing rather strict definition what can be done. Where 13th Age Glorantha is about fighting monsters in Glorantha in the course of the narrative, Questworlds with its single roll resolution mechanic is a game of telling a story, having a rich narrative experience in engaging with the world followed through with a very simple resolution mechanic.

Ludo chimes in that both 13th Age Glorantha and Questworlds have in common a more magical Glorantha as opposed to the more mundane Glorantha that can be modelled by RuneQuest. (Ludo actually suggested “boring” rather than mundane, and claims it would be nice to get some angry emails for a change.)


Putting his finger again into the continued absence of official rules for Heroquesting in RuneQuest, Ludo asks about the 13th Age implementation of Heroquesting.

Where an F20 game can be described as Dungeon Crawling, Jonathan Tweet and Rob Heinsoo described heroquesting as Myth Crawling, visiting various stations of the quest like stations in a dungeon. Evan describes the Lightbringers Quest where the Westfaring (to the Gates of Dusk) is a Wilderness adventure that gets you to the Dungeon, the descent into Hell, with various stations like the underworld palace of the Only Old One, getting thrown into the dungeons there, getting revived, descending even further to Yelm’s Court where there are tests to be overcome, and finally facing the Boss Monster, the Devil sent into Hell, in order to revive the world.

All of this can be put together like a dungeon adventure with stations like rooms. And the experimental heroquesting introduced by Arkat and exploited by the God Learners is that in certain rooms you have secret passages, leading to other parts of the dungeon or possibly into completely different dungeons. This analogy works very well to structure a heroquest.

Evan also talks about Jacquaying a dungeon, referring to Jennel Jacquays’ (of Griffin Mountain fame) seminal work in the early F20 space that there are different ways to get to different parts of the dungeon.

When asked about her experiences with Heroquesting (in RuneQuest), Becca confesses that it felt terrifying in the stakes. Her second experience resulted in her character being taken over by the Chaos entity with many bodies, returning to her tribe and eating them one by one.

The stakes were what terrified Becca. To her, a GM presenting the world right means that everything is important or consequential – who you get married to, who you sell your llamas to, who you make an alliance with, all those creates rather high stakes. Doing a heroquest on top of that, say you need to re-seal a box or your entire clan might be erased from the face of the world, increases those stakes to an existential level. The timelessness of Godtime means if you mess up there, it will always have been messed up. Jörg compares that to the time-traveller’s paradox problem.

Returning to 13th Age Glorantha, Ludo talks about the suggested heroquest gifts to be given to the characters. Jörg asks whether these are designed to fit into the character advancement options, but they are tied to runes, and essentially replace the distribution of magical items in standard 13th Age. These gifts are tied to a rune that is part of your character, the gifts have different categories such as combat boosts or defensive or special powers, and they can be levelled up from adventurer tier through champion tier to epic tier, giving both a mechanical bonus and some special narrative ability.

Ludo gives special mention to the fact that you might pick up Chaos gifts on heroquests, which come with a hilarious description. While there are some gifts that resemble rune spells in RuneQuest (making it Gloranthan to long-time fans), others are quite original.

Last Words

Ludo gives a shout-out to the artwork in 13th Age Glorantha.

Evan’s take-away from 13th Age Glorantha is its approach to monster design. The good thing about RQG (as well as D&D fifth edition) is that everything works the same (mechanically), and the bad thing about it is that everything works the same. The monsters have the same stats as the player characters and use the same spells as the characters, making them really complicated to run for a GM who has also to provide the ongoing narrative. This approach culminates in the mook rules for less consequential opponents. While Jörg throws in that in his experience of running RuneQuest he cannot remember when he last used fully stat’ed opponents outside of material for publication, Ludo shares that that is one of the most work-intensive and least pleasurable parts of preparing a publication for RuneQuest.

When asked about converting between 13th Age Glorantha and RuneQuest Roleplaying in Glorantha, Evan has ideas about converting e.g. Griffin Mountain to 13th Age when not working on his grand Fronelan opus.

Ludo gives a shout-out to the lists of enemies in the rules which is almost a graded set of encounters, with e.g. a broo shaman rather than a standard broo, or a maimed ghoul if the encounter needs to be toned down.

Becca talks about the ease of using elements from other 13th Age supplements for 13th Age Glorantha, and also in the other directions like e.g. scorpion men with their extra abilities that may be surprising in other F20 environments.

Becca points out how 13th Age Glorantha has everything (Gloranthan) in a single book, much like the Core 13th Age rulebook has everything you need to run the game.

Evan talks about the 13th Age SRD (System Reference Document) that has its own interactive website and complements the missing rules parts in the 13th Age Glorantha book, allowing you to make sense of the mechanical bits even without the full 13th Age rules set.

Still, Evan advocates getting lots of 13th Age stuff as it is very beautiful and evocative.

Looking at her collection, Becca suggests that she could stop buying stuff, but she just doesn’t want to. While there are multiple add-ons and campaigns which field their own monsters (or those from some of the additional bestiaries), the core book contains enough to get a game off the ground. There is a second edition of the core rules under development (currently being playtested), but backward compatibility or compatibility with 13th Age Glorantha will be good.

Where to Find Our Guests

Becca’s dulcet tones can be heard on Iconic Production Podcast, she is on the Iconic Production wordpress website, as well as on Youtube and Twitch, Twitter (nowadays X) and Instagram. Only genuine with the dragon icon:

Evan too can be found on various Iconic Production things, the back catalogue of actual plays, including at least one run by Evan, a 13th Age Glorantha game called Rising Moon Rescue, and you will see Evan again on Exploring Glorantha, which is currently in hiatus due to health issues for J-M. Thankfully J-M is on the road to recovery, and Evan gives his and Iconic Podcast’s appreciation for the outpouring of support for J-M and his family. Exploring Glorantha will be tackling Cults of RuneQuest in the next number of shows once they return to the regular schedule.

Ludo takes the opportunity to hoot his own horn about his own too publications on the Jonstown Compendium, A Short Detour and Bog Struggles, as well as a future publication on amnesiac Telmori werewolves and hopefully his “Goonies in Glorantha” campaign featuring children as player characters.


The intro music is “The Warbird” by Try-Tachion. Other music includes “Cinder and Smoke” and “Skyspeak“, along with audio from the FreeSound library.

I have acquired the Lightbringers and Earth Goddesses splatbooks! I have only just started reading them (so far I’m quite happy) but you should expect some in-depth reviews in the coming weeks.

Our guest for this episode is Austin Conrad, who last graced our podcast in episode 2, On the Road. Austin is the author of many things on the Jonstown Compendium, generally publishing under the “Akhelas” brand, while he is known as “Crel” on BRP Central, Discord, and social media.


Austin is a contender for the most productive publisher on the Jonstown Compendium with his 24 issue Myth of the Month series that ran for the first two years of the Jonstown Compendium, culminating in the sizeable scenario booklet To Hunt A God.

Akhelas is the name of the setting Austin started writing in 2016 before the Jonstown Compendium even existed, and before he was even involved in Glorantha. The setting is inspired by Homeric epics and the tales of Herodotus, and especially Thucydides and the conflicts of city states.

The cosmology of Akhelas derives heavily from Platon’s Timeas, and the setting is kind of on the edge between Bronze Age and Classic Age. Little wonder Austin “took to Glorantha like a duck to water”.

When Austin is going to start publishing this animist city-state Bronze Age warfare stuff, he expects people to point to Glorantha as a parallel. Great minds…

Austin expects to self-publish his first novel maybe later this year, more likely next year.

Ludo mentions that Shawn and Peggy Carpenter have returned their publication Valley of Plenty, with new material added: extra detail, new cults, extra adventures. Like Austin, Shawn has announced a novel for next year.

To Hunt A God

According to Austin, To Hunt A God is a heroquest where your adventurers do the thing it says in the title.

Before we conclude this episode with this definitive statement, Austin expresses his sense of accomplishment after getting this book into print on demand. He urges everybody to sit down and publish their stuff in the community content program. More stuff is great, and sitting down with your own book is a spectacular experience. Getting it print-ready took Austin about a week of work and then six weeks of waiting.

To Hunt A God contains a new cult for players, Hrunda. Austin had the goal to provide a player cult that people would want to belong to. Another major section of the book is a temple site dedicated to Hrunda and a number of associate beast totem cults with their human and animal worshippers.

The second half of the book contains the adventure. It sets off with a religious festival attended by the player characters. We discuss the location of the temple and the Old Woods in relation to Esrolia (west of the Skyreach range, north of Longsiland, the easternmost outreach of the Arstola forest).

Austin calls out both similarities and differences with the Wild Temple in Beast Valley. The temple in the Old Woods is more modest in extent, concentrating all its important holy places in a small area.

Austin explains that the adventure originated from his RuneQuest Glorantha campaign situated in the city of Sylthi in Esrolia. We talk a bit about how this piece of Arstola is different from the rest of the forest, and where to find information.

Austin admits that he still needs to catch up listening to our podcast. Ludo is not sure he has his priorities straight.

Making Up Cults

Ludo elaborates on how cults are the defining difference between RuneQuest Glorantha and other fantasy games and settings, and how sooner or later every group or GM will leave the canonical selection of cults behind for their own special thing. Even with the upcoming publication of the Cults of RuneQuest books (“more cults than you need”) you will sooner or later find your own niche cult. Jörg points out that already the third adventure in the Colymar Adventure book gives the player characters a choice about how the deity of the backstory will turn out, showing the official endorsement of this practice. Ludo counters with the Quickstart adventure which will lead to some new cult activity if the players go for mostly non-violent solutions.

Austin confesses that he is a great fan of making up cults. GMs as well as player tend to buy in to their game by adding a personal touch. In mainstream D20 games people make their own character class. In RuneQuest set in Glorantha these are the cults. Austin talks about numerous cults and deities that he wrote up for his Esrolia game. Ludo teases that people might understand this as a backlog of upcoming books, but Austin quickly denies anything within calling distance. There was a reason he needed 18 months to finish To Hunt A God after having hit a hard start into 2022, and re-entering a project with a thousand pages of notes after such a break won’t produce results quickly. Austin compares his creative process to that guy who has a disassembled car project in the garage he religiously visits, only to drink a beer or two rather than put in some effort.

Austin also explains how him turning to a full time writing job means that people need to buy his books if they want the Esrolia project to proceed, as there will be fewer commissions outside of his Glorantha writing.

Inspired by the Red Book of Magic

The Red Book of Magic is the collection of all the Rune Spells and special Spirit Spells from the Cults Books (at least at the time of its publication back in 2020, when we naively thought that the Cults Books would be just around the corner). Because of the delay of the less typical cult write-ups, Austin states that a spell without a known cult has no obvious way to use it in your game: a collection of toys without giving you the instructions how to use them.

One spell that caught Austin’s attention (and affection) was Proteus, a spell that allows the caster to change their shape into a shape that they have devoured earlier. While owners of RQ3 Gods of Glorantha would be able to find that this is a Triolina spell, people without this long out-of-print supplement have no way to associate that spell with a cult or to make use of it. Austin saw the Movement Rune, originally owned by Larnste, the god of Change.

Austin complains that the river cults are “boring as hell”, which is why he gives the river cults in his area access to shape-shifting. Austin had a player whose thief character could shape-shift, and it was a disaster, and they had a great time.

In Austin’s version, the river cults would give their worshippers three shapes that they could acquire with Meld Form (an Enchantment which doesn’t cost POW). These forms were bull, ram, and crocodile (actually baby crocodile).

Austin suggests that use of this spell combo could make Hsunchen shape-shifting magic less overpriced, with a beast partner sensing their approaching death potentially volunteering to give their shape to a human partner.

In summary, if you want to give access to an orphaned spell, how do you fit it into the setting in a way that is kind of unusual and unexpected.

Ludo describes how playing the scenario that he later published as Bog Struggles the players got access to the spirit of the River Horse, It seems to be very common to encounter spirits or forgotten godlings whose magic may get accessible as a spirit cult.

It is a question “What do I get in return for joining this cult”, and Austin points out that this mind-set was typical for the ancient (and earlier) periods. Cult practices were of a transactional nature – I give you this cow and you stop messing up my harvest by sending (pr withholding) rain. Deities were powerful forces, but not role models, unlike in modern monotheism.

Ludo calls the deities selfish assholes who mess with people and stuff, make children with whatever and demand worship and adoration. Jörg compares the deities to service providers who need to be propitiated in order to get the necessary service. We go on talking about Orlanth as Comcast deep in Balazar… We talk about how you only get the right kind of lightning when within reach of at least one of the holy mountains.

Types of Cults

The RuneQuest rules recognize several layers of cults by importance as well as by the target entity.

Spirit Cults

Spirit cults are a place to start if you want to screw with cults. They found very naturally upon exposure of the adventurers to the cult entity.

Austin wonders whether spirit cults are regularly established via adventurer types or whether they may be started by ordinary folk in the setting of Glorantha.

Ludo posits that usually there will be a shaman nearby whose job it is to monitor spirits and to know how to deal with them, both to avoid arousing them and when player adventurers or unlucky NPCs have aroused them (creating scenario hooks).

Jörg has a different approach, with spirits of and in the household or on a ship etc. being interacted with by ordinary people – often propitiated, but also asked for boons or magic.

Austin talks about household spirits falling into Ernalda’s domain, and Ludo brings up ancestor worship as another form of personal relation to spirits. Austin expects non-adventurer people not founding spirit cults but initiating into existing ones (providing the necessary number of worshipers for shrines to work). E.g. a minor healing spirit able to provide Cure Disease who may temporarily attract a great following.

Mechanically, spirit cults are a way to give player adventurers that one spell they cannot get from their main cult but can’t live without. Austin compares them to prestige classes in certain D20 games. In RuneQuest, this ties into the Power economy: how much you put into Rune spells, how much into personal enchantments, or other uses.

Austin re-invents the existing Praxian spirit cult Lightning Boy (the local form of Orlanth Adventurous).

Austin talks about giving a spirit cult a special rune spell and maybe one or two common rune spells. In hindsight, his treatment of Hrunda in To Hunt A God may have been over-complicated by giving some but not all common rune spells.

For another example, a Naiad who grants Breath Air/Water might make that POW investment more attractive if her cult also gave Heal Wound as an alternative use for that rune point.

Cult entities of spirit cults tend to be fairly minor deities or big spirits. Ludo thinks of them as not big enough to have played a role in the Gods War.

With major cults, Ludo sees a lot more strings attached.

Jörg proposes spirit cults as shards of greater deities unavailable in the local pantheon, e.g. in Prax (Lightning Boy) or the Lunar Heartlands. Austin and Jörg riff about farmer magics.

Austin asks whether most spirit cults would be formed after accidental encounters with a spirit, or whether people went out of their way to find a spirit to worship for a certain purpose. Ludo and Jörg agree that encounters play a role, whether in a game or in stories. (There are cases of heroes bringing in spirit cults to serve their communities, like e.g. Balazar with Mralota).

Ludo argues that spirit cults are just the first phase of a regular cult, with most remaining at this size (or disappearing again) while others grow and grow until they qualify for temples and regular cult structures. Ludo can see how (a local form of) Yelmalio could start out as a spirit cult before attracting more than a few dozen worshippers.

Other people go on exploratory heroquests to bring back an entity filling their needs that may turn out to be just an aspect of a greater deity (or grow into one). Jörg uses the simile of people describing the elephant by touching one of its parts to describe how such explorers may not grasp the full extent and associations of a deity they have contacted. Even major cults cannot really embrace the entirety of their deity.

Propitiation is a major point in spirit cults, too – giving sacrifice just to an aspect to be left in peace.

People constructing cults and shaping cult entities are known, too. Most notorious were the God Learners, but they were hardly alone. Austin points out that there is no reliable systematic approach, things need to be messy. Jörg suggests another term of these partial worship, splinter cults.

Austin makes a difference between contacting a tree spirit that exists within Time from contacting a God Time entity or partial entity like Aldrya. Austin also warns us not to delve too deep into the differences between God Time and Time…

Hero Cults

Austin starts with the observation that a hero cult is like a spirit cult, using the same mechanic. Ludo and Jörg point out that the difference lies mainly in the cult entity, as a worshipped cult hero may still be alive. Ludo even suggests that the entity can be one of the player characters.

Austin observes that it can be very fun to be worshipped, because then you get special powers. Jörg sees also a ball-and-chain aspect of being worshipped, as the cult entity gets pulled into the same role again and again, will he or nil he. Ludo asks whether that is more your echo in the God Plane, but Jörg claims that your echo and ego align over time. Ludo asks to expand this, so he can throw more shenanigans at his players (possibly referring to Austin here).

Ludo lays out the rules side of the deal. Your hero goes on a heroquest and obtains a heroquest ability and some hero points to activate it. Your hero then regains the hero points by being worshipped, and the worshipper in turn gain access to (a toned down variant of) the heroquest ability as a rune spell.

Jörg names Hofstaring Treeleaper as his go-to character for a hero with a cult. Hofstaring is worshipped among the Culbrea tribe, with some getting the tree-leaping rune spell. If Hofstaring was still alive, he would easily be challenged to jump the next impossible tree.

Austin prefers Jar-eel as his example (she has that effect on people who encounter her). If you were facing Jar-eel and you had a feat that allows your axe to do double damage against Lunes (Red Moon elementals), that feat would carry over into a vulnerability for the woman who is essentially the Red Goddess walking on (Gloranthan) Earth. She also has to fulfill commitments beyond what other initiates or rune masters have to.

Jeff Richard wrote a while ago that a capital H Hero will have transgressed against their cult, too. Ludo argues that that is the way to bring progress to the cult, with ultimately the hero cult feat/Rune spell becoming a mainstream cult spell.

Ludo asks how to play out this integration into the wider cult in a game without doing something like a three year break with some charisma rolls to convince 1D6 temples to adopt your method. Jörg suggests that this may happen in the face of cataclysm when the hero’s feat becomes crucial in averting a bad fate. With the Hero Wars basically consisting of a whole series of upcoming cataclysms, no shortage there (and no big deal if the GM adds another one). Or, as Ludo puts it, there are no Hero Wars, just min-maxing players with delusion of greatness. Austin feels called out by this.


Subcults are a way to add a new aspect to a cult entity. One thing Ludo likes about Greek mythology is that there were many places where a special role was attached to an otherwise well known deity. There was a temple of Zeus Flyswatter (Zeus Apomyios) in a great collection of temples where all manner of animal sacrifice went on, which naturally attracted flies to the slaughter.

Jörg posits a different approach: whenever you write a new myth about a deity (or otherwise cult entity), you create a new subcult. Ludo thinks that’s the business of hero cults, but Austin points out that many hero cults are basically subcults of the existing cult of their hero. There are hero cults outside of existing cult structures, with Harrek the Berserk as a case study. Austin paraphrases Jeff Richard that Harrek gets worship for the same reason Malia does: “Oh please, Harrek, don’t come this way!”

Ludo makes Jar-eel the poster girl for the opposite way, a hero fully integrated into her deity’s cult. We discuss poster girls in the sense of Carry Fisher’s Princess Leia bondage image being worshipped by young boys in (or rather from) the seventies and eighties.

Austin really likes these distinctions to be messy and ambiguous. While some of the introductory material could be more straightforward, the ambiguity is what makes Glorantha (or mythology in general) fun to play around with. “Maybe that elephant has wings.”

Austin has the revelation that the entirety of the Gods War was just a dog toy. Ludo is sure that there was a God Learner theory supporting that, and Jörg locates that in the library of the sunk Trickster library in Slontos.

Jörg offers another distinction between hero cult and subcult – when did the myth (or introduction of the feat) happen, in God Time, or as a heroic effort within History?

Ludo fleshes this out – you can come back from the discovery of how to leap trees saying “look at me, I am awesome because now I can leap over trees, so worship me!”, or you can come back saying “I went to the God Time and met this kinsman of Orlanth called Bob who taught me to leap trees, so everybody worship Bob!” Hero cults are for egomaniacs, while subcults are founded by true devotees. Or the difference between Rune Lords and Rune Priests, as Jörg puts it.

Syncretism rears its ugly head: You encounter a deity which shares certain angles with your own, like e.g. being the cruel god at the Hill of Gold, chaining Orlanth to Shargash (or the Fronelan form Vorthan) and ultimately Zorak Zoran, possibly bringing in shared magic.

Austin gives an example of how the Death Wielder feat can do such heroic mis-identification that nonetheless can give access to powers.

Ludo takes Heler as the example – this could be the personification of the rain as a bona fide deity, or it could be just the name for Orlanth’s power to make it rain without any intrinsic contradiction. Vinga can be a daughter of Orlanth or just a female aspect of Orlanth. It compares to dedicating yourself only to part of the cult, like a Star Trek fan only ever watching the original series, and not the entirety of the franchise.

We conclude that you should not ever involve yourself with a fandom. And no, we aren’t fans, we are devoting ourselves to serious study of Glorantha. Ahem.

Jörg reminisces about dipping his own feet in Gloranthan fan-subcreation tackling the weird henotheism of Malkioni worshipping regular deities, like that Aeolian sect in Heortland. This triggers Austin to bring up his deranged scribble journal. Austin (too) spent three days rambling about Aeolian sorcery in his notes.

The Aeolians sit in southern Heortland, between Orlanthi Heortland (Hendrikiland) and God Forgot, a land of atheist sorcerers who either are Brithini or think they are, imitating their ways.

Austin's six-pronged elemental sigil

Austin’s deranged ramblings for Aeolian sorcery (which may never see the light of day any more than the picture above) have new relationships between runes, or assign elements to deities which aren’t apparent anywhere else. The premise is that the Monomyth could be very wrong and the magic still works, which is made possible by having the sorcery element which doesn’t rely on the warranty of your rune magic. Sorcery gives you the tools to jailbreak your phone, it is really good at it. Sorcery also allows you to infer and use the antithesis of a rune you mastered.

Regardless whether he will use it in publication or not, what Austin found out from this exercise is that if you don’t play with the cults but with the runes you are getting different results in your sub-creation.

Austin feels that the Monomyth as presented over-emphasizes the role of the elements, He plays through an experiment where all the Lightbringer deities are purely made up of power runes, including Orlanth.

Things get too messy to transcribe, or to count potential Nysalorean riddles.

Austin rambles about Entekos the still Air Goddess being the wife of Orlanth, challenging many magical preconceptions.

Jörg rambles about Orlanth possibly not being born a storm god but becoming the Storm King through his teenage hero journey through the Gods War.

Austin riffs on how the sorcerous ability to infer the antithesis of a power might influence a henotheist offshoot of a religion.

Jörg mentions his own first steps toying with the Aeolians.

Austin talks about approaching cults as a game tool rather than a setting feature and what would be interesting to mechanically play around with. Engizi is a case study of what Austin doesn’t like very much in the core rules book, there is little to incite a player to follow this deity.

As a counter-example, Austin cites Brian Duguid’s cult of Mee Vorala in his recent The Voralans offering on the Jonstown Compendium (Brian was our guest in episode 17, by the way) Austin could see himself as a troll mushroom farmer with access to cool alchemical toys and unexpected magics. “It is a really nice blend of inventive mythology and actual I could play this.”

Jörg points out that his tinkering with the Aeolians was accompanying his first time GMing RuneQuest in Glorantha after years of experience GMing RQ in his own settings, making actual play with the rules system a powerful motivation at the time, too.

Rune Cults

Austin’s Cult of Hrundra in To Hunt A God is an example of this.

For Austin, every fun idea doesn’t stand alone but blurs into a melange. One idea behind it was an illusion-focused knowledge god would be interesting. While Hrundra turned out not to be this, this was one of the starting points. Hrundra’s monkey shape was inspired by Thoth, the Egyptian baboon-headed god of knowledge (Besides the baboon head, Thoth is also often depicted with an Ibis head, in case you were wondering how you misremembered.) Austin has a blue statue of a baboon apparently dedicated to Thoth which gave him the notion of the blue monkeys. The actual imagery for Hrundra’s species came from howler monkeys from South America. Austin likes to take not one but maybe sixteen different influences to create a new one.

To Hunt A God was intended as the big finale of Austin’s Monster of the Month series, where he wanted to throw this big cool monster into the path of the players to deal with.

Ludo asks why Hrundra was designed as a stand-alone deity rather than like Gouger, the Ernaldan cult monster boar sent as a punisher at the start of Time. Austin basically just wanted to do it this way. Really wanting to do it is part of the fun to create things this way.

Ludo asks about pitfalls, dangers etc. to look out for. Austin remembers that writing the cult was a fairly easy exercise, as he wrote the first half of the publication in about a month. The cult was following a lot of standard structures, including Campbell’s Hero’s Journey, Eliade’s shamanism, and of course the full RuneQuest cult write-up outline originating in Cults of Prax.

Playing a campaign around Sylthy in Esrolia at the time, Austin also thought how the cult would be perceived outside of the forest it protected. In his game, the Temple of the Bones is the only such cult centre in the region for a lot of the gods of the wilds, including Yinkin who does receive associate worship in many Orlanth shrines but doesn’t have a full (minor) temple anywhere except maybe in Nochet.

Jörg asks about Kipling’s Jungle Book as an influence on the Temple of Bones with its assortment of wild deities – bear, snake, large feline, monkeys…

When thinking about Hrundra, Austin’s goal was cool fun cults, with more power than a cult of this size would really earn from a pure setting perspective. Jörg points out that this is balanced by the very hard geographical limit of the cult’s influence, but Austin just likes to make the setting more “gonzo” or “Bollywood”. Austin points to the gritty and personal style on the cover of the Starter Set while the setting also allowing over-the-top magics (like the Dragonrise image in the interior of the Starter Set).

Ludo talks about a scale in the fandom of Glorantha, with some making it a very archaeological world with everyday items like looms and farming, all the way to the completely gonzo scenarios by Sandy Petersen or Nick Brooke (The Black Spear, Crimson King). Both Austin and Jörg claim both ends of the spectrum for themselves, with Austin giving an example he read about a change in Mesopotamian plowing techniques documented in cuneiform tablets led to seeds being sown deeper into the soil, leading to greater crops, leading to population growth and a period of increased warfare.

Ludo asks how runic interactions influence Austin’s writing or design. Austin regards the Form and Element Runes as nouns and the Power Runes as verbs, and the antagonism of the Power Runes plays a greater role in his design. Austin talks about how the rune dice which allow you to roll a situative rune are great props for framing a scene. Austin reads and interprets the runes, possibly more for his deranged scribbles stage of collecting ideas than for his more structured writing process.

Austin comes back to how Hrunda has lost any connection to the initial knowledge god concept, having turned into a trickster scape-goaty thing. Austin likes how Hrunda fails to fit neatly into any of these boxes, if he did he would be too mono-mythy for Austin’s tastes.

Jörg points out that Hrunda also does this by having a significant shamanic element to his theist cult. Austin emphasizes the shamanic nature of the cult and mentions how that makes getting the support for a temple unlikely. That is why he came up with the Temple of the Bones as a joint shamanic worship site where small followings of shamans of different wild gods would help one another out as lay worshippers boosting the size of the holy place.

Jörg mentions the animal worshippers of Hrunda (the non-sentient of the bluepaws monkeys) whose attendance also boosts the site beyond normal temple restrictions.

One of the images inspiring Austin was swarms of monkeys attacking people in the streets of very urban cities in India like sea-gulls. So Austin thought to throw a bunch of monkeys into urban Esrolia, as a major pain in the butt, and some of them talk.

This worship by animals is a trick first published for the Cult of Zola Fel with its intelligent and non-intelligent fish worshippers. Austin saw that and thought this should be more widespread than just one river god in the middle of nowhere.

Austin also emphasizes that the bear (Odayla) worship at the Temple of Bones is very different from the Rathori Hsunchen ways, and has no (ancestral) relationship.

Cool Toys for Players

Ludo asks for a rather specific cool toy like e.g. turtle shell powers that a player might ask for.

Austin talks about several ways to handle this. In the case of Hrunda the cult was there first, and then the toys came up when muddling around the different stories that resulted from that. Most of his key magic is stuff Austin made up following the pattern of Yinkin (which in turn follow the pattern of the Hsunchen entities while avoiding the shapeshifting aspect).

Austin remembers thinking about writing a short cult creation guide when the Red Book of Magic first came out, but other commitments and doubts about how it would be received resulted in about ten thousand words being shelved indeterminately. Ludo suggests publishing such notes as the Conrad Library, while Jörg asks for the Akhelas manifests. If you ever see “Volume 2 – The Great Re-Ascent of Bullshit” in print, Ludo suggested it here first.

Taking the RQ2 Rune Power concept backwards, Austin posits that if you see a bunch of spells with shared runes, you can create a cult from that retrospectively.

For an example cult of Fire and Death, Austin talks about taking five or six spells, say True Spear, Produce Light, Earthwarm and maybe two or three others. One of the spells is exciting, three are okay and useful, and then there is your equivalent of Cloud Call which is mythically significant but dull as hell. You muddle these together, and then you ask what are the stories that led to those spells.

So if you have a fire god with True Spear, how did he win his spear? Was he born with it, did he tear his own rib out to get a spear, did he climb a tall mountain and use its peak as a point of his spear, did he chop a tree down and now carries a spear but his cult is hated by elves, was he born as a spear and then became a man – weird random ideas that you can draw from.

A rune spell in Austin’s mind is really an embodiment of the myth. You are throwing a story at somebody and it blows up in their face.

So if you want to have Proteus for a spirit cult, you might make it slightly malignant, to have to keep the magic you need to acquire a new form regularly (Austin initially suggested once a season, but then ruddered back to once a year). It is a way to have the really cool toys, but requiring that you cast Sanctify or similar regularly is going to cost you. Reasons to adventure, reasons to do stuff.

Hrunda has the story about stealing fruit, as a consequence initiates cannot let each other starve, and as a shaman or rune lord your are not even allowed to pay for food, you have to be offered it for free, steal it, or grow it yourself,

As a last word on creating cults: Just do it. You will make mistakes, and you will learn from these.

Austin talks about the upcoming volume on Mythology in the Cults of RuneQuest series and how he fears it might contaminate his creativity. Jorg speculates about some of the contents, with many old acquaintances appearing, and absences being more glaring than inclusions.

Closing Statements

Austin’s stuff can be found on the Jonstown Compendium. He also has a website, where he publishes his weekly blog, Glorantha stuff, backstory for his original world, a play report for Six Seasons in Sartar, a review of The Design Mechanism’s Mythic Babylon, trying soloquest rules and solo gaming, etc.

Austin’s most recent offerings on the Jonstown Compendium are the print version of To Hunt A God and the PDF of The Queen’s Star, a site-based adventure where you go to the Cinder Pits in Colymar lands, mucking around with fallen sky gods trying to convince them to let someone go.

Ludo takes the occasion to promote some of the stuff he has recently participated in on the Jonstown Compendium: Veins of Discord by Finmirage where he did most of the illustrations and the layout, a few drawings in The Voralans by Brian Duguid, the cover for To Hunt a God, and also one little illustration in The Queen’s Star. Ludo also teases Jörg about his still not upcoming work on Ludoch (and fisherfolk) in the Choralinthor Bay.

The God Learners on Holiday

On a more general note, the next episode of the podcast is scheduled for early September, so please hold the line (And that’s the last telecommunication simile in this transcript, too.)

Any delays in releasing this episode are Jörg’s fault for being late with the transcript.

In this month’s Glorantha Initiation interview, Ludo talks to Bryon Ross without any Joerg present. Bryon is a long time RuneQuest lover, but he played mostly with the Fantasy Earth setting until the release of the RuneQuest Quickstart in 2017. He is also a retired marine, SCA participant, and regular Chaosium convention gamemaster.

You can find Bryon here:

Show Notes

Among the many things we’re ranting about in this episode, you’ll find:

  • Running convention games for Chaosium’s Cult of Chaos when the RuneQuest Glorantha Quickstart came out (Origins and GenCon first year, Pax Unplugged a few times, etc)
  • Discovering RuneQuest 2nd edition by looking at Apple Lane and/or Snakepipe Hollow on the game store’s shelves
  • The wonders of the RuneQuest hit location chart
  • Collecting a lot of books from the old Gloranthan product lines, and (gasp!) highlighting passages in them
  • Trying to answer the question “what is a Glorantha?”
  • Northern European vision of Bronze Age slowly transitioning to other, more Mediterranean and Mesopotamian mental pictures
  • The Mythology and the Runes are real in Glorantha
  • Explaining Glorantha in a very excited way to new people at conventions
  • The integration between the setting and the mechanics, also featured in other games such as:
  • 40 years of catching up is daunting, but RuneQuest Glorantha nicely focuses at first on the Colymar clan to keep it simple: no need to worry about Ralios, the Eastern Isles, or whatever
  • RuneQuest 2n edition didn’t even have many areas covered anyway
  • Converting D&D modules (Bryon later told me it was Judges Guild’s “Caverns of Thrasia”), placed near Larnste’s Footprint because there’s some Chaos stuff there
  • Tying Runes to personalities can be confusing, because you have to learn what Runes actually mean, and what they can augment (compare to Pendragon’s clearer and more obvious Traits)
  • Some cults can be fairly niche and, again, you have to learn what they are… what is a Babeester Gor?
  • So you want to play a hunter… do you want to worship Yinkin, Foundchild, or Odayla? What are these anyway, and why are there three of them?
  • The integration of world and setting means that there is a lot of lore exposition needed to explain the mechanics, and vice versa
  • Building spreadsheets to keep track of all the temples across Dragon Pass!
  • Bryon’s video series on the Red Book of Magic, and what he learned meticulously reading through it
  • The many editing issues in RuneQuest Glorantha books: POW vs POW rolls, sentence construction, Spirit Combat, etc.
  • Opposed roll ties article on the God Learners
  • It’s tricky to change or tweak Glorantha when you don’t feel like you’re comfortable with the lore yet
  • Sorcery is hard: Bryon’s Lhankor Mhy player has a spreadsheet!
  • Shamanism is hard too: lots of “realizations” about spirits and the Spirit World during play, after the first interpretations proved to be too game-breaking
  • Using Cyberpunk’s netrunning as an analogy for the Spirit World
  • Spirits can’t always sort through all the auras and spirits they see, so they are unreliable spies
  • Bryon’s game is mixing homebrew adventures with published ones like The Fainting Spirit (Cult of Chaos only), the Rattling Wind, etc.
  • Bryon’s game was railroady at first, but came to a crawl when it became more player driven
  • Dungeon Master’s Block technique: use Magic: The Gathering cards to generate ideas for the who/what/where of the campaign’s story threads
  • Grabbing existing adventures from many other games and systems to fill the blanks
  • Mutant Year Zero’s procedural scenario generation card deck
  • Roleplay Cafe‘s and DungeonCraft‘s (aka Professor Dungeon Master) YouTube channels for more game prep tips
  • Bryon’s recommendation for newbies is to play the Quickstart, and he wished he had gotten the White Bear & Red Moom board game earlier!


The intro music is “Dancing Tiger” by Damscray. The outro music is “Islam Dream” by Serge Quadrado. Other audio is from the FreeSound library.

Art by Dan Barker, from the Broken Council Guidebook

We start this episode with a minor existential crisis on Ludo’s identity, followed by Ludo being protective of our usual guests by volunteering to take the brunt of Jörg’s incoming obscurantism and pedantry. Ludo accuses rather than praises Jörg of being a bright guy…

Main Topic

The Second Council and its God Project

Jörg wants to go to the beginning of that God Project, which was in his opinion the discovery of the Pseudocosmic Egg in the ruins of Dorastor. He mentions the Dawn Age appendix in the Guide, p.712 if you want to take a deeper read into this. (If you own the old RQ3 Dorastor Book, it has this text, too.)

Ludo asks whether the Pseudocosmic egg, that rare artifact which was instrumental in creating the perfect god, was just lying around in those ruins, and Jörg name-drops the Feldichi builders of those ruins, suggesting that the artifact would have been sitting in a Feldichi laboratory.

The ruins were first discovered by the early settlers, in the 120ies. Ludo paints this time (prior to hostile contact with the Horse Warlords in Dara Happa) as a time of peace and plenty.

We talk about the nature of the Pseudocosmic Egg, an artifact which Jörg describes as something that spoke to its investigators, awakening creative urges that ultimately led to the decision to breed a perfect deity.

Its origin isn’t clear, although Jörg wouldn’t be Jörg if he did not have a theory about that.

A rather weird theory, describing the Egg as an unborn child of Mostal, the World Machine, which would be a von Neumann probe in this theory – a self-replicating mechanism establishing a universe and then spawning daughter universes, more places like Glorantha. Only Mostal was damaged by the birth of Umath, and the hatching of the egg (in Jörg’s theory one of eight) was interrupted.

This gives the entire Dorastor civilization (both the Feldichi and the Second Council) a certain science-fantasy vibe, which is fine with Jörg.

Anyway, the people investigating the egg start the God Project.

Ludo expounds on their possible motivations: having the gods around again. (An effect which is called “Proximate Holy Realm” by Jeff Richard, describing the vicinity of deities in Belintar’s City of Wonders, but which also seems to have been the goal of the EWF Third Council.)

People of the God Project

Jörg briefly introduces Lokamayadon as the new Orlanthi member of the Second Council, a Pelorian, non-Heortling Orlanthi, and his personal feud against the family of the Vanak Spear heroes in the Berennethtelli tribe (who were Heortlings), foreshadowing Harmast Barefoot who was one of their descendants.

Being forced back onto the God Project, Jörg drops another name of the participants, Holy Estorex, a Dara Happan mystic who becomes one of the chief contributors to the new deity.

Ludo mishears the name as Asterix, the cartoon hero by Goscinni and Uderzo whose adventures in and from Roman occupied Gaul are a great inspiration for the Sartarites despite being very non-Sartarite.

Leaving that aside, we talk about what the Dara Happans want from this.

For context: up to 221, since before the Dawn, the Dara Happans and other Pelorian lowlanders were ruled by horse warlords who immigrated from the Arcos Valley and established a semblance of order in the Gray Age while remaining quite barbaric themselves. These horse-warlords slaughtered any Lightbringer Missionaries entering their territory, which earned them the enmity of the Council in Dorastor, and led to its first war, culminating in the Battle of Argentium Thri’ile in 221 (a name wisely – or cowardly – not pronounced by Jörg).

Jörg talks about the effect of having Holy Estorex on the God Project, which led to new advances, and a grwoing unease of the trolls, the Heortlings and the Dragonewts, all of whom ultimately break off from the project and their participation in the Second Council, which is called the Broken Council afterwards.

Ludo describes the Dara Happan representative as the Yoko Ono of the Second Council.

(A pop culture reference as old as the older part of our audience: this is about the break-up of the Beatles, one of the most infliential bands of the late sixties and early seventies of the last century. As if “pop” in pop culture stands for “dad” or “granddad”…)

We talk about how this representation of all elements is an ongoing theme, like with Belintar’s Holy Country, and a reflection of the universe. Which gets Jörg to drop in the Young Elementals, source of the non-moon elemental magic of the Seven Mothers Cult, who were the spawn of the Pseudocosmic Egg alongside Osentalka.

Enter the Antagonists Nysalor and Arkat

Fast-forward to the Sunstop, with Jörg listing other culprits like the Kralori emperor meditating, Western wizards fighting shamans in Fronela, a new bloom in the Yellow Elf forests in Pamaltela.

Ludo observes that these pivotal moments in Gloranthan myth or history always have multiple causes and participants.

Jörg adds that he is pretty sure Zzabur had something to do with the cause of the Sunstop, too.

Ludo asks whether the Sunstop was a bad thing, and Jörg forwards the Dara Happan notion that this would be the ideal state of the world, re-creating the ideal of Godtime. The trolls on the other hand might think this is the worst idea possible – at least those who were condemned to a life on the Surface World.

Jörg tries to convey that while (normal) Time stopped, lives went on. Hence “the Sunstop lasted for an unknowable amount of time” doesn’t mean that everybody was frozen in their movements (as that would mean they wouldn’t even notice the Sunstop).

Necessarily, Jörg mentions the birth of Arkat in the distant forests of Brithos, probably as the result of a tryst with a deity (these things happen in the Malkioni west all the time in that age), a deity who leaves his mortal offspring the Unbreakable Sword.

Looking back at Dorastor, Ludo asks whether Nysalor was born with a cool magical item like his counterpart, or whether Arkat gets preferential treatment by the GM. Jörg points out that Nysalor is born with a partially restored magical city to his name, while Arkat starts out in the wilderness.

Jörg clarifies that he meant the magical buildings left behind by the Feldichi and brought into a semblance of function by the Second Council. With the possibility that Osentalka’s birth awakens the ruins more than before.

Ludo asks whether the two antagonists were born as infants. Jörg opines that Arkat was indeed born the biological way as a baby, whereas Nysalor probably came into the world as a fully grown adolescent, a shape he retained trhoughout the rest of his life.

Coming to the end of the Sunstop, Ludo asks how this ended. Jörg first gives the observations that were passed on through the generations: dark strands forming around the sun, dragging it back onto its Sunpath procession. Some people call that the Web of Arachne Solara, and Ludo imagines a “pissed-off” Arachne Solara. Jörg suggests that the Sun Spider (Arachne Solara) and her son Time pull the sun back onto its cycle,

The perfect god Osentalka (who could only exist under the perfect conditions of the Sunstop) becomes revered as Nysalor, the Bright Lord.

Ludo asks whether this demand for perfection is part of an in-world sage’s agenda, or whether this is an objective observation. Jörg evades the question, re-stating that there was Osentalka who was perfect while Time had stopped, but when it re-started again, the deity now named Nysalor had imperfections.

Ludo tries to play that down as excuses. Jörg argues that Nysalor doesn’t do or need excuses, since he is illuminated. We discuss who might have apologized, but other than some humans on the council (illuminated by the time they could be interviewed) we don’t find who might have apologized. Certainly not the Mostali who were involved.

Ludo summarizes what we said about the Bright Empire in our last episode – a Solar-themed empire that took over vast chunks of Central and even Western Genertela.

Heroes of the Bright Empire

Jörg brings up the Battle of Night and Day, where the friends and foes of Nysalor met three years after the Sunstop. While the battle is described in quite a lot of detail in the Stafford Library offering History of the Heortling People (from the perspective of Lokamayadon), Jörg attempts to give an elevator pitch of those details.

Ludo asks how the battle went. It started with conventional warfare (other than Lokamayadon riding his flying ram while the King of the Heortlings is riding a cloud, which Ludo agrees is fairly conventional for Gloranthan warfare).

The Dara Happan forces facing the trolls are faring badly, and the Dara Happan general asks his Vanchite (hill barbarian aka Orlanthi) charioteer whether he had any hidden trump card. The charioteer replies, “Try my god, Daysenerus, the planet Lightfore.”

Ludo asks whether we are talking about Yelmalio, which is of course another name for this sort of divine presence.

Ludo also wonders whether the charioteer god should be Lokarnos, but Jörg insists that Lokarnos is the wagon(eer) god rather than the chariot(eer) god. What’s the difference? “You wouldn’t use a Lamborghini to move furniture, would you?”

The general does, calling the deity into himself, whereupon the deity itself manifests on the battlefield with a divine presence above and beyond what was agreed on in the Great Compromise. (Note that it was the humans summoning the deity this way who broke the compromise, not the deity out of its own volition – up to that point.)

Ludo sensibly asks how this is different from casting awesome amounts of Rune Magic “as the deity”.

Jörg replies that there is a vast difference in scale between spending a whole lot of rune points and calling forth this much of a divine presence. In fact, this over-taxes the life force of the Dara Happan general, who dies of this experience – in RQ terms possibly because he blew all of his personal POW in the process. The deity does stick around long enough for the commander of the Nysaloran center, a certain Palangio, to synchronize with the newly arrived deity, which bears a certain resemblance to his own (Lightfore?) deity from Rinliddi.

The trolls don’t take this standing still, they huddle together forming a great black thing, the Black Eater.

There is a big Lightfore deity on one side and the huge Darkness monster, the Black Eater, on the other side.

Jörg claims that this is well beyond conventional Gloranthan warfare, while Ludo tries to blame this on “heroquesting powers and what not”.

So we get this towering figure of a bright spearman facing the trolls, who shrink back from the brightness.

Jörg claims that what happens here is more apocalyptic, as hundreds of trolls dissolve into the Black Eater whose great maw proceeds to eat up the Dara Happans, hindered by Daysenerus.

And that’s when Nysalor, thar androgynous youth of a god, steps onto the battlefield, and right into the maw of the Black Eater.

Ludo: “And he dies, end of the story.” “All of his friends fear that is the case.”

Instead, the black blob starts convulsing and shrieking, falling apart into thousands of trolls, all of whom suffered terrible wounds to their wombs (if they had them, or comparable internal damage if they did not). This wounding affects all trolls, up to Korasting, Mother of Many, the fecund daughter of Kyger Litor and second most important ancestral deities of the trolls.

Ludo points to the RuneQuest Bestiary as the currently best available source on the Trollkin Curse.

Ludo asks whether this is where the troll expression “don’t put all your trolls into the same Black Eater” comes from, an expression Jörg had not heard before.

That’s also how the trolls gave Nysalor the name “Womb-Biter”, or D’Wargon.

All trolls are injured, and instead of getting normal dark troll births, which also are diminished compared to the original Mistress Race, they get these runts.

Ludo goes on a tangent fabulating about a great ball of all the trollkin in the hero wars, getting even worse offspring, and observes that the (dark) trolls keep getting worse and worse reproductive deals.

So Nysalor wins the Battle of Night and Day – a resounding victory. On the Storm flank, the king of the Heortlings falls to Lokamayadon, Palangio mops up the field with his awesome Daysenerus powers, and the dragonewts were supposed to suffer from a similar curse, but a dragon intercedes and negates it. The Heortlings are conquered by the forces of Palangio in the afteermath of the battle.

Ludo asks whether this is limited to the Pelorian Heortlings, but no, all the Heortlings all the way to Kethaela are subject to Palangio’s overlordship. He conquers Esrolia, too, but the region nowadays known as Heortland in the Holy Country remains unconquered – it is a forested, thinly settled land at this time, inhabited by the followers of Hendrik the Free.

Ludo asks the usual question:Why do we care about all that shit that happened in a distant past?

Jörg mentions that this resulted in the founding of the Sun Dome Temple at Vanntar by Palangio, as a means to control the conquered Orlanthi.

Ludo complains that that is all good and fine, but why would it be relevant in the Gloranthan now of 1625. While it is cool and adds a bit of flavor, since then a lot of other things have happened which influenced history as much or more.

Jörg evades by talking about Lokamayadon’s endeavors after the Battle of Night and Day. Lokamayadon’s heroquesting (what about Harmast or Arkat starting the business of Orlanthi exploratory heroquesting in the Dawn Age?) leads him to TarUmath, the High Storm, the Storm beyond the Storm.

(Actually, Tarumath started out as the Harmony Storm, already present at the Battle of Night and Day, where Lokamayadon’s Orlanthi from Lakrene are interchangeably called Tarumathings. History of the Heortling People, p.18 onwards for the account of the Battle of Night and Day. This also tells how Lokamayadon calling upon his god steals the breath of all weaker Orlanthi, and how only Hendrik the Larnsti could keep a free breath in his cloak.)

Lokamayadon becomes the super-Orlanthi, taking the Breath of all weaker Orlanthi – pretty much like what happened to the worshipers of Orlanth during the Windstop.

Ludo asks why Lokamayadon (who is an Orlanthi) is doing that (stealing everyone’s breath, and magic). Jörg replies that Lokamayadon is becoming Orlanth, or like Orlanth. Worship of the High Storm (which Jörg assumes goes through the person of Lokamayadon) is still possible, which means that his followers are doing fine with magic. This is extremely high stakes.

Jörg talks about Lokamayadon’s downfall, which is tied to his feud with the Berennethtelli clan which ultimately produced Harmast Barefoot, a youth who managed to survive the initiation rites and contact Orlanth despite Lokamayadon holding on to the High Storm.

Harmast Barefoot is of course the Orlanthi who first re-enacted the Full Lightbrigners’ Quest (and even did it twice).

Ludo tells how Harmast returns Arkat from Hell after the hero had been killed by Palangio (in 418, in front of Kartolin Castle, on the Dorastan border of Ralios).

Harmast’s family was hiding out on the edge of Prax, outside of the Bright Empire proper. When Ludo says that there is probably no trace of this in the modern era, Jörg counters that the site of the Battle of the Verge is known as Barbarian Town in the Third Age (again a hide-out against unjust persecution).

What next? After the Battle of Night and Day, Palangio goes on conquering Maniria, on behalf of the Bright Empire, he visits the lost city of Erenplose hiding in a bubble under water, gets a hint to follow a magical item up to a mountain where the a piece of the sky fell down in the Gods War (Selon Mount) and finds the Iron Vrok there, according to Jörg a huge magical beast made of iron which Palangio then can ride – pretty much like the Dykene Hawk Riders in Balazar.

Ludo is slightly disappointed as he expected a smaller sidekick that would be able to land on Palangio’s shoulders.

Ludo asks whether the bird is a Mostali construct, but Jörg pleads for a magical creature in its own right.

Meanwhile in Ralios

Bright Empire visionaries have been active in Ralios, entering across Kartolin Pass. The Dangan Confederacy in the Tanier Valley (pretty much exactly where the modern Kingdom of Seshnela is located) accepts the teachings of Holy Estorex, the Dara Happan mystic mentioned above. This worthy is converting the local Enerali Orlanthi to the cause of the Bright Empire.

Ludo asks whether this is where Arkat will be fighting (of course it is). Jörg states that the Ralian Orlanthi are divided, many join the Bright Empire, but some groups resist it – in typical Orlanthi manner.

Ludo asks whether this is when someone has the bright idea to spread the uncurable disease that only the priests of Nysalor can heal. Ludo is sort of disappointed about how sneaky the Bright Empire operates. Jörg quotes Nysalor: “On the Edge of Light there is always Darkness.”

Bur this method of spreading the cult is successful, and a large number of people in Seshnela and even Arolanit follow the cult that brings the cure, tp the point where Nysalor’s mystical thinking is taking over the land of rationality, Arolanit.

Arolanit used to be the most orthodox and pious of the Brithini colonies, and Zzabur and his Talar rulers won’t have that.

Ludo observes that this is in the extreme west of the continent of Genertela, and that this is when the Brithini army is brought to the continent, including Arkat as a young Horali soldier.

This is where the Brithini army is confronted with the dark minions of the god Kraljid, a demonic entity which had history already in the wars of the Serpent Kings of Seshnela. This entity is controlled by the Bright Empire, a state of affairs that is ended by Arkat when he puts that god to rest (if not for good, then at least for the rest of the Dawn Age). This happened in a little town in westernmost Tanisor (the modern province or rather heartland of the Third Age Kingdom of Seshnela)-.a town named Kaniwal. Jörg jokes that it could be pronounced like cannibal, too, which is possibly one of the cult practices of Kraljid.

Jörg refers to a fragment of Arkat’s Saga that Greg Stafford read at Convulsion 1994, a rather nightmaresh stand against dark enemies strikung out of the shadows, which has been compared to a Vietnam war report.

This Arkat Saga fragment is occasionally offered for quite high sums on Ebay, alongside other fragments of Greg Stafford’s early western stories.

Back to the topic: The Nysalor Cult has a priest overseeing things in Seshnela by the name of Gaalth – with two “a”s, according to Ludo a sure sign that this is a bad guy.Jürg offers that he is bound to have a goatee and an evil laugh.

But Gaalth is rather charismatic, and spreads Illumination among those he healed, and once illuminated, the so afflicted and healed understand that the ordeal was a learning experience.

Ludo asks whether this was the first time the Bright Empire is actively teaching illumination, but to Jörg’s knowledge that happened all over the Empire.

Jörg points out that the Dara Happans pursued Illumination as long as they have memories, even the horse warlords did so to some extent. They pursue the enhanced state Yelm obtained when he recognized his Other (or Shadow).

We jest about what happens if you stare into the sun too long,.Jörg adds that the worshipers of Dayzatar look beyond the sun to a higher truth, and what Lokamayadon did with the High Storm was similar.

We briefly return to Lokamayadon when Ludo asks whether he attempted to establish an illuminated Orlanthi culture, Ludo fabulates that we could have an illuminated Orlanthi culture, peaceful and urbanized. Jörg points out that exactly this happened in the next age, although with a different (draconic) form of enlightenment.

Once again. Ludo wants to pull these things into the now, suggesting Lokamayadon as a role model for Illuminated Orlanthi. Jörg insists that mainstream Orlanthi reject what Lokamayadon did, but there is always room for dissidents.

Ludo asks whether that disease might still be around, but it seems to have disappeared without the Nysalor Cult to spread it.

Ludo asks for more information on this disease, and Jörg points to the Seshnelan Kings List on the Well of Daliath.

When asked what cool Third Age adventuring can result from all this information, Jörg points at Lunars searching for such fragments from the Bright Empire. There may also be parts in Ralios where the local Orlanthi think that Nysalor was a good thing, and Arkat a terrible mistake.

Whether Safelstran basements with secret meetings support Powerpoint presentations for indoctrination can be decided by the GM.

The Bright Empire is spreading out, but it is starting to get some opposition (it could not overcome). In Seshnela, it is quite successful, but the ruling dynasty prefers to rule afflicted by the disease rather than succumb to the whisperings of Gaalth and Gbaji (although some of their cousins did).

People fighting on Arkat’s side of the conflict

Jörg describes how the conflict in Seshnela was really a civil war, with the Nysalor cult opposed by the rulers, and how a decisive battle between the friends of Gaalth on one side and Arkat and the king on the other is almost lost for Arkat, when a shiny young hero with a flaming sword and fresh horse troops falls into the rear of the Nysalorans.

Faced with defeat, the opponents show the ugly side of illumination when they start to sprout tentacles and other such abominations, causing grievous losses even in their defeat. The old dynasty is ended on that battlefield, a new one emerges (and gets afflicted by the disease, too).

Maybe not the first time – there was the fight against the Vampire King of Tanisor, too.

Ludo talks about how cool the title “Vampire King of Tanisor” is, and asks whether we have information how that came about, and how vampires join the forces of light which usually are their nemesis.

Jörg brings up Tanisoran history, with Sehsnegi invasions unleashing vile Vadeli magics.

The Vadeli are the anti-Brithini, or as Ludo puts it, even more like Brithini. Rather than obeying the Brithini rules, the Vadeli carefully transgress these in specific wasy, leading to a society using vile magics and slavery.

Jörg points to Nick Brooke’s illuminated History of Malkionism for better information on the Vadeli.

Ludo complains that the Vadeli way is convoluted, going at lengths to make a mockery of the Brithini rules, only to achieve the same result – immortality.

Jörg suspects that the Vampire Kings used magics that were left behind or perhaps recently imported by the Vadeli magics that poisoned the land before. Ludo cuts short Jörg-s attempts to take a closer look at the Vadeli.

Apparently the vampires can tolerate the Brightness of Nysalor without getting burned


Jörg points out that the Tanisoran nobility were people afraid of dying, so they took an alternative route out, achieving escape from death. They also formed a vampire legion – a unit found in the Lunar Empire.

Asked whether there is anything left of these struggles, Jorg names the Vampire King Gracmacaglan, in his royal city of Taniwal, nowadays known as the Red Ruins because the fallout from that battle still glows stronger than Cernobyl.

The Brithini officer was there to collect the helmet (which doubled as the crouwn) of the Vampire King when Arkat beheaded him, performing a service only a Talar caste member could in the Brithini army. That worthy way Talar Malaskan Philippe, who is still alivc, and has been the ruling Talar of Arolanit for the last five centuries. Jörg dispels Ludo’’s notion that he might be a vampire, pointing out his Brithini nature.

Ludo asks whether there are still nests of vampires in the region, and Jörg claims that vampires never go away for good. The Vampire Legion now serves in the Lunar Empire. (Jörg thinks that some might be able to boast that they were decapitated by Arkat once or twice.)

Jörg also points to the Kingdom of Ramalia in Maniria where the rulers might use magics similar to those of the Vampire Kings.

Ludo gets enthusiastic about ancient vampires acting as strategicians and grey eminences, not limited to the Vampire Legion. Jörg counters that he wouldn’t be surprised if some of them were teaching at the Lunar College of Magic, although only the very advanced courses.

Ludo imagines a Harry Potter style campaign in the Lunar College of Magic, and asks for someone to write that up for the Jonstown Compendium (or official releases).

Jörg puts a mild damper (and a spoiler for Sun County) that some ancient vampires may have lost their memories in the centuries since.

We briefly digress about that unhealable wound that Arkat contracted – apparently a spear wound to the foot rather than a Rand al-Thor stab into the abdomen – during his initiation to the Cult of Hhumakt.

The Ralian Campaign

Early in the Ralian campaign, Holy Estorex opposes Arkat’s advance, but gets beaten up and escapes limping, barely alive.

In 418, Arkat approaches Kartolin Castle and asks for a challenger for single combat. Palangio responds, slays Arkat, wipes the floor with his companions and his army. The next four years, the Bright Empire retakes what it lost in Ralios, while Arkat lingers in Hell.

The Seshnegi Kings believe that they are done with the Gbaji Wars, and the Bright Empire thinks they are done with Arkat. Harmast Barefoot’s Lightbringers’ Quest changes all that.

Harmast brings Arkat to Hrelar Amali, thie most holy place in Ralios, where the tree of Flamal used to stand in Godtime before Zorak Zoran hewed it down, in the Tanier Valley, nowadays only a ruin.

There is a Ralian Humakti whose name is remembered – Makla Man, a cult hero of Humakt, who aided Arkat against the Vampire King and who invited him to his father’s cult after he had become an Orlanthi. He has special magics against resurrection. We discuss how escaping the Underworld in other ways than Chalana Arroy resurrection doesn’t trigger the Humakti.

We discuss the Telmori gift by Nysalor (later turned into a curse by Talor). We meniton the Telmori temple city in northern Vesmonstran, destroyed by Arkat when he drove the gifted Telmori north of the Nidan range (making them another problem for Talor to solve)

Even with the Telmori out of the way, Arkat was thwarted again and again at Kartolin Castle, so he left a siege force there and turned south into Slontos, rule by Palangio at the time.

Jörg briefly digresses to Palangio having established the dragonewt colony at Ryzel in Maniria.

Ludo asks about Palangio’s relationship with the dragonewts. Jörg assumes that the dragonewts were obliged to give Palangio some form of support, and that the Ryzel colony was their way of dealing with that oligation.

We briefly mention the siege of Kaxtorplose, and a naval operation on board of Waertagi ships bringing Arkat’s army into the east.

Kaxtorplose still has ruins and temples remembering the Gbaji Wars.

We briefly talk about the Hendriki, the last free Heortlings against the Bright Empire.

The theater of war enters Dragon Pass, with the fighting getting more and more bitter, Chaos coming into the fight more often, and troll forces becoming more important.

Jörg brings up Gerlant Flamesword again, now a Seshnegi noble who married the sister of the new king Hupala, and who lost several sons fighting alnogside Arkat even though he condemned his conversions to Orlanth and Humakt, and ultimately to Kyger Litor and Zorak Zoran.

Jörg muses about Arkat’s nameless companions who joined him in beciming trolls, expecting at least one Brithini and one Man-of-All, plus various Orlanthi both from Ralios and from the Dragon Pass region among them.

The troll politics around Arkat’s rebirth are mentioned, and Arkat’s initial fecundity siring Mistress Race daughters.

Jörg talks about how the Heortlings get to conquer a largely undefended Dara Happa while their best forcces try to stem Arkat’s dark tide towatrds Dorastor. The Heortling take great riches (which might have been plundered from their lands before) and establish a tribute after having deposed the former emperor.

We talk about Arkat’s trail of destruction towatds Dorastor, still haunted and forbidding.

In Dorator, Arkat faces off with Ralzakark and kills him. When asked who Ralzakark was during the Bright Empire, Jörg speculates that he was a civilized, unicord-headed guy who operated Feldichi technology amd helped manage the empire, a good conversationalist, possibly a good dancer who had the misfortune to have to fight Arkat, the most monstrous troll you can imagine. Ralzakark was killed and dismembered, and to bring him back some rite or quest of resurrection would have been required. Something nobody in their right mind would do, which is why some God Learners did it.

We briefly discuss the Lunar depiction of the conflict from the Appendix in the Guide.

The Fronelan Side Story

A very quick run through Talor the Laughing Warrior’s achievements, re-founding Loskalm, overcoming Varganthar the Unconquerable Knight, but dying and ending up in Hell.

Harmast goes onto another Lightbringers’ Quest, returns with another western warrior, Ludo speculates there may have been even more people brought back from Hell by Harmast, but there is a list of his quests somewhere.

We touch upon the Hrestoli concept of Joy of the Heart (again a topic for the History of Malkionism mentined above), It is not illuminaiton, but hard to tell apart.

Harmast and Talor unite the Loskalmi Malkinio and the Orlanthi of the region, fight the Telmori in Ralios and enter Dorastor in time to witness Arkat’s assault on the Tower of Dreams and him cirsomg the amcoemt technology of the Feldichi. Talor takes inspiration and casts his own curse on the (few surviving) Telmori with the gift.

We discuss whether the Telmori shape-shifting could be done through the wyter with multi-casting etc, and the pitfalls of using the wyter’s permanent POW to fuel these spells.

Jörg doubts thtt Telmori packs can support a regular wyter.

Arkat’s Command

The Shadow Tribute, expanded to the Dagori Inkart trolls by Arkat’s command, to compensate for missed booty from the Dara Happans, whose tribute initially paid for the troll portion.

Jörg points out the irony that subsequently, the Heortling lands become the urbanized, (and ultimately enlightened) civilization Lokamayadon would have wanted, the Kingdom of Orlanthland and later the EWF.

And now Jörg asks how any of this is relevant to your game set in the now of RuenQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha.

Ludo talks about three levels of artefacts etc. to unearth – recent history, old history, and the Godtime.

There are two approaches – either you can use all this history, sprinkle in odd facts (like the connection fo the magical sword Ironbreaker with Arkat), or you can just improvise ignoring established history, expanding it with your own.

Ludo argues you can just “make up some shit”.

Jörg talks about players researching these layers, pulling together artefiacts etc. There is also the cyclical nature of Glroanthan history, and it would be weird not to re-use stuff that happened to Arkat which doesn’t happen to Argrath.

Jörg talks about similarities between Morag, the horned brother of Biturian’s sister Norayeep, and how this character might emerge as a companion of Arkat, a horned hero, either overtowering physique or weird magic. Listen to the Bitouran Varosh series of podcasts if you want to know more about this.

Ludo asks whether Argrath is expected to multiclass like Arkat did, and Jörg doesn’t think so.

We talk about how player characters can become necessary elements of Argrath’s heroquesting. Basically the stuff Biturian is offered again and again, and rejects. Ludo tells a similar story about his current players refusing to meet Argrath (during the Lunar occupaiton of Pavis).. Jörg suggests offers that cannot be refused (when offered in a raspy voice).

To summarize:

Arkat’s foes were people, too.

Arkat’s friends had some very strange stories.

Ludo accuses Jörg of pulling a historian’s agenda, but Jörg counters with the developments in Ralios where Arkat is bound to return. Five Arkats (plus a few more false ones).

Jörg makes a case for Arkati bringing knowledge to heroquesting where Harmast brought emoition and passion, and for the power of invoking the appropriate mythical identifications. Know your history, know your enemies, outsmart them.

In conclusion, we address the parallel with the Exploring Glorantha series covering the same time-frame.

Notice that this is the text version only. Return for page references and links soonish.


The intro music is “The Warbird” by Try-Tachion. Other music includes “Cinder and Smoke” and “Skyspeak“, along with audio from the FreeSound library.