Welcome to a new issue of the Journal of Runic Studies, the premier Malkioni publication for studies into the nature of Glorantha. If you haven’t subscribed yet, please consult with the spirit bound to the appropriate electronic page.

Not much annotating of Jeff’s posts this week, because instead I wrote up two hopefully cool articles on the Romans. I wonder what you people prefer between annotations and half-ass history articles?

God Learner Sorcery

Here is what us God Learners were up to this week.

Glorantha Initiation: Bridgett, Bronze Age Tropes, and the Basement Operation

We are kicking off a new season of our “Glorantha Initiation” series with the amazing Bridgett Jeffries! We talk about bronze age tropes, fandom gatekeeping, drawing Earth Runes on your face, spending your evenings in a basement with old men, and more!

Chaosium News

Here are this week’s Chaosium news!

Brace for Announcements

According to Jeff Richard (who knows a thing or two about it), a bunch of books are done with layout and will soon be off to the printers:

And that’s it. Four new books done with layout thanks to the incredible Sim. Now just waiting on final error trapping, and then off to the printer.

Pretty soon we will even announce them!

This sounds a lot like four cults books to me but hey, who knows. I’m running a blog on the internet so I’m supposed to engage in misinformation, wild extrapolation, and clickbait titles, no? Am I doing this right? Anyway, I’m squeezing this maybe-related-maybe-not picture that Jeff shared in a completely different post here just to mislead you:

Art by Katrin Dirim © 2022 Chaosium Inc.

Orlanth and Yelm engaged in contests to see who would rule the gods. The last contest was weapons – Yelm his arrows of light, but Orlanth produced the sword Death and with it Orlanth sent Yelm to the Underworld to join the ranks of the dead.

Anyway, we might get these books in the fall. I’m not joking or being snarky, here, that’s really what I’m expecting given the current printing and shipping situation.

Wild Days at DriveThruRPG

According to MOB, the last week has been “wild” on DriveThruRPG, while Chaosium’s RuneQuest and Call of Cthulhu Starter Sets were discounted in PDF for $0.99… and the same for the Basic Roleplaying rulebook (they’re now back to their normal price).

All three products have shot up to Adamantine Best Seller, which shows that bug numbers of disgruntled D&D players went and grabbed other games to try during the whole OGL debacle. Whether these people will actually read and play those games, or whether things will settle back down to the usual, is still undetermined… we can only hope!

ORC License Q&A

Speaking of the OGL debacle, I was wondering last week if Chaosium would move their BRP and QuestWorld SRDs to the new Paizo-led ORC license, or simply offer their support for it. Austin Conrad pointed me to this particular answer in a recent update to Chaosium’s Q&A:

Q: What about Paizo’s OGL initiative? 

A: Chaosium is part of the Open RPG Creative License initiative aka ‘ORC’, announced by our friends at Paizo. […]

In all likelihood we will switch our own Open Gaming License model to the ORC in due course.

Jonstown Compendium

The Jonstown Compendium is Chaosium’s community content program for all Gloranthan games, hosted on DriveThruRPG. Disclaimer: all the relevant links are affiliate links that hopefully will let us cover some of the hosting and maintenance costs for the website and podcast! Thanks for using them!

Nick Brooke’s Gloranthan Manifesto

© 2022 Nick Brooke & Chaosium Inc.

Nick Brooke’s collection of essays about Glorantha, RuneQuest, and everything in between and around and under and diagonally behind are now available in print on demand via DriveThruRPG. The PDF is still free, and now also available on DriveThruRPG, so you can can get that first if you haven’t heard of this (before it was available in two parts, here and here)

Nick describes it as a “selection of opinion pieces” and that’s definitely what you get for your money. And since it’s free, why not? These are the thoughts, conclusions, and revelations of a guy who has been thinking a lot about Glorantha for a long time.

A lot of this is going to be familiar if you’ve been hanging around Gloranthan fandom since the 1990s, or if you’ve lurked around Nick’s old website.

Jeff’s Notes

Jeff Richard, the current mastermind on everything Gloranthan at Chaosium, is often posting notes and thoughts on the RuneQuest Facebook group. Here’s our curated list from the past week. A partial archive of these sources is compiled on the Well of Daliath.

Maniria Notes

Jeff has posted a few notes on Maniria this week! No annotations from me here: like I said, I spent my limited free time educating myself about the Roman military, and besides I don’t think there’s much in these that needs any annotation. All it needs is a good map to situate yourself:

Argan Argar Atlas © 2022 Chaosium Inc.

Maniria is the southwestern part of Genertela shown above, going from Tarinwood to Wenelia, more or less. In the upper-left corner you can spot Lake Felster, which we heard a lot about recently with all the posts on the Malkioni in Ralios. To the west is Seshnela. To the east are Esrolia and Caladraland. All good?

  • Some basic information on Maniria and it cults.
  • Some information about the Trader Princes who setup caravans from Ralios to the Holy Country and are now seeing their margins dwindle in light of the Opening, as everybody now just sails around. Plus, some notes about the influence of Esrolia on Maniria.
  • Even more on the Trader Princes, and how they sort of bridge the gap between the Orlanthi and the Malkioni in how they position themselves in Manirian society.
  • Information about the Arstola Forest, one of the Six Great Aldryami Forests. It’s missing from the map above, but it’s located above the upper-right corner. It goes all the way to Esrolia.
  • A short post about Dragonewts in Maniria (their city in in the Ryzel Hills, just left of Wenelia on the map above).
  • A short post about Ramalia, which makes me want to read a bit more about the place.

Overlaying Maps

Speaking of maps:

Something Greg taught me was to regularly overlay maps, so that you could see how things interact with stuff beyond the border of the map. This has a big effect on how I read history as well.

© 2022 Chaosium Inc.

[…] this is why stitching together maps is such a useful exercise. Of course Sartar and Prax are closely linked. But if they are on separate maps it is hard to notice the obvious!

There are also multiple layers drawn on transparent paper such as, say, forest coverage:

© 2022 Chaosium Inc.

CHA

Jeff talks about raising CHA in play:

CHA is arguably the most important characteristic in the game (at least for ambitious characters) but is the easiest stat to improve in the game. For example:

Got a cool magical sword? +1 CHA.

Led a successful military expedition? +1 CHA.

So if you have at least a 16 CHA starting out, you are well on your way to becoming a Rune Lord. If your CHA is lower, don’t worry it can be trained as well. But if you decided to make CHA your “dump characteristic” then you have a long road ahead of you.

The rules for this are in the RuneQuest rulebook page 420, in case you’re wondering. Note that, according to the rules, you only get +1 for the cool magical objects, regardless of how many cool magical objects you have. It does seem however that you get get multiple raises from leading successful military expeditions, so maybe that will motivate players to take some initiative? I’ll have to mention this to my group: they’re taking a file of Yelmalion hoplites to help fight off Greymane’s raids in Esrolia!

Miscellaneous Notes

  • What to buy: Jeff’s slightly updated and reworded list of what Gloranthan and RuneQuest newbies should buy first. Nice of him to give a shout-out to the Jonstown Compendium!
  • Sartarite names: an excerpt from the upcoming Sartar Book about Sartarite names, although if there’s not much you wouldn’t know about if you have already been using this Well of Daliath page. You can even find a few name generators online, with this one being my favourite.

Elsewhere on Arachne Solara’s Web

Not everything is about Glorantha, although most things are! Here are loosely relevant things that we found on the interwebs.

Lunar Javelins Are Useless

…once they’ve been thrown at you, that is.

This week, I learned a cool thing about Roman javelins that most of you probably knew already (because you’re all big nerds) but I figured I would write about it for the few in the back who are ignorant like me.

Okay so the Roman javelin, called a pilum (plural: pila) is not built the way you might expect a javelin to be built. It’s not just a long wooden shaft with a spear point at the top. Instead, it’s a not-so-long wooden shaft followed by a thin metallic shaft that ends in a narrow pyramidal spear point.

Just look at the picture below, it’s simpler. In order: a thin (or light) pilum, a thick pilum, and a weighted pilum. The light one is the most common. Roman soldier often carried two of those.

Pilum Types © 2022 Benjamin Hollis

Anyway, when you throw this at a bunch of hillbillies with wooden shields, the whole metallic shaft often goes through! So not only have you just injured one of those bearded savages who thought they were safe behind their puny shield, they also now have a half-meter-long piece of metal running through it, and a big wooden stick hanging on the front side. It makes the shield unbalanced and useless. Obviously they could remove the javelin from the shield, but because of the pyramidal design of the spear head that’s actually not easy to do in a hurry. So lo and behold they need to throw away the shield and face your charging troops completely exposed. Yay!

Even if the pilum doesn’t go through the shield, the metallic shaft is soft enough that it will bend on impact. This makes it useless and cannot therefore be picked up and thrown back at you. Yay again!

Here’s a video showing this in action (you gotta love experimental archaeology):

From what I understand, historians are still debating whether or not the pilum was actively designed to bend like this, or if it was a happy incident that they figured they would just keep. Some think that it was a mix of both, with the bending thing being an accident that was later used to improve the pilum design under Gaius Marius and then later again under Julius Caesar.

Anyway, someone correct me if I’m wrong but justifying this javelin design might require a bit of bronze-age fantasy loophole since I don’t think bronze is strong enough to work in this case. The Roman pilum was made of various grades of iron. But hey, what’s a fantasy world good for if not for handwaving some cool trope with some bullshit magic stuff? Maybe there’s something like Moon Silver that’s equivalent to soft iron, or maybe the Lunars handing out fat government contracts to the nearby Dwarfs? I’m sure you can figure something out!

Give Me Back My Legions!

I’m on a bit of a Roman bender this week, but this is cool too. I was thinking about the Dragonrise, in which a whole chunk of the Lunar Army gets destroyed in a day. According to these numbers from Jeff, the body count is about 10,000 soldiers, which represents about 13% of the Lunar Empire’s military might compared to what they had 4 years prior. They lose a lot of people elsewhere (such as the war in the Holy Country) during that time too, but I’m cooking the numbers a bit to get you to the Battle of Teutoburg Forest.

Creative Commons image

This battle from 9 CE is one of the most brutal and important defeats in the history of the Roman Empire. The whole story is quite complicated, so if you want the detailed version, you can for example listen to the History On Fire podcast on the subject (part 1 and part 2). The short version is as follows.

The Roman Empire had a storied and complicated relationship with the Germanic tribes. They had more or less conquered their lands (or so they thought) up to the Rhine. Some of the Germanic chieftains under Rome’s control even came to Rome to study Roman culture and sciences. Arminius (his original Germanic name unknown) was such a guy, and he went as high as becoming a trusted advisor to Publius Quinctilius Varus, a Roman general who served Emperor Augustus. But Arminius was a cunning little bugger who was playing both sides: he was also uniting a few of the many Germanic tribes to rebel against the empire.

Statue of Arminius, Hermannsdenkmal, Creative Commons

Using his unique position as a double-agent, his knowledge of Roman military logistics, his knowledge of local terrain, and Varus’ tactical fuck-up of a troop transfer in what was supposed to be a volatile province, Arminius spotted the perfect opportunity to attack.

Overall, between 15,000 and 20,000 Roman soldiers died in, at most, a couple of days. According to these numbers, that’s more than 12% of the entire military force of the Roman Empire at the time (excluding auxiliary forces… if you include those, that’s still between 6% and 8%). So if a bunch of Germanic barbarians can do this kind of damage when taking Roman soldiers by surprise, I suppose a big-ass dragon can do something similar.

According to the historical record, Emperor Augustus was so shaken by this whole disaster that he spent a couple weeks going around his palace, banging his head on the walls, repeatedly shouting “Quintilius Varus, give me back my legions!” I wonder if the Red Emperor does the same after the Dragonrise, losing his shit up there in Glamour…

If you’re wondering what happened next, obvious the Romans came back with a vengeance, but without any clear victory as far as I can tell. Then, they just gave up because, first, they had better things to do than wage battles in the muddy cold of the Germanic countryside, and second there was nothing to gain by conquering these people — unlike Sartar which has very lucrative trade routes with the Holy Country, Germania was quite worthless.

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why Joerg isn’t speaking a Latin language nowadays.

“The Defeat of Kallyr Starbrow’s Rebellion”, by Jan Popisil from the Guide to Glorantha

I’m now sort of seeing a bit of Arminius in Kallyr Starbrow. Just like him, she only managed to unite a few tribes against the Lunar Empire, with many more sitting the whole thing out, or even sort of collaborating with the “enemy”. Just like him, she managed to destroy a whole chunk of her enemy’s military with far less soldiers on her side. Just like him, she was very (too?) ambitious, and she died not very long after.

The Romans were no angels, but the Germanic tribes weren’t the good guys either. There’s a whole side of the story about what Arminius and his people did to the Romans. A good number of Roman soldiers actually preferred to commit suicide rather than be taken, so that should give you a hint. I wonder what sort of atrocities the Sartarite rebels might have done too, and how many of the Lunars who narrowly escaped the Dragonrise still preferred to kill themselves. You know, in case you wanted more blood and horror in your games…

Thank you for reading

That’s it for this week! Please contact us with any feedback, question, or news item we’ve missed!

Welcome to a new issue of the Journal of Runic Studies, the premier Malkioni publication for studies into the nature of Glorantha. If you haven’t subscribed yet, please consult with the spirit bound to the appropriate electronic page.

Lots of things happened this past week, both in the TTRPGs spaces and over here in the God Learners’ tower hideout, hence the few annotations on Jeff’s posts. But hopefully I made up for it in other parts of the newsletter!

Chaosium News

Here are this week’s Chaosium news!

Chaosium and the ORC License

© 2022 Paizo

Have you been off in the woods for a shamanic initiation this past week? Kidnapped by trolls and having trouble paying off your ransom? Or just stuck meditating on those Runes you have -20% penalties on?

Well I’m not going to explain the whole OGL debacle to you now, but the very short version is: Hasbro always wants more money, Wizards of the Coast is moving to royally fucking up the venerable D20 OGL, and the entire TTRPG is on absolute fire. There’s a lot happening, but the biggest move comes from Paizo, who isn’t a stranger to trying to fix things when WotC messes up… whether they succeed or not is another debate entirely but anyway Paizo announced an initiative to release a new better designed and worded (hopefully) gaming license called the Open RPG Creative License (or ORC in short).

Why TTRPG publishers can’t use things like Creative Commons (which didn’t exist back in the og-OGL days) is not clear to me, but let’s hope that the legal firm Paizo is paying for this will make a better license this time.

Chaosium has announced that they are part of the ORC initiative, which is very good news. It’s unclear though what it means for the BRP and QuestWorld SRDs, which were published under their own BRP OGL thingie, which as far as I can tell is this thing (or this one for QuestWorld). Since the BRP license received a rather… let’s say “lukewarm” reaction from the pro and semi-pro game designers I know, it might actually be good if Chaosium moved the BRP SRD to ORC. But I don’t know if it’s feasible, and I don’t know if ORC will help Chaosium better implement the provisions that prevent people from making Call of Cthulhu or RuneQuest retroclones… we’ll see!

In the meantime, read this funny little Twitter thread! (also posted on BRP Central)

Digital Starter Sets and BRP Rulebook Super Cheap This Week

© 2022 Chaosium Inc.

The previous item was not only big industry news, but also the reason for this item: as many D&D players are swearing off Wizards of the Coast and cancelling their D&D Beyond subscriptions, they’re asking around for other games to play… and this means that anybody with an ounce of marketing skill is discounting their point of entry products! So Chaosium currently has their Call of Cthulhu and RuneQuest starter sets (in PDF) at less than $1 on DriveThruRPG until January 19th.

© 2022 Chaosium Inc.

In addition to that, the generic BRP Rulebook (affectionately known as the “big gold book” or BGB) is also similarly discounted (more here).

Rick Meints Insults the President of Avalon Hill

© 2022 Chaosium Inc.

Rick’s latest “Out of the Suitcase” involves unknowingly insulting a game company president, RuneQuest erratas, and an errata by MOB about the erratas (inception!) As always, Rick’s writing is lighthearted and fun to read, and there are many close-up pictures to marvel at.

Jeff’s Notes

Jeff Richard, the current mastermind on everything Gloranthan at Chaosium, is often posting notes and thoughts on the RuneQuest Facebook group. Here’s our curated list from the past week. A partial archive of these sources is compiled on the Well of Daliath.

Fronela and the Syndics Ban

In 1499, Fronela was caught by the “Syndics Ban”. It segmented the entire region into zones of various sizes, each now isolated from the rest of the world.

During the Ban, these communities were like a video game, with elements of Mervyn Peake and Fallout’s Vaults. For about a hundred years, they were isolated and developed completely on their own. Some thrived in isolation, others withered away and died. Many ossified, frozen into place with rites and laws no longer understood, others were radically transformed.

© 2022 Chaosium Inc.

These communities ranged in size from a couple of hundred families to the Kingdom of Loskalm, with almost 180,000 square kilometers.

And then starting in 1582, the Ban began to lift. The fog just disappeared, and a brand new kaleidoscope of communities and people were there to be discovered. The process took about 40 years, and is still not totally complete. But as a result, big things are afoot in Fronela.

Jeff then takes the example of the Jonating tribe, which was isolated in a small pocket of the ban. He runs us quickly through what a Jonating-based game might look like, based on what happens after the ban lifts.

This is the kind of campaign that could be very well suited to newbies to Glorantha, since it makes adventurers into people who literally don’t know anything about what’s beyond their own lands. It also gives off vibes of old-school sword & sorcery like, say, Forbidden Lands, with its similar premise of recently-lifted curse on the surrounding lands. I actually wonder about using the Forbidden Lands system to run a Fronela game… mmmh.

Anyway, more here.

Diseases in Glorantha

Diseases in Glorantha aren’t caused by viruses and bacteria but by spirits, of course. You can find the stats for disease spirits in the Glorantha Bestiary but this bit doesn’t have mechanics, as far as I can tell:

The disease stays with the victim until the victim recovers, dies, or the spirit is forced out. If the victim dies, sometimes that creates a new disease spirit in addition to the original one.

That’s how you can have pandemics in your games — you know, for escapism.

What I find interesting, as always, is the world-building and storytelling guidance in Jeff’s notes:

Dealing with disease, and the risk of disease outbreaks, is the primary function of many Chalana Arroy temples. Healers treat the ill, fight disease spirits with their Rune magic, summon healing spirits, and the like. That’s where I suspect most of those Rune points get spent – not on Resurrection or Heal Body, but on Cure All Disease, Summon Healing Spirit, and Restore Health, and is why Healing Trance is more popular than Heal Body. The cult is big enough and numerous enough that diseases can be kept mostly under control, but it still might be the biggest killer in Glorantha (a point of pride to the Death goddess Mallia no doubt).

Of course, Mallia is a Chaos goddess of disease that is often worshipped by Broos. Her initiates are frequent antagonists in Gloranthan adventures because they like to poison herds and wells and rivers and such. This is always a good premise for a threat to your adventurers’ community!

Glorantha’s World

Jeff has started tweeting for some reason (“doing more on social media” isn’t your usual new year resolution, is it?) but hey, this gives us a glimpse of another Prosopaedia or Cults book (not sure) illustration. Behold the world of Glorantha all laid out for you to gaze at!

© 2022 Chaosium Inc.

This fantastic image is of course by Katrin Dirim. Previous overall views of Glorantha included Bernard Bittler’s and, err, I’m not sure who did that second one (the Guide to Glorantha doesn’t provide detailed art credits):

Edit: the second illustration is from Eric Vanel (thanks to 7Tigers for the info, who also points that it’s available as swag too!)

© 2022 Chaosium Inc.

Edit 2: Brian Duguid points out that the original version of the Gloranthan cosmos diagram can be found here, “as drawn by Mike Dawson, from”drawn by Mike Dawson from an original by Greg Stafford”… thanks Brian!

On Prince of Sartar

The BRP Central thread on Argrath and the metaplot keeps going (because of course), but here’s a nice tidbit from Jeff on his version of Argrath from the Prince of Sartar webcomic:

I wrote the comic. It is just one take on the character, and never even got far enough to explore the character past the Cradle scenario. The purpose of the comic was more about Kalin and I playing around with ideas and visuals, that later informed what became RQG. The idea was never that the comic was to become the definitive treatment of the characters.

At the time I was playing around with the idea that the Red Goddess was behind the Hero Wars, seeking a way out of the prison that she had put herself in. Argrath, her self-proclaimed Destroyer, would aid her in her Liberation and the rise of the White Moon. 

If I were to do it again, I would likely present it quite differently. 

But since people are putting labels on characters based on the comic, here’s my take. Argrath’s not a sociopath, he’s a shaman. Same with Harrek and Jar-eel. They all see into the Otherworld, into the realm of gods and spirits, and all see their paths through the mundane world accordingly. 

© 2022 Jeff Richard & Kalin Kadiev

As always, people get very… ahem… emotional about Argrath, Lunars, and the Hero Wars metaplot. So unsurprisingly, the topic ended up locked. Go read the Prince of Sartar webcomic instead!

Gloranthan Decimal Systems

Do you want to do Gloranthan math? Of course you do — that’s how you properly roleplay a Lhankor Mhy sage, right? Here’s a quick bit of info for you:

Pelorian languages are all strongly base 10. 

Theyalan languages give a number for each of the days of Sacred Time, so 1-14. 15 gets represented as 1-1, 28 as 1-14, and so on until we get to 210 which gets a new signifier.

Now drive your gamemaster and fellow players crazy by expressing all numbers in base 14!

Miscellaneous Notes

  • Be a good Malkioni: how the Malkioni people of the west need to be sure about how to follow the teachings of Malkion who, because he was a mortal, cannot just be magically reached for comments via your worship rituals. Jeff breaks down how the main Malkioni philosophies emerged, and mentions what Malkioni heroquesting might look like. Lots of Muslim references, which sort of hints at how Chaosium might develop the west in the future.
  • More on Malkionism: more notes about what it is and what it does.
  • More on New Hrestolism: a closer look at Loskalm’s New Hrestolism specifically, and how people pass through the various castes. Once you’ve accomplished that, you’re a Man-of-All and you can read this note about what your “code” might be like.
  • Kralorelan exarchs: a look at the priest-rulers who gather massive amounts of magic through the Imperial cult of Kralorela, and how this system survived through the ages. Plus: the mystery of Godunya, Dragonewts, draconic magic, and more. Lots of references that would warrant annotations, but I ran out of my time allotted to the newsletter… and I don’t know much about Kralorela to being with anyway.
  • More draconic stuff on Kralolera is here, too.
  • About Maniria: a few high level notes on Maniria.
  • Magic as a fourth dimension: pretty much that. The God Learners trying to define the monomyth is just scientific research into the nature of the universe, folks. We’re not that different from NASA. Plus, a cool quote: “Remember that the God Time is not the past – it is also the now. It is the endless.
  • Magic systems (plus sorcery): some notes on the various magic systems of Glorantha and RuneQuest, with some occasional designer notes, especially for the old bearded guys in the audience who miss the RQ3 sorcery rules (I’m not judging, but hey, admit it, you’re a guy, you’re at least middle aged, and you have a beard, right?)
  • Subcult of Orlanth’s Four Magic Weapons: how to add some flavour to your Orlanth Adventurous character!
  • Who is Ginna Jar? Some notes on the secret member of the Lightbringers.

Community Roundup

The community roundup is our highlight of interesting things being mentioned in the Glorantha-related Facebook groups, sub-Reddits, and other similar online places.

SpeedRune, a Rules-Light Bronze Age Fantasy Game

RPG writer Aaron King started reading some RuneQuest last autumn and found a lot that they like in there! But I suspect that Aaron is far from alone bouncing off the crunchy mechanics of RuneQuest even though they like many of the intended goals of the system, and/or the setting:

Things I really liked about it:
– cults & rune magic
– psychedelic heroquests! (wanted more of them honestly)
– the whole setting, really
– seasonal downtime play that includes the community – the art

© 2022 Aaron King

So Aaron went and made a RuneQuest-inspired rules-light bronze age fantasy game called SpeedRune. It’s available on itch.io with a “name your own price” price tag. The pamphlet sized PDF has 4 pages for the player, and 2 pages for the gamemaster. The other 20 or so pages include seasonal adventuring prompts, character and community sheets, and a couple of appendices.

If you’re familiar with the deluge of rule-light OSR games of the past few years, you’ll see how SpeedRune is basically hailing from that heritage. And of course, if you’re familiar with RuneQuest Glorantha, you’ll see that SpeedRune is a heavily streamlined and simplified version of it too. I can say SpeedRune is one of the very few D100 rules-light OSR games I’ve seen.

Photo by @maxwellander

Aaron King has more games on their itch.io page, and is a host of the RPG bookclub podcast RTFM.

See also: Coeur de Runes, a French rules-light game that inherits the DNA of HeroQuest rather than of RuneQuest.

Erinor the Bell-Walker

Not sure what this is for, but hey it’s a cool looking Gloranthan character, by @Mubinnas_Fair on Twitter.

Elsewhere on Arachne Solara’s Web

Not everything is about Glorantha, although most things are! Here are loosely relevant things that we found on the interwebs.

Amazing Discovery of Ice Age Proto-Writing

The first really cool archaeological breakthrough of the year came really early! In this paper published on January 5, 2023, a few “independent researchers” teamed up with archaeology academics to reveal what they think is the earliest form of writing known to man (called here “proto-writing” because it’s not really a full writing system either…)

Image by Bennet Bacon et al., Cambridge University Press

If you look at the cave paintings above (from famous caves such as Lascaux and La Pasiega), you’ll notice dots or smudges or lines. These were, until recently, not really identified. Archaeologists knew that they must have some meaning, some sort of information about each animal, but they didn’t know what exactly.

But Bennett Bacon, a furniture conservator in London, had an idea. He started researching it on his own, and then reached out to professionals with his theory. It was well received, with encouragements and help for continuing the research which eventually involved checking that theory against the hundreds of known animal cave paintings…

Ok, I’ll spoil the ending. There are two major types of symbols: raw numbers (dots or lines), and numbers with a sort of “Y” shaped symbol specified somewhere in them. These writing indicate when is the mating and birthing season of each animal — an information that is pretty useful when you consider the “hunter” part of “hunter/gatherer society”. This simple calendar system counts the number of Lunar months starting from the end of winter, when rivers unfreeze and snow melts.

If you want to see lots of fancy diagrams and correlation factors, check out the paper. Otherwise, there’s more here, here, and here. This recent episode of the Ancients podcast is also great, as the host interviews Paul Pettitt, one of the authors of the paper.

Why is Lunar Concrete so Durable?

The Lunars… errr sorry, the Romans have built extremely durable structures that still stand to this day, from aqueducts to ports to big domes and more. This new paper from the Science Advances journal takes a closer look at the composition of Roman concrete to figure out why its durability is so good.

Stephen Knowles Photography/Getty

From the little that I understand, the Romans were previously thought to have built their stuff using some straightforward limestone, clay, and/or sand mortar mixed with volcanic ash (generally obtained from the Bay of Naples, and shipped all around the empire for construction needs). The small millimetre-scale white blobs visible in Roman concrete was thought to be imperfections.

But now it looks like these little buggers are actually the reason these big Roman buildings are still standing. The white blobs, called “lime casts”, might be made of “quicklime” (aka Calcium Oxide), which is what you get when you heat lime up a whole bunch (at least 825°C). Watch out, once it cools down, you get something very caustic

How does that help, though? Well that’s the really cool awesome bit. See, these lime casts are the weakest points in the concrete, which means they’re most likely to fracture. But because of their material nature, they can also recrystallize into, basically, limestone concrete when rain water inevitably trickles down to it. So fractures are “guided” through points in the structure that are self-healing!

Robert Harding Picture Library

Anyway, as cool as it is, what does that tell us about Glorantha? Well, my takeaways are:

  1. Lunar architects need very high heat to hot-mix their construction materials, which means the probable presence of Lodril initiates in their production pipeline. Of course, you don’t need magic to heat things up (the Romans did it no problem thank you very much), but hey it doesn’t hurt to use a widespread god to help, and we know that Gloranthan world-building can’t help equating the two. This might also imply some specialized Lodril worshippers, with maybe some special sub-cult magic.
  2. Logistically speaking, it’s possible that some quicklime is stored somewhere, and transported to nearby or distant construction sites. Might some rebels steal it and use it for chemical warfare? Is the creation of quicklime a Lunar secret or is it widespread?
  3. If we look at including volcanic ash to Lunar construction, the most obvious places to get it from are the Lunar Heartlands. Darjiin and Doblian have old (and sometimes sacred) volcanoes, which is sort of why Lodril is one of the traditional main gods in Peloria. But maybe Lunars in Sartar got theirs from the Indigo Mountains (in the Far Place, up north) or Caladraland (in the Holy Country, down south). Either way, these caravans might need the PCs to guard, to ambush, or to get found after getting lost.

The paper on Roman hot-mixing is here. More here and here.

Beautiful Broo

Do Broos have fashion influencers on TikTok? Of course they do, since TikTok and influencers in general are, like, by definition Chaotic and actively trying to destroy the fabric of reality. Anyway, here are some fashion goals for your Broos:

Image courtesy of Jo & Cris from Bonhomie Games in the UK.

Thank you for reading

That’s it for this week! Please contact us with any feedback, question, or news item we’ve missed!

Welcome to a new issue of the Journal of Runic Studies, the premier Malkioni publication for studies into the nature of Glorantha. If you haven’t subscribed yet, please consult with the spirit bound to the appropriate electronic page.

This week has been dominated by the OGL-apocalypse and the massive amounts of people asking for game recommendations beyond D&D and 5e games. Of course, all the BRP fans came out of the woods and supported their favourite Chaosium games including RuneQuest. My social media and RSS filters were absolutely filled with all these replies, which is cool, but also possibly drowned any cool Glorantha-related stuff that happened this week. So if I missed something cool, ping me!

Chaosium News

Here are this week’s Chaosium news!

Truly Epic Campaigns

Jeff talks to James about running multi-year campaigns of RuneQuest. Topics include the “Taming of DragonPass” campaign which used the “PenDragon Pass” rules hack (more here and here about this), the scalability of BRP-based systems, going beyond published material, and lots of other advice!

New Gamemaster Month is Back

New Gamemaster Month is back! This is a collection of resources to help people GM their first game as easily as possible. It has material and advice for a bunch of excellent games: Numenera, Unknown Armies, Trail of Cthulhu, Monster of the Week, Delta Green, and, of course RuneQuest.

The first step is to get a copy of the Starter Set, and then you just sit back and skim through it while waiting for the step-by-step instructions that will be published every week until the end of January. That will be easier than Befuddling a trollkin!

Jonstown Compendium

The Jonstown Compendium is Chaosium’s community content program for all Gloranthan games, hosted on DriveThruRPG. Disclaimer: all the relevant links are affiliate links that hopefully will let us cover some of the hosting and maintenance costs for the website and podcast! Thanks for using them!

Crimson King

Nick Brooke’s latest Lunar extravaganza is out! Yay!

A game of intrigue and conspiracy in the highest echelons of the Lunar Empire! Players take on the roles of the heroes and rulers of this Gloranthan superpower, confronted by treachery and betrayal on all sides.

For the occasion, both volumes of Life of Monsoon (The Characters and The Freeform) are on sale with a discount, so you can grab all of that in one fell swoop.

In Search of Baroshi

© 2022 Marc Robertson & Chaosium Inc.

Help a spirit by rescuing the ancient godling Baroshi in this adventure for RuneQuest suitable for a couple of sessions. The pack also includes some VTT resources.

Zenith Counters Adventure Pack #4: Balastor’s Barracks

© 2022 Dario Corallo & Chaosium Inc.

Play some old school adventure in a new school style! The classic RQ2 Big Rubble dungeon crawl “Balastor’s Barracks” (available here in PDF/POD) now has some VTT maps and tokens, courtesy of Dario Corallo.

Zenith Counters Troll Bundle

© 2022 Dario Corallo & Chaosium Inc.

Dario Corallo also has a bundle for all his troll-related Zenith Counters. If you plan on meeting trolls in a VTT, Dario’s got you covered.

Jeff’s Notes

Jeff Richard, the current mastermind on everything Gloranthan at Chaosium, is often posting notes and thoughts on the RuneQuest Facebook group. Here’s our curated list from the past week. A partial archive of these sources is compiled on the Well of Daliath.

Top of the World

The “Top of the World” is another Gloranthan landmark that has completely escaped me until now:

In Dragon Pass, Kero Fin is the mother of Orlanth, but for much of Peloria, Fronela, and Ralios, Orlanth resides atop Top of the World. This high peak is some 10,000 meters high, and is the Gloranthan Mount Everest.

© 2022 Chaosium Inc.

This mountain is that big white blob in the centre of the above map. It’s located at the intersection of Ralios in the south (and specifically Telmoria, for some added fun), Fronela in the north, and the western Lunar provinces in the east. It’s listed under the write-up for Talastar in the Guide. Talastar in general is a rocky and hilly area of sheep herding Orlanthi. Brolia, the closest region to Top of the World, is even rockier and harsher, to the point that the tribes there don’t even farm.

All these Orlanthi tribes technically live under the rule of the Lunar Empire, but neither party seems to be very into it. The Lunars just wanted to mark this area on the map as “living under the Lunar Way”, and the local Orlanthi just wanted to do whatever was easiest to get the Lunar missionaries to go the fuck away. Everybody smiled, the Lunar distributed some white robes to the tribal representatives, the tribal representatives replied with some bullshit, and all went home. This was in 1590, and is remembered (and I kid you not) as “White Shirt Day” to the locals.

Top of the World is sacred to the Orlanthi of Peloria, Fronela, and Ralios, and has many temples and shrines on its slopes. Great Orlanthi magicians are known to fly over the Rockwoods between Top of the World and its mate, the Great Queen.

A fun fact is that, again according to the guide, these holy places let you “get in touch” with the Storm God freely. From far away it might only happen on High Holy Days, but as you get closer, you can contact Orlanth on any Windsday. In terms of RuneQuest mechanics I figure that maybe you can do some worship without Sanctifying the ground, and maybe you get discount on some Divination or something.

Top of the World is often associated with the Spike, and among Orlanth’s titles here are “Son of the Spike” and “Breath of the Spike”. From atop this peak, Orlanth centered himself, gathered his vital air but did not release it, building up tremendous energy. When he is ready, Great Orlanth discharges his breath as a terrible bolt. Dedicated Orlanthi can learn his magic at his temple at Tarvathlinpor (“Place of the High Breath) at the shoulder of Top of the World.

Mount Everest, Creative Commons image

Now for many lowland Pelorians, Top of the World – easily seen in Doblian, Sylila, and the West Reaches – is a home of violent and dangerous storm demons. The locals there are backwards bandits, who herd sheep in great poverty. But they are known for having powerful magicians who live on the slopes of the peak.

Religion in Safelster

Safelster is one of those super cool regions of Glorantha that would benefit from having a campaign set there… well, frankly, most regions of Glorantha are super cool and would benefit from having a campaign set there but I digress. Safelster is the area in southern Ralios centered around Lake Felster.

© 2022 Chaosium Inc.

It’s highly populated, has fertile lands, is dotted with city states engaged in various political schemes against each other, and has a whole bunch of diverse wizards and priests from all manners of philosophies and cults:

About 10% of the population still follows the “Old Gods“. This is a hodge-podge of shamanic cults, spirit worship, ancestor worship, and the like. These cults have had syncretism with the Theyalan and Malkioni religions and barely resemble their original forms.

Fun fact: the term “Theyalan” is mentioned repeatedly in the RuneQuest rulebook (almost always in the context of languages and writing), but never defined. This is the kind of editorial problem that makes it difficult to get into Glorantha, and something that was raised by Baz a few times in his excellent RuneQuest Year Zero short podcast series about discovering the RuneQuest Starter Set.

Anyway, you can almost always substitute “Theyalan” with “Orlanthi”. The term was originally coined by the God Learners to talk about the people who, shortly after the Dawn, spread the worship of the Lightbringers.

About 27% follow the Lightbringers and Earth religions of the Theyalans. These have also incorporated local deities and spirits, and have added many heroes, most recently Siglolf Cloud-Crusher, a subcult of Orlanth Thunderous.

Siglolf Cloud-Crusher comes from Lankst, a fertile and well populated Orlanthi kingdom located north of Lake Felster (a bit outside the map featured above). Garundyer of the Seven Storms, a contemporary Lankstite Orlanthi hero, is responsible for “bringing back” Siglolf with his heroquesting — in fact, Garundyer is described in the guide as “currently the most powerful Orlanthi Heroquester in Glorantha” (for a “current” based a few years before RuneQuest Glorantha’s 1625).

Siglolf gives you the magic to hurl rocks down from rain clouds. Garundyer has a whole bunch of other cool, powerful, and sometimes a bit silly battle magic, too — you can find all about it in the Guide.

About 20% follow Rokari Malkionism. The zzaburi look to Leplain for support and guidance.

Leplain is a large city west of Lake Felster (look just below that large marsh area on the map above). It’s technically in Seshnela, so if you’re following at home, you need to switch over to volume 2 of the Guide to find it. The city is nicknamed “The City of Wizards” and that’s where the Watcher Supreme, chief sorcerer of the Rokari, and most of the main Rokari schools and libraries are.

About 5% follow other “orthodox” Malkioni sects such as the Boristi, Galvosti, and Old Hrestoli.

These orthodox sects are variants of Malkioni religion that date back a long time and differ from other Malkioni philosophies in small ways:

  • The Boristi were founded during the Gbaji Wars, so they are all about freely Tapping Chaotic creatures (the Tap technique being the rough collection of sorcery spells that leech/absorb/steal something from something else… see the RuneQuest rulebook). In contrast, most Malkioni think that Tapping is bad and either avoid it or flat out ban it. The RuneQuest rulebook chapter on sorcery sadly doesn’t mention this at all, so careful about ending up with a Lhankor Mhy adventurer who upsets western sorcerers.
  • While the Boristi’s Tapping comes from good intentions (you know, the thing that paves the road to hell… open the Guide and look up why the Boristi are called “squids”), the Gavosti are a bunch of assholes: they happily Tap any non-Malkioni people. They almost got wiped out by understandably-upset barbarians at the end of the Second Age, but they still persist.
  • I’m not sure what “Old Hrestoli” are. Generally speaking, as I understand it, the Hrestoli are those who believe in mobility between the traditional Malkioni castes (worker, soldier, noble, wizard), with a select elite going through all castes to become “Men of All” (a sort of “knight” status). I suppose that the Old Hrestoli stick to the old version of that, without any of the new age progressive views of the New Hrestolism? I don’t know…

About 33% follow what is commonly called one of the Stygian Heresies. This includes the Chariot of Lightning sect, which some 8% of the total population follows.

We already looked a bit at the Stygian Heresies here and more specifically here, but Jeff gives some welcome description too:

The Stygian Heresies are esoteric syncretic cults that claim origin in the early Second Age, and incorporate elements of Malkionism, Lightbringers, and Troll religion. They have distinct and secretive theologies. First and foremost they all claim to be the inheritors of esoteric knowledge derived from the personal spiritual experience of Arkat, that is above any orthodox teaching, tradition, or authority derived from Malkion.

Secondly, they all identify Gbaji the Deceiver as the great moral evil of the world. Arkat’s struggle with Gbaji is the source of his spiritual authority (which all agree is of a superior authority to Malkion or others).

Beyond that, the sects are all over the map. Some sects openly display themselves. However, most hide and pretend to be orthodox Malkioni (especially Rokari) or are initiates of other local cults. As one hidden Archon is cited – “if any religion is stronger than you, follow it, but keep the secret truth in your hearts.” Many sects permit or even demand that members deny their membership to outsiders – such dissimulation was required for the survival of the sect during periods of persecution and have been maintained. Their beliefs are concealed from outsiders, and members are encouraged to be lay members of other cults Many sects forbid marriage outside the sect.

The Chariot of Lightning sect was mentioned earlier so it’s worth looking at it too. It is a fast growing cult located mostly around Oktorion, the area north-northwest of Lake Felster around the Upper Tannier River (see the map above). That’s also where the aforementioned Siglolf cult is very popular. It believes that “Orlanth is the Supreme Deity, the creator, preserver, destroyer, revealer, and concealer of all that is, and that other deities are important also and deserve worship for their aid and protection.” It sounds like some weird-ass Orlanthi sorcerers thing?

As you might imagine, it’s not very popular among the Malkioni who think that the Invisible God is the Supreme Deity, and that the gods and spirits of other religions are not worthy or worship — only worthy of being used for magic points. But hey, the Chariot of Lightning has the support of Lankst and Garundyer, which means that, so far, anybody who didn’t agree has been utterly crushed by armies powered by crazy storm magic. Better get on their good side…

© 2022 Chaosium Inc.

Anyway, these annotation have gone long enough. Jeff has a few more thoughts on Safelster worth reading, and a short extra bit on playing Hrestoli and Zzaburi adventurers.

Malkioni Heresies

More on the Stygian Heresies and other distorted forms of Malkionism:

Most Malkioni are far more concerned about heretical sects of Malkionism than about non-Malkioni subjects. Arkatism or “the Stygian Heresy” is considered one of the most heretical outgrowths of Malkionism.

So for example, when the Seshnegi conquered Safelster, the Orlanthi, Aldyrami, followers of the Old Gods, etc., were likely left alone. Orlanthi warriors could become horali or dronari and keep their cults, Issaries cultists could even claim descent from Talar and become low-ranking talars. These people had to declare loyalty to the King (later Emperor), temples had to pay a special tax, and so on, but were basically allowed to practice their traditional rites unmolested.

Even though the plebe worship their gods (usually Orlanthi), I imagine that once they’ve been conquered they are at least forced to become lay members of the Invisible God or something. The Malkioni wizards do need lots of magic points after all.

The conquest of Sefelster (and Ralios in general) by the Seshnegi sort of happened twice. Once was in the mid 700s when the God Learners broke up Ralios and stole the Arkati secrets… you might say that’s arguably more of a Jrusteli invasion than a Seshnegi one, but the God Learners technically came from Seshnela originally, and reconquered it before conquering Ralios, soooo… plus, they put Seshnegi titles on the new Ralios Overlords. Anyway, that went sideways when the God Learners were destroyed, but the Seshnegi came back in force in the mid 1400s when King Ulianus III (re)conquered half of Ralios.

The same tolerance did not apply to wayward Malkioni – especially wayward zzaburi. Arkatism was viewed as a heresy, and followers were accused of consorting with Darkness demons and worse.

[…]

Of course, in the Third Age Malkionism has largely been in retreat, and few Malkioni in Genertela have many non-Malkioni subjects.

That being said, Malkioni rulers are known to destroy temples that are perceived as being overly powerful, rebellious, or threats to them.

More here.

Ralios Orlanthi

More on Ralios! Remember that the aforementioned Top of the World, arguably the most sacred Orlanthi mountain, is nearby… so:

The Holy Country has about 357k Orlanth initiates (and I mean initiate of Orlanth, not Orlanthi culture). Peloria has 225k and Dragon Pass has just under 100k.

But Ralios has some 560k Orlanth initiates!

In Ralios, the cult is centered on Top of the World, and was likely the God Learners primary source of information about Orlanth in the Monomyth.

Historically the Orlanthi of Ralios supported Arkat against Gbaji, and opposed the EWF in the Second Age, with Alokaring Dragonbreaker hailing from the region (he’s famous not only for kicking the EWF’s ass, but also for founding the Orlanth Rex cult, which defines Orlanthi culture, law, and politics in Dragon Pass, among other places.

There are werewolves, barbarian dragonewts, elves, dwarves, and trolls a plenty in Orlanthi Ralios, as well as a growing danger from Dorastor. But the Orlanth cult here is not defined by conflict about the Lunar Empire – the Red Goddess is an evil from beyond the Rockwoods, but is an abstract evil. Ballid, Nida, Guhan, and Argin Terror are more obvious threats is Vesmonstran, and Halikiv and Dorastor are more obvious threats in East Ralios.

Vesmonstran is the broader region of the Upper Tanier River in northern Ralios. It’s composed of Oktorion and Lankst (that should ring a bell), which you can spot respectively in the previous Safelster map and the further up above Top of the World map.

Let’s look up what those threats are:

  • Ballid is the big Aldryami forest west of Lankst. It used to be super super big at the Dawn (back when elf forests covered a large portion of Genertela), but now it’s only a small fraction of what it was… even if there are more than 300,000 elves in there. Of course, they’re working on great reforestation projects, which are generally bad news for non-elves.
  • The Nidan Mountains are super important to dwarfs — that’s from where the Decamony rules over all Mostali of the continent, and where dwarfs build muskets and pistols. They also control High Llama Pass, the best way to cross the mountains between Fronela and Ralios. Count another 300,000 dwarfs here. I’m not convinced that they are an active threat (I don’t see any particular reason for them to bother the Ralios Orlanthi), but who knows what sort of devious World Machine plans they have in motion.
  • Guhan is a whole different bag of trouble. Look for it at the top left the above Safelster map, around the three peaks of the Uzgor Mountains. Not only is it a stronghold of the trolls, it’s a stronghold of Arkati trolls (Arkat told them to come here). That’s “Mr. bad ass wizard trolls” for you. If you’ve heard of “The Swarm” (a big caravan of trolls and giant arthropods that crossed Dragon Pass in 1623 on their way to Dagori Inkarth), well, it came from here. Guhan has about 250,000 trolls (most of which would be trollkin of course). Expect regular troll raids, because these trolls don’t give a fuck.
  • Halikiv is another troll stronghold. It has a Castle of Lead (where Kyger Litor resides) just like in Dagori Inkarth, and they have a big population of Zorak Zorani berserkers. However, it’s smaller than Guhan (120,000 trolls).
  • Dorastor is of course the Chaos winter wonderland that’s on the other side of the mountains to the east. Don’t go there. Just don’t.

So if you want to set your RQ campaign in an Orlanthi land, without a Lunar Empire, without Prince Argrath and his Sartar Magical Union, look at places like Lankst or the East Wilds. You can have trolls, dwarves, elves, dragonewts, and the like, without that story going on.

You can introduce the Chariot of Lightning sect as a new charismatic sect that gives sorcery to Orlanthi. Maybe it has the feel of Thulsa Doom/Jim Jones, or maybe it is like the prophet Mani or the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (guru to the Beatles and the Beach Boys).

To help you choose, Jeff splits the Orlanthi of Ralios in three groups: the hillbillies of the East Wilds who are nonetheless most similar to the Orlanthi of Dragon Pass, the religious-military alliance of Vesmonstran if you want less sheep herding and more battles, and the savvy, diverse, and Malkioni-tinted Orlanthi of Safelster. More here.

Storm Pantheon Genealogy

Here’s another mythology sneak peek! Nothing new or surprising, just cool stuff.

Orlanth is the grandson of Earth and Sky, his siblings are the winds, a bull, a cat, violence, evil, the mountain snow, and Death. He married the Green Lady, and his offspring include the Plow Man, Spring, the sheep god, a bear god, and a king. Orlanth turned himself into a woman to fight a foe no man could kill, slew a devouring dragon to bring forth rain, and killed his cousin Sun as a final in a series of contests.

Now that’s some proper mythology!

© 2022 Chaosium Inc.

Issaries and Etyries in Central Genertela

Jeff talks about the differences and commonalities between the Issaries and Etyries cults. If you only have the RuneQuest rulebook, you know Etyries as one of the Seven Mothers… she’s the Lunar merchant deity, and often considered a daughter of Issaries.

Nothing very surprising in this note (both cults collaborate for trade’s sake, but are also competitors, so overall neutral to each other, and neutral in general), but I found this bit interesting:

Etyries has the special Rune spells of Exchange Spells, Path Watch, and Reflection. She cannot create Neutral Ground like Issaries.

Etyries is the Lunar goddess of traders, not of marketplaces or neutral grounds for trade. Her cultists are not neutral—they are agents of the Lunar Empire, buying and selling goods on behalf of their rulers, nobles, financiers, or temples.

This means that there’s still value in having Issaries priests around, even in the Lunar Empire, in order to create neutral grounds through magic. Furthermore:

It is not out of the ordinary for an Issaries caravan to hire on an Etyries initiate when traveling through the Lunar Provinces, just as any sensible Etyries caravan hires on an Issaries initiate when traveling through Sartar or the Holy Country.

Another interesting bit is how Issaries (and his initiates) is only neutral until he gets a formal Lightbringers Summons:

I actually think this is part of the Lightbringers power. They are not kin or a tribe. They are not a warlord and his companions. They are a group of powers that are united to end the Greater Darkness and restore the world. Of them, only Orlanth is an elemental deity. We get Truth and Stasis, Illusion and Disorder, Life, Harmony and Motion, the Man Rune, and Magic and Spirit. The only thing we are missing is Death – but that is perhaps hidden in Air, and is Orlanth’s great threat. But as they seek to restore the world, perhaps Death must be sheathed.

If we check these Runic associations of the Lightbringers, we get Orlanth (Air), Lhankor Mhy (Truth and Stasis), Eurmal (Illusion and Disorder), Chalana Arroy (Life and Harmony), Issaries (Movement), Flesh Man (Man), and Ginna Jar (which leaves us Magic and Spirit). Interestingly enough, we actually get Movement three times (which we could characterize as Orlanth’s recklessness, Eurmal’s adaptability, and Issaries’ path finding), and Harmony twice (let’s say: Issaries’ bargaining and Chalana Arroy’s peace-seeking). That’s maybe appropriate for a group of people who need to travel far and fast to make peace with the Sun and repair the cosmos…

Read more if you want to know how Argan Argar and Lorkanos fit in these arrangements.

Lhankor Mhy in Central Genertela

The cult of Lhankor Mhy is split in two:

There are roughly 100,000 initiates of the Knowing God in Central Genertela. This includes those that call the god Lhankor Mhy (probably about 60%), and those that call him Buserian (maybe 40%). That’s a linguistic-organizational distinction, and not two separate gods.

Buserian is the Dara Happan god of writers, scribes, and astrologers for the Sun pantheon… but both cults are aware that they effectively worship the same deity. They have different centres of interest (the Dara Happans are a lot more interested in celestial movements), but also overlapping or complementing ones. This means that, just as the ancient Greek philosophers sometimes travelled far and wide to check out some landmark, consult some foreign library, or meet some esteemed writer, so do the Gloranthan philosophers:

So remember, your sage character is part of a much wider world of scholars and literacy. You might be advising some tribal ring in the hill country of Sartar, but you were trained by a master in Boldhome or Jonstown who corresponded with scribes in Nochet, Furthest, and beyond. Perhaps you entertained yourself with a translation of the Fortunate Succession or Hepherones?

There’s a lot more advice and examples in the original note, so check it out.

Note that, of course, the Lunar Empire has the Irripi Ontor cult, but that’s a different deity.

Chalana Arroy in Central Genertela

Similar to the previous note, but with Chalana Arroy:

If we look at Chalana Arroy in Central Genertela, we find that it is actually a surprisingly big cult – some 140,000 members in total. The cult is most densely numbered in Esrolia, but the Lunar Heartlands is the other major center for the Goddess of Mercy.

Pretty much everybody likes Chalana Arroy except creatures of Chaos.

Chalana Arroy is strictly neutral, showing favoritism for none. She and her followers are pacifists, vegetarians, and studiously non-political. […]

If [Chalana Arroy healers] start showing favoritism, you do run the risk of your Goddess sending out the spirit of reprisal.

I think that’s very tricky to quantify. Working on a purely first-come-first-serve basis is not scalable at all given the magic point economy and the practicalities of running a hospital with a finite number of beds. So of course while Chalana Arroy healers strive towards no favouritism, there’s a lot of blurred lines to walk around. And they’re only human, with all their flaws and biases. In my opinion, this is the kind of shit that gives you the Zero’th Law of Robotics or the madness of Sharon Apple. That’s sort of the themes I played around in one of my short stories here. Illumination gets you around spirits of reprisal anyway, and it’s not that uncommon if you play in the Lunar Empire.

This interesting interplay between Chalana Arroy and Lhankor Mhy is a good source of ideas for adventures or for justifying the presence of a PC:

Her temples are another important source of literacy, and no doubt there are many books and texts on herbs, medicine, anatomy, etc. Her temples form a network of hospitals and healers, charities caring for the sick, wounded, and destitute. […]

If we look at the interplay between Chalana Arroy and Lhankor Mhy, we see that the initiates of Chalana Arroy are taught writing and alchemy in the temples of the Knowing God.

And here’s an interesting note about playing a Chalana Arroy initiate — I hadn’t thought of Prince Ezran in that light:

CA often gets played as an often-frustrated healer in a party of warriors. My suggestion is to turn that around. She’s a radical alternative voice, seeking healing rather than combat. Heal the foe, offer them mercy, and throw yourself on their mercy rather than resort to violence.

A nice example of this is Prince/King Ezran from the Netflix series The Dragon Prince (which I watched with my kids).

I also watched The Dragon Prince with my kids and it was great! You can even get the roleplaying game now (powered by Cortex Prime). The book looks great, but it sadly looks a bit too crunchy for kids and newbies… I haven’t actually tried playing it yet though, so maybe that’s a false first impression (comments welcome if you’ve played it!)

Zzaburi in Western Genertela

And one last bunch of people who interact with the Lhankor Mhy sages: the sorcerers in the west:

There are somewhere around 120,000 zzaburi in Seshnela and Ralios. Now of them, about 79,000 adhere to the Rokari school.

[…]

Now many of these zzaburi are in contact with their Knowing God counterparts, at least in Safelster. However, their scripts is Western, a very different script from Theyalan. Nonetheless, I suspect that in Safelster we have transmission of lore between the Theyalans and the Malkioni, back and forth. Sometimes these two groups get along, sometimes I suspect they have violent riots against each other.

Remember there are some 45,000 initiates of Lhankor Mhy in Ralios. So we have this band of 120,000 zzaburi from Seshnela to Safelster, that intersects with a belt of 45,000 sages.

This of course is part of the dynamic that is why Lhankor Mhy has access to sorcery.

And one interesting bit of game design, regarding the notion that some areas or temples of Lhankor Mhy would have a restriction on teaching sorcery:

The main reason to restrict sorcery from a particular temple is so that you as a GM have the ability to say you don’t want to deal with sorcery rules or you would rather not have that player deal with them.

There’s a bit more here if you want a bit of geekery about the Fourth Age and the illiteracy era.

Key Figures of the Hero Wars

A quick recap of who’s who in the Gloranthan metaplot… nothing surprising here, but some good reminders are in order:

As a writer, these characters are as baked into the setting as is the Red Moon, Orlanth, or the Lunar Empire. You can decide to dump any or all of them, after all YGWV, but they are present in everything Chaosium publishes, even if a book doesn’t mention them.

Your player-characters can have stories that weave around these characters, directly interact with them, ignore them, supplement them, or even replace them (if you want to have one of your player-characters become the next Red Emperor, go for it, although that’s unlikely ever to be a path in published products). Present these characters as moral exemplars, villains, whatever – I personally view all of them as heroes, in the classical sense. They straddle the world of men and gods, which usually means they do great AND terrible things.

This is a hard thing for many people to wrap their head around. The Red Emperor, Argrath, Harrek, Jar-eel, etc., they are villains and saviours depending on whose story is being told. But in every tale they inspire awe (even if it dreadful).

Thank you for reading

That’s it for this week! Please contact us with any feedback, question, or news item we’ve missed!

Welcome to a new issue of the Journal of Runic Studies, the premier Malkioni publication for studies into the nature of Glorantha. If you haven’t subscribed yet, please consult with the spirit bound to the appropriate electronic page.

Happy new year everybody! Don’t forget to reset your calendars and mark the upcoming holy days of your cults… assuming you need to know. Some of you just replenish all your Rune points between adventures, no questions asked. That works too. Hopefully you’re all replenished after the Sacred Time celebrations, ready to go back to working for your temples and paying your tithes.

God Learner Sorcery

Here is what us God Learners were up to this week.

Episode 19: Jackals and Ancient Worldbuilding

Episode 19 of our podcast welcomes Evan and JM from “Exploring Glorantha”! We discuss JM’s bronze age fantasy game “Jackals”, its worldbuilding, campaign framework, system, and what we can learn and apply to Glorantha gaming!

Chaosium News

Here are this week’s Chaosium news!

Barntar by Loic Muzy

Loic thinks back on his 2022 artistic journey (loosely translated):

In 2022 I turned with hope towards the past to recover my passion for art, and I found everything I had run away from. I am definitely embarking on some artistic changes for 2023 in order to be motivated for years to come!

He also shared his version of Barntar, for the upcoming cults book!

© 2022 Chaosium Inc.

Another Quick Preview of the RuneQuest Video Game

You might remember that we saw a sneak peek at Black Shamrock’s RuneQuest video game a couple weeks ago. Now RTE News has posted a new video that shows a few more things compared to their previous one. There isn’t really much, but there’s enough to confirm a suspicion I had: the game is using the Unreal Engine! Maybe I should offer my help…

More here.

Jonstown Compendium

The Jonstown Compendium is Chaosium’s community content program for all Gloranthan games, hosted on DriveThruRPG. Disclaimer: all the relevant links are affiliate links that hopefully will let us cover some of the hosting and maintenance costs for the website and podcast! Thanks for using them!

Edge of the Empire

© 2022 Runesmith Publications & Chaosium Inc.

No, this isn’t a hack of the FFG Star Wars game for Glorantha: it’s the long awaited book on Imther by Harald Smith!

The Kingdom of Imther is a small, seemingly bucolic, mountainous province at the edge of the mighty Lunar Empire.  It is home to herders, hunters, and cheesemakers whose king maintained a trade relationship with the mysterious dwarfs.  But… the king is dead, the dwarfs have closed their brass gates, clans have rebelled, and ambitious leaders stake their claims.  The HERO WARS have come to this fair and pleasant land.

If you’re not sure where Imther is, the Argan Argar Atlas has you covered. Locate Saird on the map below, and go northwest along the Daughter’s Road from it. Find New Lolon and you’re there. Imther is the area between New Lolon and Soldier’s Ferry, across from the Imther Mountains to the east. It’s the last civilized Lunar province before you head out east into Balazar and wild lands of the Griffin Mountain campaign.

© 2022 Chaosium Inc.

If you’re an old Gloranthaphile, you might already know that Harald Smith is no stranger to Imther. Back in the mid-1990s, he published two volumes of the fanzine “New Lolon Gospel” which already focused on Imther.

Edge of the Empire presents Imther as a new homeland for RuneQuest, plus a gazetteer, some maps, gamemaster tools, and a lot more! Check it out!

The Temple of Twins

© 2022 Beer With Teeth & Chaosium Inc.

The Temple of Twins is Beer With Teeth’s latest Praxian adventure, once again meant to fit in one or two sessions of play.

The adventure is designed to be highly challenging for warriors and outsiders to Prax, and much easier for women.  Eirithans in particular will find their skills called on, and Ernaldans will be useful.  Combat is much more likely if characters fail at walking Eiritha’s path, but can be avoided by wise or skillful women.

Also, note the content warning accompanying the description.

Index and Catalogue Updates

© 2022 Nick Brooke & Chaosium Inc.

Nick Brooke, Chaosium’s community content manager for the Jonstown Compendium, has published the last update to his 2022 Jonstown Compendium Index, so it has now been merged into his broader Jonstown Compendium Catalogue, whose 2022 edition is now out on DriveThruRPG.

As the name implies, the catalogue lists all the Jonstown Compendium releases so far, complete with a lot of information to help people find PDFs they might like (review scores, adventure locations, and more). You can find more information here.

© 2022 Nick Brooke & Chaosium Inc.

Of course, the new year also means the start of a new Jonstown Compendium Index! The 2023 Index is also now out. You know what to do!

Akhelas’ Patreon

Austin Conrad, who did the Monster of the Month series, among with other things, has started a Patreon for his RPG writing endeavours:

I’ve set up a Patreon, for those of you who like my stuff, and have run out of books to buy. Hoping to have some news out next week about future plans!

The Patreon is up here.

Jeff’s Notes

Jeff Richard, the current mastermind on everything Gloranthan at Chaosium, is often posting notes and thoughts on the RuneQuest Facebook group. Here’s our curated list from the past week. A partial archive of these sources is compiled on the Well of Daliath.

A Sense of Size

A regular staple of Jeff’s notes is some geographical comparisons between areas of Glorantha and Earth. This note reiterates these points, in case you need some context for your world-building.

Some people complain that Glorantha is too small, which I find complete nonsense. It is the size that it is. Use the smaller scale to your advantage. It is only 800 km from Boldhome to Glamour. It is less than 2000 km from Boldhome to Sog City. Let your adventures explore if they are so inclined.

I’m not sure what kind of argument “It is the size that it is” is meant to convey, but hey, I’ll raise my hand as someone who initially thought that Glorantha was too small. It might be hard to remember the days of being a Gloranthan newbie for those who have played and written in it for decades, but I do remember finding it very weird to have all these completely different cultures, climates, and mountains so small and so close together.

You can find comparably sized geo-political entities on Earth, but they tend to be on a smaller side of the scale, and Glorantha misses everything else on that sale. Of course, it makes more sense once you get deeper into the setting: Glorantha isn’t defined by tectonic activity and weather systems, it’s defined by where Earth deities died, where giants laid down, and where Sun gods are worshipped. Plus, a smaller world means more opportunities for the player characters to visit all those cool and varied places. But it takes a certain amount of lore familiarity to realize this, so of course newcomers to the setting will find the scale “wrong”. I’m biased, obviously but it seems a sensible first impression to me.

Later in the note, Jeff wisely reminds us that people in Glorantha (and in the ancient world on Earth) didn’t always stay in their village. Many people travelled far and wide and/or met travellers from far away. Cities and town are often quite cosmopolitan.

The Evolution of Malkionism

Jeff looks at the evolution of Malkionism into New Hrestolism — two of the main cultures, philosophies, and social orders that rule over western Genertela.

All Malkionism begins with the teachings of Malkion, where questions pertaining to laws of nature, the origin of the universe and the place of man in it are asked.

These are incredibly ancient religious texts – first preserved in the writings of Zzabur. Since the Expulsion it has not been possible for ordinary mortals to consult Zzabur’s library, so people are reliant on texts that have been copied and recopied over the millennia.

I always forget that Malkion isn’t any sort of original god or entity, as you might imagine from the principal figure followed by humanist wizards. He’s actually the offspring of a Storm demigod (Aerlit) and a Triolini (Warera). He’s half Air and half Water, basically.

Malkion had four sons with Britha, which I assume is the Land Goddess of Brithos, the now-mostly-gone island that was located west of Genertela. The four sons sort of define the four castes of Malkioni society: Dronar (who led and taught the farmers and workers), Horal (the soliders), Talar (the nobles), and Zzabur (the wizards). But Zzabur is sort of a shitty son. The “Expulsion” noted by Jeff here relates to that incident before Time when Malkion went around with some new rules, but Zzabur and his followers refused them. So Zzabur kicked his dad and his followers out of Zerendel which, if you squint only a bit at the God Learner maps in the Guide, sort of looks like God Time Brithos.

Note that after being “expulsed” like this, Malkion crossed the sea and founded a place called “New Malkonwal”. Some people believe this is somewhere in the Holy Country. In particular, Rikard the Tiger-Hearted thinks so, and in 1617 he seized power in Heortland and founded the Kingdom of Malkonwal. It was short lived, destroyed by the Lunar invasion of Heortland in 1620… which itself didn’t last long either. Anyway, if you want to include some wizardry bullshit and ancient Malkioni artifacts in your campaign, Heortland is nicely close by.

Anyway, back to Malkioni history:

Shortly after the Dawn, Prince Hrestol, the son of Talar Froalar, had a religion vision and was instructed by Malkion to smash down the old order and to establish justice and make the world a place for mortals. This was the first “division”- from the perspective of those who relied on the writings of Zzabur, this was heresy – an “innovation”. From the perspective of Hrestol and his companions, this came directly from Malkion and thus took precedence over his previous writings.

Yes, Hrestol is also a shitty son and grandson. The whole Malkioni family seems to have a tradition of changing up the rules of their fathers, probably just to piss them off. And from there, more disagreements split up the Malkioni people some more.

And thus Malkionism developed into many different schools of thought, especially along the following issues:

  • Caste stability versus caste mobility;
  • The question of Tapping;
  • Metaphorical versus literal;
  • Personal experience of the Invisible God versus teachings of Malkion/Hrestol/etc;
  • Joy versus Solace;
  • Mystical versus legal;
  • Tradition versus empiricism;
  • Worship of the Invisible God alone versus worship of lesser emanations (aka gods and spirits) and veneration of heroes.

[…] After Arkat, this all gets even more convoluted, as the Malkioni try to understand Arkat’s magical explorations AND try to determine where and how it went wrong. Throw in a few centuries of God Learner experiments and discoveries and you can imagine how far diverse Malkioni thought got during the Second Age.

Read some more for some notes about Zzabur’s Red, Brown, and Blue Books, which contain his notes and thoughts on the universe, the gods, the Runes, and all of that.

So if you imagine, along the western coastline of Genertela, we have many centres of intellectual discourse and discussion. Imagine the wizards debating in Leplain or Southpoint, with the most radical journeying to Sog City to consult copies of ancient texts kept within the City of Brass. This gets diffused by other wizards, taught to talars, and is forced to confront experiences of initiates and the power of cults.

The Malkioni and the Red Goddess

The Malkioni wizards apparently do NOT like this new Red Goddess business:

In 1247 the whole world saw the Red Moon rise into the Middle Air. At first it could only be seen at night, but after 1275 or so, it could be seen during the day as well.

[…] The Malkioni saw the rise of the Red Moon as the rise of terrible evil. The Red Moon is NOT anywhere in any of the sacred texts or theories of sorcery. Its appearance was unnatural and wrong – clearly the result of insane magic or even Chaos. Nothing the Malkioni learned in the intervening centuries made this any better – the Red Moon was the result of a mortal (herself the product of a mad cabal) who turned herself into a goddess within Time.

There’s also a bit in this note about Annilla, the “Blue Moon” that was killed and struck down during the Gods War:

Remember what a moon versus a planet is in Glorantha. We could just as easily refer to Annilla as a dead planet. There are myths of the Annilla, but she fell from the sky. No idea if she just hung there motionless like the Red Moon, she certainly didn’t have phases! Now we know she is associated with the Blue Streak, who causes the tides and maybe that is her.

In short there is no real objective reason to make a strong connection between the Blue Moon and the Red Moon. The Lunars do, and the cults are associated. But maybe that is a different association.

About Argrath and the Metaplot

During a thread discussing “dumping Argrath” from the Gloranthan setting, Jeff shared this bit of game designery:

And here’s what Greg and I found over decades of play. Far more players and gamemasters prefer the Pendragon approach, where the players do not have the burden of carrying the setting, but get to do cool things and interact with major figures and then go off and do their thing.

Basically, playing Pendragon with the Knights of the Round Table sort of calls for having King Arthur at the top, with his entourage of famous NPCs like Lancelot and Merlin and Gweneviere and so on.

This is very much a personal taste, and depends on the expectations of a given game. I’ve seen some people who dislike playing in Middle Earth because the fellowship of the ring and other big-name NPCs are “doing all the cool stuff”. Some settings are well suited to the characters being “The Heroes” (capital “T”, capital “H”) who shape the world with their actions. But some people aren’t interested in that, and some settings are not conductive to this sort of play. It includes most licensed IPs (Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, etc) but not all of them (Star Trek can easily have other exploration ships having as many adventures as the Enterprise, Alien has literally no “world driving” NPC, etc).

For better or worse, Glorantha was designed with a few “super heroes” shaping the world (the Red Emperor, Jar-eel, Harrek, Argrath), and a collection of “heroes” below them. The adventurers are meant to cross path with those big-name NPCs, be sent on missions by them, be smacked around by them, but not become their equal or surpass them. You’re not really meant to become the equals of Saruman or Darth Vader either. So you either find some good spots to play in those sandboxes, or you play in other settings where the top spots are left available for the PCs.

Greg and I talked about the “multiple Argraths or one” as part of the Guide to Glorantha, and we both concluded that the approach taken in the old HW material was a failure. The Guide makes it clear that there is one Argrath, and that is the approach taken from there on.

This bit might need some explanation for the Gloranthan newcomers. Some time between the 1990s and the 2010s, a lot of Gloranthan material (especially the 2000-2010-era Hero Wars and HeroQuest material) presented Argrath as a “mystery”. He was some sort of enigmatic figure whose identity was unclear, built upon hearsay and gossip from across Dragon Pass and Prax. His accomplishments were attributed to various people named “Argrath” but with a different epithet or last name. Sometimes the first name would even be changed to anagrams of Argrath, such as “Garrath”.

These various people (or personas) would be credited with, say, his rebel Orlanthi temple in Lunar-occupied New Pavis, his defense of the Giant’s Cradle that came down the Zola Fel, his friendship with Harrek the Berserk and subsequent circumnavigation of Glorantha’s oceans, and so on.

The idea was that if Argrath was a “composite figure”, some of these exploits could be accomplished by player characters. Maybe they didn’t sail the oceans with Harrek, but they did defend the Giant’s Cradle or liberate New Pavis. But from what I hear, that never really took off, and people didn’t really make use of it. As a result, all the post-Guide-to-Glorantha material gave up on the idea, and has now adopted the much simpler idea that Argrath is one guy, irrevocably tied to the metaplot. But hey, what a guy!

If you squint only a bit, you might find traces of this old approach to Argrath in some of the Jonstown Compendium entries that feature him.

Miscellaneous Notes

Here are some of this week’s other notes that I don’t have time to annotate:

  • Time to update your spreadsheets! Jeff shares some aggregate cult membership numbers for all Lunar provinces (Vanch, Imther, Aggar, Holay, and Tarsh).
  • Some notes about how the Lunar Empire regulates worship of foreign deities, and in particular the worship of Orlanth. They can close down some temples here and there, but they can’t easily keep people from doing what they want.
  • Learn about the Seventh Soul, the element of “Liberation” that was added to humans as a gift (and a curse) by the Red Goddess. This is of course based on a Dara Happan and/or Lunar point of view — the six original souls are very much from the solar culture, and the Orlanthi think about this differently.
  • A quick history of the Red Goddess and the submission of the Dara Happans and their Yelm cult to the Lunar Red Emperor. Plus, Jeff’s take on Argenteus and his Seven Daughters.
  • Brolia and Anadiki are two regions that are inhabited by poor, backwater Orlanthi hillbillies, at least compared to the wealthier and more cultured Sartarites who maintain very lucrative trade routes between the Holy Country, Peloria, and Prax. So Brolia and Anadiki are good options for a different, more rural game setting.
  • A quick history of the different “clusters” of Orlanthi through the ages.

Community Roundup

The community roundup is our highlight of interesting things being mentioned in the Glorantha-related Facebook groups, sub-Reddits, and other similar online places.

A-Sharp Games on Sale for Sacred Time

A-Sharp’s famous Gloranthan video games, King of Dragon Pass and Six Ages, are on sale for Sacred Time! I’m not sure how long that will last so hurry up if you still haven’t checked those out!

Both are “clan management” games, in which you sort of play a clan chieftain and its clan ring. You decide who to raid and who to ally with, how to handle incidents, what gods to sacrifice to, and so on… hopefully leading your clan to wealth and glory! King of Dragon Pass is focused on the Orlanthi during the colonization of Dragon Pass, before Sartar unified all the clans and tribes, built cities, and founded his Kingdom. Six Ages is focused on the Hyalorings (related to the sun-worshipping Dara Happans) during the God Time, so there are more deities and spirits around, more horse riding, and more sunny days.

Six Ages is available here for Apple devices, and here for PC. King of Dragon Pass is available here for Apple devices, and here for PC. Both games are great to play on a tablet.

If you want more information, Runeblogger wrote a test of Six Ages, and interviewed David Dunham on the topic. Check those out too!

The Gaming Gang on Why You Should Play RuneQuest

Jeff McAleer of the Gaming Gang tells you why you should play RuneQuest!

Don’t get too excited, this is the first video in his new series “Why you should play…” which will definitely tell you to play a lot of other games too. But hey, he picked RuneQuest first so that’s got to count for something.

Bryon is Now up to the Letter “S”

I’m talking about his series of videos on the Red Book of Magic, of course! Bryon is going through all the spells and giving his thoughts and comments on each. He actually already finished all the Rune spells (the last video on that was here), and he’s now up to the letter “S” in the Spirit Magic spell list… which means he’s almost done with the entire book. You can find all his videos on his channel.

Pious Noble at the Heler Temple

Lee O’Connor shares an illustration of a “pious noble” for an upcoming Greydog clan book by Jon Qaife:

She’s weighed down with jewellery but she’s on her knees in the temple (of the gender-fluid rain god) because she’s a good sort.

Thank you for reading

That’s it for this week! Please contact us with any feedback, question, or news item we’ve missed!

Welcome to a new issue of the Journal of Runic Studies, the premier Malkioni publication for studies into the nature of Glorantha. If you haven’t subscribed yet, please consult with the spirit bound to the appropriate electronic page.

Happy Sacred Time everybody! And yes, I know, late December doesn’t map, in the meteorological or celestial sense, to Sacred Time, but I’m going with the cultural correspondence here. And I’m not the only one. So happy Sacred Time indeed! May your harvest rolls bring you fortune.

Jonstown Compendium

The Jonstown Compendium is Chaosium’s community content program for all Gloranthan games, hosted on DriveThruRPG. Disclaimer: all the relevant links are affiliate links that hopefully will let us cover some of the hosting and maintenance costs for the website and podcast! Thanks for using them!

Desire for Knowledge

© 2022 Niall Sullivan & Chaosium Inc.

This new adventure from Niall Sullivan takes place in Jonstown, so it’s ideal for those of you who just finished the Starter Set!

The player characters are contacted by a sage in the Jonstown Library, who offers them payment to recover a dangerous scroll. The scroll is hidden in a townhouse formerly owned by an official of the Lunar Empire. It is also haunted by ghosts and spirits, and caution is warranted.

The Way: Paths of Enlightenment

How do you work towards enlightenment in Kralorela and Teshnos? Paul Baker has some answers for you. Expect martial arts discipline and Kralorelan monks.

This is a companion piece for his coverage of Eastern Genertela found in Houses of Teshnos and the Kralori Primer.

Secrets of Dorastor: Personalities Tactics

© 2022 Stormspearia & Chaosium Inc.

Simon Phipp and Stormspearia continue their coverage of Dorastor with more than a hundred of pages on the major NPCs of the area and their tactics — by which I suppose they’re NPCs you’re going to definitely fight.

This is of course meant to be a companion piece to Secrets of Dorastor.

Temple Hill: The Acropolis

© 2022 Dario Corallo & Chaosium Inc.

This is a new entry in Dario Corallo’s VTT offering: a VTT map of a “temple hill” with several locations and some encounter suggestions.

Big Rubble Campaign Map

© 2022 Dario Corallo & Chaosium Inc.

Still from Dario Corallo, this is another entry in the “campaign map” series, this time covering the Big Rubble. Unlike the classic 1983 map from the Big Rubble boxed set, this one is in colour.

The Jaldonkillers Might Come Back

Shawn Carpenter, one half of Troupe Games, has recently announced on Mastodon that Peggy and himself are back at work on their Questworld-powered “Jaldonkillers Saga”.

© 2022 Troupe Games & Chaosium Inc.

You might remember that “Valley of Plenty” was one of the early offerings of the Jonstown Compendium, and pretty much the only book using Questworld instead of RuneQuest as its game system. We even interviewed Shawn and Peggy on the podcast at the time! But “Valley of Plenty” was later pulled from sales, and the sequel cancelled.

Thankfully, it sounds like Shawn and Peggy had a change of heart and are coming back to Glorantha, with what sounds like a remastered and expanded version of the first book, in addition to its sequel:

Work is proceeding apace on the Valley of Plenty 2e, a beginner’s Glorantha campaign setting for use with Chaosium’s soon-to-be released QuestWorlds rules. The new book will be larger than the first (which was a respectable size) and will contain more adventures, story-seeds, and activities in addition to expanded setting information so you can linger over the Wildlings childhood if you wish.

The 2nd book of the Jaldonkiller Saga will be released concurrently with Valley of Plenty.

Shawn shared a couple of other updates on Mastodon about the project, with some work in progress art.

Jeff’s Notes

Jeff Richard, the current mastermind on everything Gloranthan at Chaosium, is often posting notes and thoughts on the RuneQuest Facebook group. Here’s our curated list from the past week. A partial archive of these sources is compiled on the Well of Daliath.

Top Five Elder Races

Jeff gives his top 5 elder races, with just a short paragraph for each. Not much to say except… well here’s my top 5 elder races! It’s hard to make a list though. I’m 100% convinced that if you asked me again tomorrow, I would give you a different list. But right now, these ones are on my mind:

5. Dragonewts and Mostali (tied): they’re weird and hard to understand, so they are great tools for the gamemaster! They let you bring unusual themes to your fantasy game, like steampunk and science-fiction and cosmic enlightenment and weird dreams.

4. Baboons: they’re funny, they’re dangerous, they’re creepy, they’re annoying: baboons just make any Gloranthan game better! I need to add more baboons to my game…

3. Uz: the trolls are cool because they have such a well developed culture and mythology in Glorantha. In particular, I love the Gorakkiki side of their society, with trollkin riding giant beetles and Rune Lords fighting on giant praying mantis back. I also love Cragspider, the scheming semi-goddess who has a pet True Dragon and a direct line to the God Time.

2. Voralans (aka “Black Elves”): these fungi elves bridge the world of Plant and Darkness. They’re way more spread out and connected than anyone thinks, they have an incredibly underrated diversity, they know weird-ass fungal sorcery, and nobody knows what they’re up to. They’re awesome because we only know a tiny fraction of what they’re about.

1. Tusk Riders: as I said in our episode on the topic, these are my favourite villains of Glorantha. They’re mean, they dangerous, they’re vicious, but they also have quite a lot of under-studied history and magic. Who knows what secrets you might uncover if you took the risk to go snoop around the Ivory Plinth?

What’s your ranking?

The Origin of Belintar

Belintar was the God-King of the Holy Country, a man who one day just literally swam ashore, said hi, and unified all the lands around the Choralintor Bay. He built a highly magical kingdom, became semi-immortal, and was eventually too cool for his own good and got terminated by Jar-eel and the Lunar Empire. But where did he actually come from?

Greg and I both agreed never to publish a definitive answer as to the origin of Belintar. If the Only Old One couldn’t learn his origins, your player characters sure as heck won’t!

That being said there are plenty of popular theories about Belintar. Here’s three that you can hear throughout the Holy Country and Dragon Pass, all of which have some kernels of truth (and also falsehood):

The theories are: (1) he’s the last of the God Learners, (2) he is a powerful Heroquester from the Second Age, (3) he’s a god that fell from the Celestial River when the Boat Planet disappeared with the Closing of the Seas, and (4) he’s the Red Emperor’s twin. With each theory Jeff gives a small argument for it.

Theories one and two are somewhat the same (some heroquesting expert that got lost in the God Time during the Second Age and took a few centuries to get out) and I don’t really find them compelling. By now someone would have found traces of someone matching Belintar’s description in old Second Age documents… I don’t believe that (1) we lost so many records that we wouldn’t be able to correlate this or that (2) he was a nobody who somehow became super powerful by getting lost in the God Time for a long time. That just feels a bit lame to me… but I could see it work if I were to send my players into some old Middle Sea Empire ruins to find old documents, and they start uncovering some lost truths about Belintar… mmmh.

The fourth theory falls completely flat with me — I’m not into the whole “cosmic resonance” that some Gloranthaphiles seem to be into. You say “cosmic resonance” and I say “plot devices and ex-machina”.

So it’s theory number three for me: a god that somehow fell down, escaped, got kicked out, or otherwise left the Gods World up there and ended up down here.

Nobody knows for certain what Belintar’s origin was, but as I said there are kernels of truth in all of these. What is definitively not true is that he was a time traveler from the future or from another world.

The Loper

Here’s a note on the Loper, a strange creature you can find on page 150 of the Glorantha Bestiary. Its main feat is the ability to teleport at will. I’m sure more than one sorcerer tried to study this creature closely in order to replicate this.

Jeff doesn’t give out any information that can’t be gleaned from the Bestiary, but I do appreciate it when people call out stuff from the main books like this: it’s easy to miss or forget some of these things, unless you’re a brainy weirdo like Austin Conrad who reads these books front to back and remembers them…

Prehistoric Moons

Moon deities in Glorantha are a giant mess. There were several of them before the Gods War, many died, other were forgotten, and now there’s the giant mythical mish-mash that is the Red Goddess. Jeff gives the simplified version of this Gloranthan lunar business:

In the God Time, Glorantha had a moon or moons, sometimes described as blue, red, or even purple. Most give a celestial origin for this Lunar Goddess, calling her the daughter of Aether or Yelm; others give her an Underworld origin, calling her the daughter of Primal Darkness and the Primal Waters. Still others make her an impossible pairing of Celestial and Underworld powers.

During the Gods War, the Lunar Goddess was cast down from heaven and shattered. Some say it was by Orlanth, others blame Mostal, and still other’s blame Yelm’s vengeful kin. The moon fell to earth in many pieces, the largest being the Blue Moon Plateau in Peloria.

This text is from the Glorantha Sourcebook, with a few very small edits, such as the rather ominous addition of “or moons” in the first sentence. So did Glorantha have several lunar deities who died and fell to the ground in multiple shapes and locations? Or did Glorantha have only one lunar body that was multi-faceted enough for the Dara Happans and other early cultures to find multiple aspects to worship?

To make things more complicated, these different aspects were then taken back by the Lunars into their mythology, as different “phases” of the Red Goddess. So for example, the moon goddess known as a daughter of Yelm is often known under the name Verithurusa (or Verithurus if you look back into Dara Happan documents). In Lunar mythology, she’s associated with the Full Half Moon. But then again there’s also another moon goddess named Zaytenara that was also the daughter of Yelm (which was known as Zaytenaras by the Dara Happans). That’s the White Moon, and is associated with the Full Moon.

Like I said, it’s a giant mess, and best left to the Lunar sages to debate. But I’m sure that if you look closely enough into it, you’ll figure out how the Seven Mothers helped Sedenya piece herself together in the Zero Wane. The recipe (shards of dead moon goddesses, sugar, spice, everything nice, Chaos!) is bound to bring you some really precious insights if you want to bring down the Empire, or, say, revolutionize it…

Jeff here goes with the simplest option of the singular lunar goddess being rebuilt by the Seven Mothers:

In the Third Age of Time, seven individuals came together to bring about the rebirth of the Lunar Goddess. They were occult conspirators whom desperation and ambition had brought together. They sought out parts of a deity which they believed would be able to help them, gathering pieces of the long-forgotten Lunar Goddess, who had been dismembered and scattered during the Gods War. The result was the birth of the Red Goddess.

Personally I prefer the multiple-moons option, because that makes the Red Goddess into a Frankenstein-monster-god, instead of a resurrected goddess, even if Jeff does add this:

Note that the Red Goddess is far more and far greater than her broken parts.

The Red Moon

Remember that the Red Moon hangs stationary in the sky above Glamour in the middle of Genertela. So there’s a good chance that your Dragon Pass or Prax adventurers can see this ominous orb out there in the sky when there’s no mountain or cloud blocking the view:

Remember the Red Moon does not rise or set, nor does it move with the Sky Dome. It remains motionless in the sky, cycling between Red and Back every week.

This is one of the main features of Glorantha but I didn’t realize it at first when I discovered the setting. This was one of my “oh really?” moments.

The Guide is definitive about the Red Moon. See page 648. We went over a LOT of variations while writing this up. That is a big part of the reasoning for the Guide – you can go to it for a lot of these questions. There is more on the Red Moon in the Lunar Mythology book, but it is built off the Guide.

Jeff also gives out a few details about relative celestial body sizes and solar eclipses (or lack thereof).

Don’t Forget the Sea Gods

Jeff reminds us that the Sea Gods are super powerful… in the right places. Dragon Pass and Prax being landlocked, these water gods don’t have much presence there. Even the rain and river gods tend to be minor, because people can get their precipitation and plant growing from Orlanth and Ernalda. But out there on the coasts and in the oceans, the water gods reign supreme over a whole different world that we might not often explore in our games.

But we often forget that more than half the world is covered by waters. And those waters go deep – the Homeward Ocean has at its center the great whirlpool formed by Magasta that goes to the Underworld and deeper.

Within the Deeps are deities of great power that are rarely worshiped (or even known) by humans. Greatest is Magasta, the Lord of the Waters. There is Wachaza, his son, a terrible and cruel god of Death. There is Triolina, the Source of Life. There is Daliath, Guardian of Secret Wisdom, and Nelat, the God of Purification. There are great spirits that animate the waters – ruled by a deity popularly called King Undine. There are the gods of the various seas, who are the master of the currents and the waves.

These deities are mainly worshiped by the Triolini, and possess secrets unknown to the humans of the Third Age. There are the Waertagi, who have returned to the seas, seeking vengeance upon the land humans that banished them with the Closing.

And within the Deep is Chaos as well. The endless hunger of Gloomshark, the End of All Things. The great white shark with dead eyes that consumes all. With the triumph of Chaos, even death may die.

Jeff couldn’t resist throwing a Cthulhu reference there at the end…

Some of my players have expressed some interest in doing a circumnavigation of Glorantha, like Harrek and Argrath did (and possibly doing with with them!) so I’ve been thinking about this a bit. I’d love to send those adventurers to places where their skills and magic are half-useless!

Arkat’s Legacy

Jeff talks about Arkat… I’m not ready to go there yet so I’ll slowly back away. But there’s some good stuff for modern Arkati factions:

So if you want to imagine modern Arkat cults, here’s what they might have – access to what Arkat taught them (sorcery spells, knowledge of the Hero Plane, etc.), secret Illumination techniques (but this is known only to a few cults), and some spirits defeated by or allied to Arkat. Any Rune magic would come from some lesser hero – a grandchild or great grandchild of Arkat or the descendant of some other companion or friend. But the real magic of Arkat is lost to all.

And some more. Check it out!

Gloranthan Communities

Here’s a collection of Jeff’s thoughts on how to think about Gloranthan communities. Note in particular how he recommends including the human factor into the equation: organization charts and cult membership spreadsheets do tell a picture of who’s powerful and who’s not, but that picture can be heavily distorted by the particular personalities, followings, and histories of this or that cult leader, tribal king, or temple priest.

The Lightbringers’ Quest

A small note about Harmast’s Lightbringers’ Quest, and the actual invocation of Orlanth, in case you don’t have King of Sartar or the Book of Heortling Mythology (which both contain a form of this text).

More generally speaking, Jeff reminds us that the Lightbringers’ Quest isn’t a “resurrection quest”. It’s a quest to fix the cosmos when it is threatened by something you can identify with the Devil:

In the end, Orlanth and the Lightbringers bring back to the cosmos what everyone, gods and mortals alike, needs – the Cosmic Compromise which enables the defeat of the Devil. The result is necessary but unwanted – Time. The cosmos survives because of that and the Grand Order is restored.

That’s the trick to understanding the Lightbringers Quest. It is not some paltry resurrection quest – although that is a part of it. The purpose of Harmast’s Lightbringers Quest was not to resurrect Arkat, but to make possible the defeat of Gbaji (an incarnation of the Devil).

Worshiping Heroes

You don’t worship Jar-eel for the Rune Magic. You worship her for the cool t-shirts and access to her newsletter.

Community Roundup

The community roundup is our highlight of interesting things being mentioned in the Glorantha-related Facebook groups, sub-Reddits, and other similar online places.

How to Become an Elf

Rune stats in RuneQuest are a funny thing, especially the Form Runes. Humans are on the gradient between the Man Rune and the Beast Rune, but gain even 1% in some other Form Rune and you’re supposedly not human anymore. A bit of the Spirit Rune and you’re partly a discorporate spirit… whatever that means. And a bit of the Plant Rune and you’re, well, partly a plant. Or maybe entirely a plant. Hard to say — the dichotomy between the Plant and Man Runes that you find in Aldryami stat blocks relates to their personality, their nature, and their alignment with cosmic forces, not their biological composition. They’re 100% plants on that regard…

So what does it mean when a non-elf acquires the Plant Rune through initiation into the Aldrya cult? Well they might become 100% plants too. David Scott shared the non-elf initiation path for Aldrya (from the upcoming Cults books) and it’s pretty savage:

  1. A non-elven candidate first must prove themselves to the Council of Elders with an average POW & CHA roll x5.
  2. Then must succeed skill test on 5 set skills.
  3. Then candidate must perform an unspeakable deed to their species, which is always criminal in every human sense (this is a secret kept from non-initiates).
  4. Then sacrifice 1 point of POW to Aldrya.
  5. Now the elves take the candidate, strip them, and carry them to a holy tree.
  6. With copper stakes, they nail the candidate to the tree, one spike per limb.
  7. With a holy knife, they first cut out thigh and upper arm bones and replace them with wooden sticks.
  8. Then they gut the candidate and rip out most of their inner organs.
  9. Plants, seeds, and soil are inserted in the hollow cavities.
  10. A hole is drilled into the forehead through the skull, and a dried root is stuck in the brain.
  11. Genitals are amputated, with seeds planted in their place.
  12. A sacred copper axe is then used to chop a slit in the tree, which opens and swallows the mutilated corpse.
  13. The wood folds around the mess and the metamorphosis begins.
  14. At the end of some number of days, which varies with the amount of damage the body sustained, the person will awaken, enclosed in a nut-like shell.
  15. This hangs on the holy tree.
  16. After breaking out of the shell, the new elf is welcomed by the cult.

As David says, “much easier to stay a lay member”. No shit. Plus, do you want to get changelings? Because that’s how you get fucking changelings.

Brian Duguid pointed out that this initiation is similar to some of the shamanic initiation rites described by Mircea Eliade in “Shamanism” (a book that David Scott mentioned several times as a very good, if outdated in places, resource on the topic). Brian gave me in particular this passage about the Unmatjera (an Australian aboriginal tribe):

“When he was made into a medicine man, a very old doctor came to him one day and threw some of his atnongara stones at him [small crystalline stones produced from the doctor’s own body] with a spear-thrower. Some hit him on the chest, others went right through his head, from ear to ear, killing him. The old man then cut out all of his insides, intestines, liver, heart, lungs – everything in fact, and left him lying all night long on the ground. In the morning the old man came and looked at him and placed some more atnongara stones inside his body and in his arms and legs, and covered over his face with leaves. Then he sang over him until his body was all swollen up. When this was so he provided him with a complete set of new inside parts, placed a lot more atnongara stones in him, and patted him on the head, which caused him to jump up alive”.

Brian mentions that other shamanic traditions also include replacing bones with “spirit bones” and organs with plant equivalents.

More on the Man Rune here.

Elsewhere on Arachne Solara’s Web

Not everything is about Glorantha, although most things are! Here are loosely relevant things that we found on the interwebs.

Victrix Releases Ancient Horse Archers

If you’re looking for miniatures for Gloranthan gaming, you could do a lot worse than Victrix, who has a wide variety of ancient world factions (Romans, Celts, Persians, all kinds of Greeks, etc).

© 2022 Victrix Ltd.

They just released “Ancient Horse Archers“, including Scythians and Parthians (although Victrix says they also work OK as Sarmatians). In Glorantha you can use them for, well, whatever: Sartarite thanes, Pol-Joni, Pentans? I don’t know. Feel free to argue ad-nauseam about real-world correspondences. They’re just antiquity-looking horsemen, OK? You can probably make good use of them!

Nearly 170 New Nazca Lines Discovered

Over the past couple years, archeologists have discovered a lot of new geoglyphs in Peru, where the so-called “Nazca Lines” are. There was a “lounging cat” from 200-100 BCE, and now there’s, like, new birds and snakes and whatnot, probably made between 100 BCE and 300 CE.

This brings the total number of Nazca Line geoplyphs to almost 360.

Thank you for reading

That’s it for this week! Please contact us with any feedback, question, or news item we’ve missed!

Welcome to a new issue of the Journal of Runic Studies, the premier Malkioni publication for studies into the nature of Glorantha. If you haven’t subscribed yet, please consult with the spirit bound to the appropriate electronic page.

I’ve been sick for the last few days so you get a minimal newsletter this week. Thankfully, it started after I recorded the December episode of the podcast. I’m hoping it will be over soon so I can get on with the editing!

Chaosium News

Here are this week’s Chaosium news!

This Was a Down Year for Glorantha

Chaosium posted a 2022 wrap-up and it’s been a bit sad for Glorantha gamers. The following is Chaosium’s mosaic of all 2022 releases:

© 2022, Chaosium Inc.

The first thing to note is that RuneQuest’s Weapons & Equipment was actually released in December 2021 in PDF. The same goes for Call of Cthulhu’s Keeper Tips, Cults of Cthulhu, and A Time To Harvest (which is curiously missing from the mosaic… probably an oversight). The physical books, however, were released this year and, fun fact, because of the Canadian warehouse debacle, I have only just received my print copies of these books this week, pretty much a year after my PDF purchase. Even if you account for the books going to the printer after the “crowdsourced proof-reading” in late January, that should give you an idea of how fucked the printing and shipping industry is right now.

So… there was only one RuneQuest book out this year (the other two Glorantha-related books are great, don’t get me wrong, but they’re for a niche market and don’t contain gaming material). And I know that some people will consider Weapons & Equipment to have been released in 2021, making it zero new books this year in their mind. Meanwhile, books that have been teased for the past couple years are still in the pipeline. Four-year-old references to the Gamemaster’s Guide printed in the rulebook are not fulfilled. There has been no announcements on VTT support for RuneQuest, despite an original intention to have that ready for the Starter Set. And of course there’s the heroquesting rules.

The first thing that comes to me is “over-stretched”. There was a lot going on in 2022: a Call of Cthulhu anniversary, a new IP with Rivers of London, restarting the Cthulhu Mythos fiction line. Plus things not visible in the above mosaic: investments in social media, the Chaosium YouTube channel, conventions (including organizing ChaosiumCon!), and the rise in popularity of Call of Cthulhu, (edit, added december 20th) the publishing of other games like Upwind and Wurm, which were quickly reverted… (end edit) Then there’s the ongoing stuff: another IP with Lords of the Middle Sea, the next edition of Pendragon, and who knows what else (Mythic Earth?). I assume this is why we’ve seen Chaosium hire and promote several people these past two years: to have enough people to work on all this stuff. But hey that’s only my uneducated guess, I’m not “in the know” or anything. I’m just writing random shit on my own blog. That’s what blogs are for.

© 2022, Chaosium Inc.

Anyway I’m not holding my breath for much in 2023. I predict that we will only see the Prosopaedia and some accessories like spell cards plus, maybe, one of the cults books or the Gamemaster Guide (that’s a big “maybe“). In fact, I think that’s probably the sort of bandwidth Chaosium can afford yearly at the moment: three or four Call of Cthulhu books, one or two books for the other IPs (RuneQuest, 7th Sea, Pendragon, Rivers of London), and a collection of miscellaneous stuff like accessories, memorabilia, reprints, or quickstart adventures for new IPs.

© 2022, Nick Brooke & Chaosium Inc.

But you know what’s been great? The Jonstown Compendium! If you want gaming material, it’s all there! While we wait for official products, passionate and talented people are sharing their take on Glorantha and RuneQuest, and it’s just as valuable and worthy of your dollars as Chaosium’s take. It’s the Gloranthan community that’s keeping bronze age fantasy gaming alive, and that’s awesome to see. Is it the 1990s all over again? 1

1 Don’t answer that, I wasn’t around for that so I have no idea. Random shit, my blog, and all that, remember?

A New Hero Episode 11

I haven’t caught up to it yet, but the PCs are now apparently fighting the big bad evil NPC… and that messes up with their mind!

Statement About AI Art

Given Chaosium’s previous fumble with tech-bro stuff, I was pretty happy to see this statement come out of their social media department. It’s brief and to the point, in that it addresses the main issue with AI art: it’s often trained on a lot of artists’ work without their consent, allowing people to create imitations of those works without the original artists ever seeing a dollar or even a credit.

By the way, when looking at any machine-learning technology, keep this in mind: the dataset used to train the AI will almost always be problematic. This is how you have face recognition AI that can’t detect black people’s faces. This will likely keep being a problem for the foreseeable future, and will make the world a little worse, one bit at a time. But hey, I’m French, so I tend to be pessimistic about these things… (although we don’t call it “pessimistic” in France, we call it “realistic”)

Jonstown Compendium

The Jonstown Compendium is Chaosium’s community content program for all Gloranthan games, hosted on DriveThruRPG. Disclaimer: all the relevant links are affiliate links that hopefully will let us cover some of the hosting and maintenance costs for the website and podcast! Thanks for using them!

Children of Hykim is Available in Print

© 2022 Brian Duguid & Chaosium Inc.

Yes, it’s here! With the amazing new cover! If you want to know more about the Hsunchen, you can listen to us talking to the author, Brian Duguid, in a recent episode of the podcast.

A Weather Eye Open

© 2022 Drew Baker & Chaosium Inc.

Drew Baker released this sequel to his Highways and Byways, which contained travel information for all of Dragon Pass and Prax’s routes. The new book, A Weather Eye Open, deals with the “much-underestimated potential for using weather in your RuneQuest gameplay”. It has tables for generating your campaign’s weather, and some pre-generated ones for a couple of locations if you’re in a hurry.

Pamaltela Campaign Map

© 2022 Dario Corallo & Chaosium Inc.

Last week Dario Corallo released a Dorastor campaign map… this is now followed up by the more exotic Pamaltela campaign map. Dario has a word of warning:

This map is 18 year old…
It was made for Unspoken Word people. Times are good for a new generation of players to see (and maybe use) it.

So the map may not be consistent with the Argan Argar Atlas, since it predates it. No problem! This gives you more options!

Jeff’s Notes

Jeff Richard, the current mastermind on everything Gloranthan at Chaosium, is often posting notes and thoughts on the RuneQuest Facebook group. Here’s our curated list from the past week. A partial archive of these sources is compiled on the Well of Daliath.

The Bad Side of Sartar

Last week Jeff talked about one of the Lunar Empire’s atrocities. In the spirit equality, he’s now also talking about the bad stuff in the Kingdom of Sartar’s history.

[…] at the end of the day they are Orlanthi.

That means constantly dealing with challenges to your authority and to the established status quo. That means dealing with demands for vengeance everytime someone is harmed. Cattle raiding is a sport. Your ruling cult demands its members display heroic arete and virtus, which means your leadership class is constantly insisting on displays of honor – which causes feuds, death, and upheaval.

So if I get this right, the Lunar Empire commits atrocities but everyday life for normal citizens in the Heartlands or most Provinces is pretty quiet and safe. Meanwhile, the Kingdom of Sartar does not commit atrocities but everyday life is violent and unstable… mmmh. I’ll add that Sartar and his heirs have been up to some shady stuff, too, like stealing secrets from the dwarfs.

Worshipping a turbulent God of Heroes with a strong destroyer aspect carries with it some social implications.

And a thief too. Orlanth stole the Sandals of Darkness from the trolls, and that’s why he has Darkwalk as a Rune spell.

But it is important to remember that the Orlanthi are not “primitives” – any more than the ancient Greeks, Vedic Indians, or Silk Road kingdoms were “primitives”. In terms of art, craft, literature, etc., they are very much the equal of the Lunar Heartlands.

Machine City and God Forgot

Here’s a note about sorcery, how it’s not always spells, and what happened with it in God Forgot:

In the Second Age, the God Learners tried to understand the world through observation, analysis, and reason. One group of God Learners tried to duplicate the result of magic through material devices and machines. They settled in the area called God Forgot (which was part of the Middle Sea Empire) and founded the so called Machine City. They built war machines (including a giant harpoon firing crossbow now in Sun County), armoured self-propelled vehicles, and developed techniques of mass assembly of parts and even of magic weapons. This is all “sorcery” – or at least the product of the sorcerous “scientific” approach. Ultimately, they constructed their own “god machine”. But the gods found this intolerable and the Empire of the Wyrms Friends and the Old Way Traditionalists worked together to destroy the Machine City.

The ruins of this city are still around, so you can visit them! It sounds basically like the remnants of a Gloranthan steampunk fad from the Second Age. The name of the local god trying to rebuild the machine(s) might even be too much on the nose:

Leonardo is a local of God Forgot who has rediscovered some of this. Likely a genius in his own right, he’s built an Ornithopter, and various other devices. He’s likely already come up with the plans for countless others. If he could get enough financing and support, who knows what he could build – or even worse, what devices within the Machine Ruins he could restore to working order!

Runic Personality Traits

Jeff gives a bit of a backstory on the RuneQuest Runic personality traits. You won’t be surprised to learn that they come from Pendragon, but have been merged into the Rune stats to prevent having too many stats.

At some point we realized that with Man versus Beast, we could throw a polarity of social mores and instinct – civilization versus nature.

And so we have Man and Beast. Works well for most of the Elder Races – at least those with the Man Rune (e.g, trolls, ducks, tusk riders, beast people, etc.). With elves we use the Plant Rune, instead of Beast, as they are vegetables not animals.

Note that a human initiate of Aldrya with the plant Rune- like a human initiate of Kyger Litor – isn’t a human anymore.

If you want to know more about Runic personality traits, Passions, and the history behind them, listen to the excellent David Scott on our episode on this very topic!

Community Roundup

The community roundup is our highlight of interesting things being mentioned in the Glorantha-related Facebook groups, sub-Reddits, and other similar online places.

Jonstown Jottings in R’lyeh

© 2022 Pookie

I haven’t checked back on Pookie’s blog in a litte while (sorry Pookie!) but I want to remind everybody that his blog, Reviews From R’lyeh, has a treasure trove of RPG product reviews.

Note that this is the “review after having read it” sort of reviews, which I find useful for knowing what’s in a book and whether I should bother buying it or not. It’s different from the “review after playing it” sort of reviews, which I tend to reach for when I’m about to play that purchased book.

Anyway, as a Gloranthan adept, Pookie reviewed most of the material on the Jonstown Compendium under the label “Jonstown Jottings“. The last few reviews include:

Feel free to explore Pookie’s website! There’s, like, a 98% chance that whatever you want to know about in the RPG world, Pookie has read it and posted about it.

Thank you for reading

That’s it for this week! Please contact us with any feedback, question, or news item we’ve missed!

Welcome to a new issue of the Journal of Runic Studies, the premier Malkioni publication for studies into the nature of Glorantha. If you haven’t subscribed yet, please consult with the spirit bound to the appropriate electronic page.

Chaosium News

Here are this week’s Chaosium news!

Sneak Peek at Black Shamrock’s Gloranthan Game

RTE, Ireland’s “National Television and Radio Broadcaster”, did an article on a new tax credit for Irish video game companies… and the article’s video featured Black Shamrock‘s studio! This is the studio that is currently working on the so-called “RuneQuest video game”, about which we pretty much knew nothing until now (well, as far as I know)… go check out the video now!

The screenshots above are blurry because capturing stills from a web video is fraught with danger so, again, check out the video for yourself. If you’re using some adblocker or other security/privacy add-ons in your browser, you might not be able to see the video in the RTE article. In this case, you can see it directly here, or in the embedded video of RTE’s corresponding tweet.

Anyway, as you can see, it looks like Black Shamrock’s game is some sort of action/RPG game with a 3D isometric-ish view. In the bits shown in the video you control what looks like a Bison Rider in Prax. Magic spells and arrows are visibly flung around, as the Irish Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe is trying to annihilate a Tusk Rider camp.

Since the video is shot inside Black Shamrock’s office, you can spot a few things, like concept art and design work in progress.

We might encounter some sort of eel naiad thingie at some point, and there’s definitely a Red Moon over there.

Chaosium cheekily tweeted:

Wow! Check out this video game where you get to play as a lance-wielding bison rider in the desert fighting monsters! If only there was a TTRPG to go along with it…

There’s also a quick blog post doing a flashback to Jeff and MOB’s trip to Dublin in 2018.

Canadian Shipping Unavailable For Now

Bad news for Canadians… which sadly includes me! Chaosium’s warehouse contractor in Canada has apparently stopped working. I had a standing order that stayed as “pending shipping” for a couple weeks, which was very odd. Apparently Chaosium didn’t know what the problem was, as the Canadian fulfillment centre apparently silently went under.

Chaosium has regretfully suspended its Canadian fulfilment centre operations. This is due to poor service and lack of communication from our local partner in Canada.

Since shipping orders from the USA would result in Canadian customers being charged customs duties by the Canadian government, we have fully refunded all customers whose orders were in the backlog of unshipped physical items. We are doing this now in the hope that our Canadian customers will still have time to re-order any Holiday gifts they may have been waiting upon.

We are looking at new options for Canadian fulfilment, including other local warehouse partners.

This sucks for both us Canadians and for Chaosium. I hope that they can recover the stock they had in Canada, and that they will quickly find a new fulfilment partner.

Jonstown Compendium

The Jonstown Compendium is Chaosium’s community content program for all Gloranthan games, hosted on DriveThruRPG. Disclaimer: all the relevant links are affiliate links that hopefully will let us cover some of the hosting and maintenance costs for the website and podcast! Thanks for using them!

A Message from Nick Brooke

Nick Brooke, Chaosium’s Community Content ambassador and all around Gloranthan super-fan, is getting the Jonstown Compendium 2022 Catalogue ready for release. Now is the time for you to leave a review and/or comment on some community content! This goes a long way with helping out creators, and it makes them feel good too… Nick says:

If you want your opinions to count, please remember to rate and review your favourite Jonstown Compendium purchases on the DriveThruRPG site before year-end! My Catalogues list titles by best-seller medal rank and then by the number of five-star reviews each release has racked up, and you’ve been pretty slack this year… let’s give those authors a nice warm cosy feeling to carry them through the bleak Midwinter, eh?

If you want to be nice to me and the God Learners, how about leaving a nice review on my two RuneQuest adventures so far: “A Short Detour” and “Bog Struggles“. Thanks!

The White Upon The Hills

© 2022 Sacha Gauthier, Reece Dyer, and Chaosium Inc.

Do you have some hunters in your party? Sacha Gauthier and Reece Dyer have a treat for them! A whole adventure set during the Great Hunt, which is the pan-cult hunting contest that happens at the end of the year between Odayla, Yinkin, Foundchild, and other such cults.

For many seasons, the White Blight has plagued the hunting grounds on Stael’s Hills. During the Great Hunt, the adventurers encounter the aftermath of a monstrous attack and the origin of the spreading curse. Tracking the monster, they find a magic strike-stone from an ancient hunting legend. If they intend to use it, they must retread the steps of a mysterious hunting god — to bind, slay and cleanse their prey.

The adventure should take about 2 sessions to complete, and is “written for low-to-moderately experienced adventurers“.

A Lamp for Esrola

© 2022 Sven Lugar & Chaosium Inc.

It’s Dark season right now and it’s a great time to visit the Shadow Plateau!

Retrieve the Tears of the Only Old One which hold the secrets of Light and Darkness for the new Temple of Esrola. During the Siege of Nochet many beautiful buildings were damaged or destroyed. At a celebration to honor the rebuilding of the Temple of Esrola and her Grandson, Fufluns, an opportunity to bring the source of eternal light to the temple is presented to the Adventurers. Are they up to journeying to the Troll-lands around the Shadow Plateau and negotiating or stealing Tear-stones? As the bard Joan of Clan Blackwoodstone sings:

Sven Lugar’s adventure is also, incidentally, worth for about 2 sessions and “written for low-to-moderately experienced adventurers“. It also includes some new minor cults, magical items, and more!

Died in the Wool

© 2022 Braeden Harpool & Chaosium Inc.

This adventure from Braeden Harpool looks super fun! Missing sheep! Uz! Trollball!

Dorastor Campaign Maps

© 2022 Dario Corallo & Chaosium Inc.

Are you lost in Dorastor? Fear not! Dario Corallo has a beautiful high-resolution map for you! Well… you can still be in fear. You’re in Dorastor after all. But hey, at least you’ll die with wonderful cartographic possessions!

Jeff’s Notes

Jeff Richard, the current mastermind on everything Gloranthan at Chaosium, is often posting notes and thoughts on the RuneQuest Facebook group. Here’s our curated list from the past week. A partial archive of these sources is compiled on the Well of Daliath.

Greater, Major, and Minor Gods

Jeff is double-checking “some of the material about to go to the printer soon” (I assume this is the Prosopaedia):

I was comparing things to a list Greg had written some years ago, listing all the gods of Glorantha he knew. They were then classified as Greater, Major, Minor, and Demigod.

The Greater and Major are what concerns us here. These are the universally acknowledged Gloranthan deities. Greater Gods are of great cosmological importance; major gods are perhaps less cosmically important but enjoy recognition throughout the world and are among those that shaped the cosmos.

This is about their cosmological importance, not their cultural importance or whatever. So there are gods in this list that literally have no worshippers or, at least, no organized worship. On the other hand, some gods might be very well-known and have a widespread cult, but have no great role in the grand cosmic scheme of Glorantha.

If your god isn’t on the list, then it is likely a minor god or even a demigod. That includes such favorites as Argan Argar, Issaries, Yelmalio, the Seven Mothers, Oslir, and Polaris. Such deities are normally only of regional importance.

I have my own theory that Issaries is a lot more cosmologically important than he lets on (i.e. he invented the trade method called “worship” without which Glorantha couldn’t function, and has been taking a cut on all Rune magic shared between gods and their cultists since before Time), but that’s just my own crackpot God Learner conspiracy…

Anyway, looking at the list, my first surprise is the presence of “Greater Gods” that I had never heard about until now… I looked them up quickly so you don’t have to:

  • Bolongo: a Pamaltelan god that is, effectively, “empty”. He brings bad things but, ultimately, he’s just a “mask” with nothing behind.
  • Gloomshark: a big-ass shark deity that was “blighted and blasted by Chaos” in the God War. When it eats something, it never comes back… which I suppose makes its digestive system very very efficient? He’s supposed to be the primary Chaos entity in the Water. Reminds me of Kajabor’s powers, too (when Kajabor destroys something, it doesn’t come back either). Kajabor isn’t a Greater God, but Wakboth and Primal Chaos are, so there’s a good Chaos representation in this category already.
  • Jotimam: looks like he’s the “void at the centre of the world”, and was released from inside the Spike when it shattered in the Gods War. He is noted as having no cult but my Call of Cthulhu inspirations lead me to believe he might have a few isolated madmen and eccentrics worshipping it privately.

A couple others I don’t know much about:

  • Dayzatar: one of the sky gods who retreated high up in the celestial world because he didn’t have any fucks left to give to anybody. As I understand it, he stays up there in meditation, and his worshippers emulate him, doing fuck all, all day long. I think this is one of the few cults that aren’t really meant to be for adventurers.
  • Mastakos: basically Orlanth’s driver? He has a chariot and he goes fast. I suppose he has some movement-based magic.

The rest should be pretty well-known if you’ve got the RuneQuest rulebook and bestiary, which is what we always assume you have over here on the God Learners website.

So if we think about the roughly 21 greater gods listed, about a quarter of them are associated with Chaos, which gives you an idea how much Chaos is a part of the world thanks to the Compromise. Entropy (and its child Time) are a key part of our cosmos, whether we like it or not.

[…] [Wakboth] has no cult. There’s nothing to contact. If he could be contacted, it would lead to the end of the world. In short, he doesn’t have a cult… yet.

That sounds… very ominous, in a Call of Cthulhu way…

A couple more relevant quotes and notes:

  • Arachne Solara is a rank above all of [the gods]“.
  • Several gods are in the “Greater God” list because they are “owners” of a Rune (like Mastakos owning the Movement Rune). You can find the list of owners in the Glorantha Sourcebook or the Guide to Glorantha.

Anyway, I’ll let you look at the whole list and draw your own conclusions from Jeff’s additional comments.

Next is this other note about cosmically minor gods that are culturally important. This is where we find deities like Issaries and Oslira, who have a lot of worshippers and have very important roles in society, but don’t have any important role in the cosmos. Oslira is “just” a river after all. Oh and Yelmalio is there too of course… if anybody wants to start a debate…

There’s yet another note for the gods of the East Isles specifically, since this is where there’s basically one god for each island. But they’re all minor or very minor in the grand scheme of Glorantha’s cosmology.

More on Yelmalion Character Concepts

Speaking of Yelmalio, last week I shared a comment from Jeff on Yelmalio character concepts, and mused a bit about treating Sun Dome temples as “community centres for frontier people”. It looks like Jeff expanded a bit more on Yelmalion PCs on Facebook… and as usual had to defend the Yelmalio cult write-up against people who don’t find it compelling enough.

Yelmalio’s gifts are really where you get cool opportunities. […] Now if you don’t think any of those could be incredibly useful for a player character, then I don’t know what to do with you.

And if I am fighting in darkness, the ability to see in near darkness or to make things as bright as the noon day is not to be sneered at.

It’s funny because, as a gamemaster, I often forget to give a penalty to my players for fighting in darkness. I don’t know why — probably too much stuff to think about and do when a combat scene starts. Now that I have a Yelmalion in my party, I might remember it more often to make him shine (literally).

This other note on Yelmalio clarifies what he is about and what he’s not:

Yelmalio is the Solar deity found where Yelm’s imperial rule does not reach. Associated with the planet Lightfore, his cult brings Light to the darkest frontiers, and he is found among the Lightbringer barbarians and the elves. […]

One mistaken assumption is that Yelmalio is the god of pike warfare. He’s not, although the Spear and the Arrow are his weapons. His temples developed a means of fighting in an organised and disciplined manner for their own mundane survival, but that is a historical development, and not something from Yelmalio’s deeds.

I think this distinction is what trips many new and old hands to Glorantha and RuneQuest… but it’s arguably not very well described in the rulebook anyway.

More material for your world-building and adventuring:

Initiates work two weeks per season for the cult, normally doing local militia duties. This is comparable to the six weeks a year Orlanth initiates spend defending their temple – again basically militia work. The main difference is the Sun Dome Temples do militia work in Dark Season, and few Orlanthi communities do.

So remember, most Yelmalio cultists are farmers or herders. Most are militia, not mercenaries.

Again, the rulebook doesn’t explain this, and the text actually heavily suggests an all-mercenary cult. Hopefully the Cults books will explain this better?

Daliath’s Well

Chaosium’s Gloranthan resources website is called The Well of Daliath, but do you even know what that is?

At the bottom of the ocean is a Sacred Well that reaches down to the mysterious underworld waters of the Styx, the primal waters that arose from the Void. Those who drink from the Well are inspired with secret wisdom and sapience that comes from beyond mere reason and knowledge.

Daliath is the Keeper of the Well, and guards its secrets carefully. Only those gods and heroes that earn the right to drink from the Well are permitted to sip from it.

In Call of Cthulhu, all you need to do is make an “Idea roll”, just sayin’…

Anyway, I guess that when Divination isn’t enough to answer an important question, your PCs can heroquest to the Well of Daliath to get their answers. Jeff says that earning the right drink from the well often means getting “purified in Nelat’s Baths“. Nelat is one of Triolina’s husbands. He’s often described as a bald, robed guy holding two shells in his hands… I assume however that this is the human depiction of this god. It would be very weird for water races to depict their god as a bald guy?

Either way you’re headed into Water pantheon myths… which might prove tricky given how few PCs I’ve seen have ever had a Water Rune!

The Zola Fel Valley

Speaking of water, here’s a short note on the Zola Fel valley in Prax. Not much to report except that there’s a nice map scan:

© 2022 Chaosium Inc.

The Monomyth

Jeff, on Glorantha’s famous “monomyth”:

Glorantha is a unified setting – by that I mean that all of its pieces fit together to form a whole. The cosmology of Glorantha can be fit together to tell an overall story – popularly called the Monomyth. All that really means is that discrete myths have been assembled to tell a consistent narrative.

There’s a lot of variation of course, but the monomyth, as I understand it, establishes the basic narrative structures and actors involved in the setting. It was “researched” in-world by the God Learners, but it’s also used out-of-character to make sense of the setting and give some foundation for game designers and gamemasters to build upon. In many ways, the God Learners are the game designers’ proxy inside the world.

This monomyth is what sets Glorantha apart from many other settings, in my opinion. Not because these other settings lack a “monomyth”, but because Glorantha explicitly puts it in front of its players. This tells gamemasters and players to use it as the playground for their stories, which is what, I think, is sometimes interpreted as Gloranthan games having a more “mythological feel”.

The Size of a Tribe

Do you still need to tweak your world-building spreadsheets? Here are some of Jeff’s thoughts on tribal sizes in Sartar. I doubt there’s anything you don’t already know, though.

Solar Pentans

This next note however might be worthy of your spreadsheets! Here are some cult distribution numbers for Solar Pentans. As a reminder, the Pentans live in the large steppes north of the Wastes. These steppes span from the Lunar Empire to Kralorela in the East. I generally think of the Huns and other such nomadic people as inspiration for the Pentans (insert Gloranthan grognard telling me I’m all wrong here).

We have a Yelm and Dendara (Yu-Kargzant and La-Ungariant in Pentan) among the nobility and the Pure Horse tribes. Yelmalio and Eiritha (Karbzant and Cow Goddess) among the rank and file.

That makes sense, but the numbers seem a bit weird to me. Out of a total of 400k adults, we have 120k Yelm and Dendara cultists versus 180k Yelmalio and Eiritha cultists. This means that 30% of all adults belong to this “nobility”. I guess the Pentans have very good social mobility… or a very inefficient ruling class!

Now imagine how dangerous it could be if someone could unify all the Solar tribes – that’s a pool of over 150k+ cavalry! This is something that easily can overwhelm the Lunar Cavalry Corps, especially if it has even middling magical backing, and then simply go around the foot. Remember there are also three Storm Tribes, which provide even more force.

I didn’t know about the storm-worshipping Pentan tribes but they exist apparently: there are three of them, for a total of 200k Storm Tribe nomads.

They worship West King Wind, North War Wind, South Rage Wind, East Sting Wind! New gods that have been embraced by many Pentans since the genocide of the Nights of Horror. It’s all is there in the Guide!

Anyway back to the Pentans as a whole:

You can see that Dranz Goloi, whose Voor-ash Confederation include two or three Solar Tribes and two or three Storm Tribes is an existential threat to the Lunar Empire. He’s far far more dangerous than the loss of Dragon Pass, Prax, and the Holy Country. So much so, that even the Dragonrise seems small potatoes to the Red Emperor and his court in Glamour. Who cares what the Orlanthi are doing there, as the Red Emperor needs to be focused like a Sun Spear on the Voor-ash Confederation. If the Lunar Empire survives that, there is always time to reconquer Dragon Pass.

Dranz Goloi is one of the fascinating Gloranthan figures that I think gets a very short stick in the fan community. He built a coalition out of about half the Pentan tribes and very nearly took down the Lunar Empire. If I were a Lunar strategist, I’d be far more worried about him than some Orlanthi warlord in Dragon Pass.

One of my players has shown interest in visiting the Pentan nomads so I’ve filed this somewhere in my brain for future reference…

Lunar Retribution

This thread on the BRP Central forums asks the question that anybody playing in Sartar during the Lunar occupation eventually has to ponder: how long before the Lunars are onto the PCs? Jeff comments on this:

The Lunar Empire is not all powerful or all knowing. So let’s imagine things circa 1622-1625, back when there was a Lunar Occupation. We have a governor-general (really a satrap) in charge of things. That’s Tatius the Bright. If you want to travel another two weeks, you can appeal to the Provincial Overseer in Mirin’s Cross.

Tatius is kind of focused on the war in the Holy Country and the consecration of the Temple of the Reaching Moon, and most Lunar resources have been committed to these two projects, as these will cement his legacy and that of the Assiday family. If he hears that some Provincial officer got killed along with his militia-followers, he’s going to demand that his local allies deal with the situation rather than waste his time. Only if your actions threaten the war in the Holy Country or his temple-building project (or threaten key foundations of either – such as liberating one of the cities of Sartar) is he going to throw his own resources into the fray.

The aforementioned “local allies” are any Lunar-friendly tribe in this case. Lunar “collaborators” aren’t only the PCs’ enemies because of their opinions, but also because of their action: they’re going to hunt down and imprison/exile/extradite/kill any troublemaker that the Lunar Empire points at.

After the Battle of Auroch Hills, many tribes are effectively autonomous, as Tatius needs to focus everything he can on the war in the Holy Country. But these tribal “rebellions” are little more than large-scale banditry. The next year, Tatius sends the Lunar Army to besiege Nochet, and if that falls, who cares about pin-pricks from the Culbrea tribe? 

1624 is a nightmare year. The Lunar Army is routed in Esrolia and has to retreat a couple of hundred kilometres through Esrolia and Beast Valley to get back to Sartar. I wouldn’t be surprised if detachments of the Lunar Army takes out their humiliations on any rebels it can, especially near the Royal Roads. But things are certainly getting tight from the Lunar perspective – and now Tatius is acting directly. King Broyan is killed near the Troll Woods in 1625, and a Praxian Army is defeated by the Lunar College of Magic (and its Chaotic allies) at Hender’s Ruins shortly thereafter. But by Earth Season, Tatius is finally ready to deploy his masterstroke – the consecration of the Temple of the Reaching Moon, which will extend the Glowline over Dragon Pass and the Holy Country (and much of Prax). The massive magical energies of this location will be harnessed and Dragon Pass quickly pacified.

Of course things don’t quite go as expected.

So unless the PCs are involved in spycraft with the Holy Country, or engaging in terrorism against the Lunar temple’s construction site, they will probably only get in trouble from whoever is the closest Lunar friendly tribe. But of course, I’m trying to get my players to get into one of the first options…

Since I quoted and wrote this, Jeff actually expanded on his thoughts on Facebook again. There’s a lot of extra information in the second part, including the fact that the vast majority of Lunar soldiers was in the Holy Country between 1622 and 1624, leaving only a couple thousand soldiers in Sartar and Prax respectively. Plus, Jeff tells us how dire the situation looks like from the perspective of Glamour in 1625, and what might look like the most important priorities. Interesting stuff.

The Moonburn

Talk about Lunar retribution: Jeff tells us more about the Moonburn, the time when the Lunar Empire went nuclear against the Aldryami forest of Rist, utterly destroying it with a rain of crimson fire.

I had to look it up to understand what was going on (Jeff’s use of “as we all know” here makes me chuckle, as it often does).

It’s the early 1290s and, as I understand it, the Lunar Provinces of “today” (Darjiin, Sylila, and so on) are still free. But this is the First Wane of the Lunar Empire and the Red Emperor needs to take the biggest kids in the schoolyard and beat them up real good to show everybody who’s the boss. Some of these small kingdoms had alliances with each other, and with the elves of Rist, a forest locatged between Darjiin and Sylila.

© 2022 Chaosium Inc.

You can find it between the Yolp Mountains and the Palace of Flowers on the “modern” Argan Argar Atlas map above… well, it’s labelled “Rist” but there’s no forest. No shit. It was burnt down bad.

Most of the note is the same text you’ll find in the Glorantha Sourcebook, if you want to learn more about it, such as looking up this Char-un and Skyburn business. I’m out of time so no more notes from me here.

Rist had an area of approximately 6200 square km, so more than 6 times the area of the lands claimed by the Colymar Tribe. Although some of the groves survived because of elf defensive magic, this was still destruction on an incredible scale. Let’s put aside the tens of thousands of sentient beings that died horribly – this was also vast physical devastation of trees, animals, and you name it.

Runners up for the worst crime are: First Battle of Chaos and the Skyburn. Those early Lunars knew how to make an omelet!

Community Roundup

The community roundup is our highlight of interesting things being mentioned in the Glorantha-related Facebook groups, sub-Reddits, and other similar online places.

The Best Game Aid for RuneQuest

Austin Conrad wrote a blog article about Q-Workshop’s Runic dice, which he uses for inspiration when he has to improvise.

Q Workshop—known for its decorative dice for many different roleplaying games—produces a line of dice for RuneQuest which, no joke, changed how I gamemaster. The face of each die is marked with one of the game’s eponymous Runes. For example, the D6’s faces have small Water, Earth, Moon, Fire/Sky, Air, and Darkness Runes on each of the die’s faces, from one to six.

You can get Q-Workshop’s dice here and here. I myself have the beige set pictured above. You can see the Runic D20 on the second picture

Thank you for reading

That’s it for this week! Please contact us with any feedback, question, or news item we’ve missed!

Welcome to a new issue of the Journal of Runic Studies, the premier Malkioni publication for studies into the nature of Glorantha. If you haven’t subscribed yet, please consult with the spirit bound to the appropriate electronic page.

God Learner Sorcery

Here is what us God Learners were up to this week.

Episode 18: The Travels of Biturian Varosh (Part 5)

Drew Baker is back to accompany Ludovic on the last leg of Biturian Varosh’s travels! We share crazy conspiracy theories, nerd-out on logistics and prices, complain about heroquesting, and more as we reach the end of RuneQuest’s Cults of Prax.

Chaosium News

Here are this week’s Chaosium news!

Get Khan of Khans While You Can!

The absolute best way to introduce anybody to Glorantha, the Ennie-winning, simple and fast-paced fun board game “Khan of Khans“, is sadly being withdrawn from sales soon, so grab it while you can!

The Chaosium blog explains:

Due to our licensing collaboration with Dr Reiner Knizia concluding at the end of the year, we will be withdrawing both titles from sale on December 31st, 2022.

© 2022 Chaosium Inc.

Of note, the Call of Cthulhu themed Miskatonic University: The Restricted Collection board game is similarly going out of print at the same time. You can order Khan of Khans and Miskatonic University: The Restricted Collection, from Chaosium.

I already have Khan of Khans, but I just bought a second one while ordering some Call of Cthulhu stuff… it will come in handy for a gift at some point, I’m sure.

A New Hero: Episode 10

This great actual play of RuneQuest, GMed by James Coquillat, continues to delve deeper into the Upland Marsh! There is probably some vampiric shenanigans going on, based on the description and what I have seen catching up to Episode 8. Note that, as of Episode 7, Bridgett and Dave are joined by Harli, who plays a young Humakti assistant-priestess who gets a sudden promotion…

Jonstown Compendium

The Jonstown Compendium is Chaosium’s community content program for all Gloranthan games, hosted on DriveThruRPG. Disclaimer: all the relevant links are affiliate links that hopefully will let us cover some of the hosting and maintenance costs for the website and podcast! Thanks for using them!

The Indagos Bull

© 2022 Rob Marcus & Chaosium Inc.

This short Praxian investigation scenario by Rob Marcus already has a 5 star review from Nick Brooke:

It is two days before the Eiritha High Holy Day, and Farmer Jyles’ prize bull has gone missing!  The Eiritha priestess is worried that the community blessing ceremony will be affected.  However, there is a rumour that Jyles’ neighbour has a secret, and Jyles’ lazy son has been looking pleased with himself.

Contains details of Indagos town, Pavic meat trade, farming in Prax, and what happens when you tangle with a Hazia Elf.

Rubble Runners Volume 2

Jon Hunter follows up the first volume with another set of NPCs from Pavis. In addition to the NPCs themselves, there are short write-ups for contacts, companions, and scenario hooks.

Hydra: Adventurers from the Lunar Provinces

Hydra is a sourcebook for creating adventurers from the Lunar Provinces (Aggar, Holay, Imther, Tarsh, and Vanch). Twenty adventurers are also provided, so you can use that book for pre-gens or NPCs, too.

Jeff’s Notes

Jeff Richard, the current mastermind on everything Gloranthan at Chaosium, is often posting notes and thoughts on the RuneQuest Facebook group. Here’s our curated list from the past week. A partial archive of these sources is compiled on the Well of Daliath.

Geographical Context in Central Genertela

Jeff does this occasionally: he provides a bit a geographical context about this or that place, maybe with a reference photo or two, so that you can better picture that place the same way he does (you might still go on to play it differently, but there’s value in knowing what the designers have in mind!)

Since a good chunk of Chaosium was away on multiple conventions such as Dragonmeet and PAX, I suppose Jeff had a good quiet week and that’s why there are quite a few notes on that topic!

Prax and the Wastes

© 2022 Chaosium Inc.

The note on Prax and the Wastes shouldn’t have anything surprising in it. As I think back on my first discovery of Prax, the main misconceptions I had were:

  1. Praxian nomads live in Prax: that’s sadly not true, and I wish they would have a different name (I notice Jeff uses “Animal Nomads” once instead of “Praxians”). It turns out they spend a lot of time riding around Genert’s Wastes, too… which makes sense because nomadic tribes of that size (almost 400,000 people) need a lot of space, and this went into my original pet peeve of “Glorantha is too small for its own good“.
  2. Chaparral deserts are just an endless flat plane of dry land with some scrubs: that was obviously my own ignorance on the topic (not many deserts in Western Canada or France…) but I realize now that Prax is probably a lot more geographically interesting than I originally thought.

If you want to better picture how the nomad tribes move around the Wastes, don’t forget this map by David Scott that shows the various grazing lands:

© 2022 Chaosium Inc.

Peloria

Grasslands of Sylila – Photo by Jeff Richard

This note on Peloria is more about the climate than geography (plus a bit on agriculture) but it has one interesting thing: some reasoning about why Lodril is both a god of Pelorian farmers and a god of volcanic fire… what’s the link between the two?

And of course there is the occasional basalt flood from Lodril. This was something that troubled me – we know Peloria is the center of Lodril’s cult and yet there is an apparent shocking lack of volcanic activity in Peloria. But of course that is not true – we have accounts of the Ervuthan Lava Beds in Vonlath. and there are no doubt others.

The Ervuthan Lava Beds are a place where the god Antirius buried some bad Dara Happan emperor and his followers using earthquakes and fire, or something. That’s a deep Gloranthan cut, here (I want to thank the search feature in my PDF reader). From a cursory search, Antirius seems to be an early Dara Happan version of Yelmalio, from before Time. This whole Ervuthan Lava Bed incident also happened before Time as far as I can see.

Vonlath is an area of fertile lands that covers parts of Kostaddi and Darjin, smack in the middle of the Lunar Empire. I imagine that it runs along the Oslir river between Glamour and Jillaro:

© 2022 Chaosium Inc.

While driving across the Snake River Plain, it became obvious – of course there are areas of basalt rock in lowland Peloria, surrounded by grain and rice fields. And these places are of course sacred to Lodril.

The Snake River Plain is a stretch of land in the USA that crosses Idaho (mainly) and features several volcanic buttes.

Okay so we have volcanic rock in various places along the Oslir valley, and in the real world this kind of rock can apparently be crushed into dust as a way to improve soil health and increase agriculture yields. In that way, I suppose that Pelorian farmers only need to worship whoever made that basalt rock. It’s hinted in The Glorious Reascent of Yelm that Antirius got help from the Earth goddesses to accomplish his napalm carpet bombing, and Antirius has a lot more to him than just that, so it makes sense that Pelorian farmers turned to a deity that just symbolizes the creation of basalt — “fire dude burns the earth but in a nice way“. In some way, Lodril could be considered the personification of Antirirus’ weapon, or of Antirius’ “alliance” with Earth at that time. There’s a lot of polytheist gods that started their career as someone else’s magic item or action, after all.

But that doesn’t quite explain to me why Lodril became the primary farmer god, as opposed to a side god that you worship for added soil fertility. I suppose that the Pelorian farmers have such a dull life that all the big penises and hot sex action in Lodril’s iconography was too attractive, and they stopped bothering much with the other very very serious solar gods…

The Quivin Mountains

© 2022 Chaosium Inc.

This note on the Quivin Mountains (the small mountain range around Boldhome) features a new version of a map we had previously seen… nice!

One thing I didn’t know:

Part of the mountain range is formed by the resting giant Thorgeir.

That part is the Culbrea Mountains, with the “Shoulder” and the “Knee”. Apparently there’s a whole story about this: the giant Thorgeir gave a cow to Quivin, a half-brother of Orlanth, but tried to take it back later. Quivin slew Thorgeir, and that’s where he rests. And that’s also why there’s another peak called Thorgeir’s Cow here, by the way.

The Quivin Mountains also highlight once again my “Glorantha is too small” pet peeve. This mountain range is, what, a 20 kilometres wide square of land? That’s very small… although technically you can find a few small mountain ranges like that on Earth if you look closely. And after my initial shock I also realized that Glorantha isn’t built from, you know, tectonic activity and erosion: this is where the god Quivin sat down and where the giant Thorgeir fell down. So of course it’s just a handful of peaks in the middle of rolling hills… but it took me a while before this realization. That’s something to keep in mind when you bring new people to Glorantha.

The other “solution” is to simply connect the Quivin Mountains to the Storm Mountains to the south and, lo and behold, you have a still small but much more “realistic” mountain range, similar to, say, the Jura in France.

The Guardian Hills

Guardian Hills – Photo by Jeff Richard

The Guardian Hills make up the area around Swenstown, where eastern Sartar meets with Prax. You can read the note for some climate and geographic data — it’s basically hills with seasonal rivers and mediocre vegetation that looks super awesome to the average Praxian.

The East Wilds

At first I was confused and I thought this was about the Elder Wilds, but no, this is about the East Wilds, which is a different place. Of course. And of course, it’s Ralios, in the western part of Genertela. To be fair, it’s in the eastern part of Ralios. Eastern part of the western part. Okay, sure.

© 2022 Chaosium Inc.

To orient yourselves: the East Wilds are roughly ranging from Naskorion through Delela to Halikiv (on the left half of that map above), although Halikiv is set apart because that’s troll land. Past that, to the east, is where the Skyreach Mountains (to the north) meet the Mislari Mountains (to the south). So the right side of that map is Esrolia (in the bottom right corner), the Grazelands (right edge), and Lunar Tarsh (top right corner).

Orlanth and his Lightbringer deities dominate the East Wilds, along with Yelmalio, and numerous spirit cults.

While the Orlanthi “dominate” the area, there are also many Hsunchen tribes (which we talked about with Brian Duguid on the podcast). There’s also a Sun Dome temple there from the old days of the EWF… keep that in mind, we’ll get back to it later.

The East Wilds are hostile towards the trolls of Halikiv, and their great hero, Retter the Stalker, unified the tribes of Delela through his raids deep into Halikiv. Despite this, nocturnal troll caravans under the protection of the Argan Argar Chain travel between Halikiv and Safelster. Chaos monsters sometimes invade from Karia.

Beyond the East Wilds are the Western Rockwoods, a high mountain range, with few passes. Kartolin Pass is the easiest and best known, but it is blocked by Castle Kartolin – and beyond is the haunted land of Dorastor.

Safelster is out of the map to the west (that’s the heart of Ralios). Karia is up north near the Kartolin Pass, which you don’t want to go through given what’s on the other side.

© 2022 Chaosium Inc.

The Guide mentions that people have started settling Karia again, and report that “it’s actually not that bad“. Nobody really believes them though… so what’s going on? I guess you’ll have to go there… On the other hand, I’m sure that finding another good pass elsewhere through the mountains (especially one that leads to Aggar or Tarsh) would be super interesting to the Lunars. Maybe your adventurers want to do that instead?

The Sixes of the Holy Country

The Holy Country used to be organized like a magical Disneyland by Belintar until his disappearance.

In the Holy Country, the magical energies of the Sixes work together to complement each other. All Six are recognized by all and yet, each maintain their own identity. The Sixes and their ruling deity are:

– Water (ruling the Rightarm Islands and the Bay) – Magasta (Choralintho, Dormal)
– Fire (ruling Caladraland) – Lodril (Yelmalio)
– Earth (ruling Esrolia) – Ernalda (Maran Gor, Asrelia, Grain Goddesses, Ty Kora Tek)
– Darkness (ruling the Shadow Plateau) – Argan Argar (Kyger Litor, Zorak Zoran)
– Air (ruling Heortland) – Orlanth (Storm Bull, Humakt)
– God Forgot (ruling the Leftarm Islands) – none

© 2022 Chaosium Inc.

These elemental powers operate in a lesser manner in the other Sixths, and I imagine Lullian circles with six fields are depicted spinning around each other, clockwise and counter clockwise, to show this.

© 2022 Chaosium Inc.

Llullian circles are coming from the alchemical work of Ramon Llull, a 13th century Spanish philosopher. He used these types of circles a lot in his books:

Creative Commons picture

So going back to the six Runes and deities of the Holy Country, I think the inner circle shows the main ruling power of the sixth (Esrolia/Earth and Caladraland/Fire to the west, the Shadow Plateau/Darkness to the north, Hendrikiland/Air and God Forgot/Law/nothing to the east, and the Rightarm Islands/Water to the south).

I suppose you could rotate the outer circle to make up whatever combination you want — coming up with stories as needed. And speaking of stories…

A God Forgot Story

© 2022 Chaosium Inc.

Here is a story from God Forgot. Apparently there was indeed a guy named “God-forgets”. Huh, who knew? Also, I love the concept of “accidental worship of the Trickster God“.

Anyway, the story is complemented by some details about how bonkers this area is:

God Forgot has many strange locations. Of course there are the Clanking Ruins (sometimes known as the Machine Ruins or the Factory Ruins), but Casino Town is perhaps the most emblematic of modern God Forgot philosophy. There are many types of gambling places there, as well as a cult which promotes suicide and The Bank, which worships Our Lady of Credit.

If you think about Casino Town, it is a place of about 5000 (so about the same population as New Pavis), centered around gambling places and The Bank. The gambling places are claimed to be temples to Luck and Fate, while The Bank is claimed as a temple to Our Lady of Credit. I doubt any of these “cults” offer any magic – their rewards are entirely tangible.

My first thought is that, on the contrary, the risks and rewards might be completely weird… gamble your ability to scratch your nose when it itches, but maybe you’ll win the ability to cross rivers without getting wet! Or gamble half of your Passions, and maybe you’ll gain a new Rune rating! Basically the sort of gambling that happens in weird folk stories about witches.

Casino Town is famed though. You can go to Casino Town to transform a small fortune into a large one, or lose an ever larger fortune. You pit your skill and wits against manifestations of Luck and Fate. Adventurers from New Pavis and Sartar rub shoulders with Wolf Pirate captains, Trader Princes, wealthy Esrolian noblewomen, and Lunar exiles from Dart Wars or other internal squabbles.

Languages

Here is a simple note on languages in Dragon Pass, and how you’re very likely to hear a bunch of various things at the city market, from Tradetalk to Darktongue. I know that my players very often swear and mutter insults in their “private” tongue such as Firespeech or Old Tarshite!

City Sizes

This note is Jeff musing over the various city sizes in Genertela. Basically: Boldhome and other Sartarite cities are small potatoes. Lunar cities from the old Dara Happan lands are where it’s at. Plus, of course, Glamour, Nochet, and other other couple true metropolises of Glorantha.

The Man Rune

Here are some clarifications on the Man Rune.

The Man Rune is the Form of all mortal sentient beings. The races of the Man Rune include trolls, elves, runners, dwarves, ducks, beastfolk, and triolini, as well as humans. It does not include dragonewts, who enjoy an innate immortality. Nor does it include animals (even if they are capable of sentient thought).

The gods made the Man Rune to make proper servants, and created these first people out of mud, dirt, and/or stone. I’m sure you can come up with other myths where people were made out of maize or wood or whatever you want too (there are such myths on Earth).

In my game we are currently visiting the Golden Age, and even though the Sun Emperor has indeed some humanoid-looking servants that are probably made with the Man Rune, they look substantially different from “normal” humans. In his search for “purity” and “perfection”, the Sun Emperor tried a few designs. There are uncanny-valleyesque servants with absolutely symmetrical facial features, no hair, and no nails, to the creepy-looking servants who have no face at all. It’s fun!

About Dreams

Dreams in RuneQuest can be just dreams, or they can be your soul sleepwalking into the Spirit World. That’s when you have spirits and even gods telling you important stuff… but can you remember it once you wake up?

Navigating the Hero Plane

© 2022 Chaosium Inc.

Jeff likes to use one of those maps from Greg (above) as the basis for exploring the Hero Plane. This is in fact one of the maps we used during our heroquest at ChaosiumCon.

So when thinking about any heroquest, I start by looking at one of Greg’s old Hero Plane maps. This is a map of archetypes – and not the same thing as the Mythic Maps (which show the relationship of known mythic events and how they shaped the world). I think of this like a guide to Dreams or even something like the Sefirot. Perhaps our quest will be to travel from the Home of the Storm Lord over the Bridge through the Calm Air (making your way past the Four Winds) across the Sea of Flames to make your way to the Sky Palace in order to secretly aid the Imprisoned Queen and bring her back to the Womb. We associate these places with mythic events and places (is the Womb the great temple of Ezel, the Paps, or just the Earth Temple basement?), but you create your own story when you go there.

Yep, we did some of that. But we ended up at the White Moon’s palace and broke some shit by mistake. We went through a bunch of other weird scenes and ended at the Pit, trying to save Orlanth… fun times.

Then arm the players with a few stories. Maybe they learn a secret from a God Learner scroll that it is possible to befriend Mr. Racoon who can sneak you into the Imprisoned Queen’s chambers. Or perhaps they learned something in the Cradle that lets you travel across the Black Sea to the River Styx or realize that they already saw this scene in Kakstan’s Art Gallery. However you do it, try to tie this into their experiences in the game.

If they have already been on a heroquest, even better – rope that experience into this.

My current heroquesting game has the Trickster equipped with such inside knowledge: the Golden Age has invaded the tribal lands, but he knows about a backdoor in the Sun Emperor’s ziggurat… they just got there last week, so we’ll see if that helps, or makes things worse…

Anyway, read the note for more advice from Jeff… while we wait for the official heroquesting rules of course.

Detecting and Tolerating Chaos

This thread on BRP Central features a couple of comments by Jeff on the presence of Chaos in our midst:

Unlike most other organized states in Genertela, the Lunar Empire tolerates the worship of Chaotic entities. The Crimson Bat, Primal Chaos, Nysalor, and of course the Red Goddess are state sponsored Chaos cults. But ideologically it is difficult for Lunar officials to prohibit worship of Vivamort, Krarsht, Mallia, Thed, etc.

Now many things these cults do – murder, rape, spread of disease, etc. is going to get repressed by Lunar officials. But even the Orlanthi have Black Fang and Lanbril. Even in the Lunar Empire these cults need to operate in the shadows away from Yelms light. But of course it is much easier for them to exist than in Theyalan lands where their very existence is taboo.

The same way that I use organized crime as an inspiration for some Chaos cults, you can also use real world governments as inspiration for how the Lunar Empire walks a fine line with regards to these cults. For instance, the US government deals with a lot of nasty organizations behind the scenes… take a look at the FBI and, obviously, the CIA’s history. That’s all you need to know to get a plausible Lunar Empire that condemns Broos and Vampires but also works with them when needed. On this, Jeff explains:

And of course more obvious manifestations of Chaos are going to get the ire of some power non-Red Goddess cults in the Lunar Heartlands. For example, Yelm is an enemy of Bagog, Cacodemon, Krarsht, Krjalk, Primal Chaos, Thanatar, Thed, etc.  The Yelm cult is an enemy of the Crimson Bat, but the head of the Yelm cult, the Red Emperor, officially tolerates the Crimson Bat. 

So although Thanatar’s existence is tolerated by the Red Emperor, the Thanatar cult needs to operate largely in the shadows. Broo are tolerated by the Red Emperor, but if they start acting broo-ish, they still get hunted down and killed (unless they can be made useful and sent against enemies of the Emperor). I imagine that religious riots and angry protests happen even in the Lunar Heartlands.

In game what that means is that Thanatar cults exist in the Lunar Heartlands, but they are likely covertly coopted by the Red Emperor and other Lunar officials. They are tolerated, so long as their actions do not threaten the social order or the Lunar religion. Of course, such cults chafe at such restrictions, so from time to time the Red Emperor uproots them.

Of course in “pure” Orlanthi (non-Lunar) lands, there’s no head of state that tolerates any Chaotic shenanigans. But even there it can get tricky:

Something a lot of people seem unclear about – there is no universally accepted way to know something is Chaotic. Some cults claim to have magic that identifies chaotic things but that magic curiously fails when confronted with some obviously Chaotic entities. The Storm Bull cult is sworn to destroy Chaos and claims to be able to “sniff” Chaos. But even their senses fail to register some obviously Chaotic things – so clearly there is secret Chaos everywhere.

Statistics dictate that most Storm Bull initiates will, what, detect Chaos correctly only half the time? Two thirds of the time? Plus all the fumbles where their senses completely betray them and they completely fuck things up? Sure, they’re loud and drunk and dangerous, but I think their word is taken as one indicator, not as the absolute truth.

People with third arms, glowing eyes, weird misshapen bodies, goat heads, etc., are obviously Chaotic. In Theyalan or Malkionni lands such people are often accused of being Chaotic monsters and killed, or just lynched by angry mobs (assuming they can muster the courage to act). In the Lunar Empire such people are accepted as people and judged by their actions. That being said, iff there are unsolved crimes, such people are often accused of being active worshipers of evil Chaotic deities and blamed for the crimes. But they at least enjoy the official tolerance and protection of the Lunar rulers.

I also like this suggestion by Jeff that things can be confusing or misleading:

[…] Chaos Gift and Chaos Features usually have overt manifestations. But is that tusked monster a human with a Chaos Feature or just a dark troll? Is that a broo with a harmless appearing Chaos Feature or just a satyr? 

Within most human societies, Chaos cults are viewed as an abomination. Theyalans, Praxians, Malkioni, trolls, elves, etc., aren’t going to tolerate the worship of Chaotic entities in areas they control. When they learn of such activities, they are going to stop it with force if they can (the Storm Bull cult is kind of ideal for this).

Of course, this assumes the authorities: 1. know that Chaotic worship is going on, and 2. can stop it at a reasonable cost. Most Chaos cults operate in secret or far away from their enemies. Many Chaos temples are hidden and well defended. For example in Dragon Pass, Snakepipe Hollow and the Upland Marsh have the most Chaotic activity- these are places that are dangerous to go to and it is easy to hide your activities there. There are likely other Chaos cult activities, but they need to stay hidden and secret, lest they are killed by trolls or local authorities. This helps explains the survival of Krarsht, for who is better at hiding than the Hungry Mother?

The Lunars are different. Chaos cults are not viewed as abominations per se, but are judged on whether they serve the interests of the Red Goddess and her temporal viceroy, the Red Emperor. So maybe a Thanatar temple can operate under the supervision of the local satrap, IF it pays enough money, agrees to not commit crimes against Lunar cultists, and performs plenty of useful services to the local magistrate. Maybe the local magistrate will turn a blind eye to the activities of the local Krarsht ring for money and services. And as long as the satrap is fine with this (and remember they are pretty much all Red Goddess initiates), then no problem. But if the Chaos cults cause problems for the satraps (especially if they cause disturbances that make tax collection difficult), then hunt them down and kill.  

Yelmalion Character Concepts

At first glance, Yelmalio seems so one-dimensional that it’s hard to imagine Yelmalion character concepts as anything else than soldiers and guards. But Jeff has some interesting comments on this:

Yelmalio is the Frontier God of Civilization. He brings Light to the quarrelling Storm tribes. He is a god of honour, a god of citizen-soldiers. He has a soldier aspect, a mystic aspect, and even a scholar aspect. His cult preserves their ways and identity despite being greatly outnumbered by those who do not follow his ways.

The “naive reading” of Yelmalio’s myth is that he kept some lights on during the Great Darkness, helping people against the creatures of Darkness and Chaos. But I guess that this “light” could be anything. He’s here to help the people who are in shitty situations and shitty places.

I suppose that’s why you can find Sun Domes, or at least Sun Dome ruins, in several remote places of Genertela. Remember that Sun Dome temple I mentioned in the East Wilds above? Maybe it’s helping the local with more than just stabbing Chaos creatures and trolls. Maybe it helps with food, water, literacy, traditions, hunting, agriculture, and so on too… not necessarily directly, but possibly by acting as a platform that boosts these things, sort of like a friendly community centre that hosts courses, activities, and conventions or something. I’m not sure yet where this goes, but it’s intriguing.

Community Roundup

The community roundup is our highlight of interesting things being mentioned in the Glorantha-related Facebook groups, sub-Reddits, and other similar online places.

RuneQuest Marketing by Kieron Gillen

Photo by Kieron Gillen

Kieron Gillen, author of many fine comics including The Wicked + The Divine and, for the roleplayers in the audience, DIE, has recently taken a closer look at RuneQuest after many years of passing it by… he has some opinion about how Chaosium should market it:

Everyone goes on about Runequest being this classic RPG fantasy world of bronze age culture and myth and stuff, but they could have just skipped all that and just said YOU CAN PLAY A LADY WHO RIDES A BISON AND USES A LANCE ON BISON-BACK.

As a teenager, I always thought Runequest as the sort of RPG that grown-ups with 1970s beards would play and then perhaps have a fondue, but THERE WERE BISON RIDERS ALL ALONG.

The Runequest fans who are noting all the other awesome stuff in Runequest are making my point. LEAD WITH THE LLAMA WARRIORS. Call the game RUNEQUEST: YOU CAN RIDE A FUCKING BISON. Don’t let someone who’s played RPGs all his life reach the age of 47 and not know this.

Vasana riding a bison is also my favourite thing from my early discovery of RuneQuest and Glorantha so I totally agree here.

Coffeemancer’s Art Dump

I love Coffeemancer’s meme-friendly art so much that we actually interviewed him for the Glorantha Initiation series! He recently dumped a bunch of old and new art on Twitter and it’s wonderful… Here are some Lunars and Orlanthi in the style of the Asterix comicbooks:

Next are some Hippo riders, and a Garsting war-chariot (“I imagine the Garstings to be descendants of a Wheel clan and the goat herders that roamed around the Oslir river“):

Coffeemancer’s current game seems to be located in the Torkani tribe, so he drew their Torkani adventurers:

Dan Barker’s Troll Statue

Illustrator Dan Barker has made this Troll statue drawing and is wondering if he’s going to finish it… what do you think?

© 2022 Dan Barker

Bryon Reviews The Red Book of Magic

Bryon is done with the Weapons & Equipment Guide (mentioned last week), and now he’s doing the RuneQuest spellbook… letter by letter! Well, not like, each letter of the text (although I would frankly love to see someone do that), but the first video is all the “A” spells.

Thank you for reading

That’s it for this week! Please contact us with any feedback, question, or news item we’ve missed!

Welcome to a new issue of the Journal of Runic Studies, the premier Malkioni publication for studies into the nature of Glorantha. If you haven’t subscribed yet, please consult with the spirit bound to the appropriate electronic page.

Chaosium News

Here are this week’s Chaosium news!

The Meints Index to Glorantha is Available in PDF

The Meints Index to Glorantha is out! This is the newest edition of Rick Meints’ collector handbook, and a wonderful catalogue of things you will never get to hold in your hands!

In the modern collector’s market, knowing what you need is essential if you want to save time and money. MIG3: The Meints Index to Glorantha (aka MIG3), contains an exhaustive catalog of RuneQuest and Glorantha titles and related products.

Over the last 40 years, Chaosium President and Glorantha Historian Rick Meints has attended a plethora of auctions, consulted a wide range of experts, procured numerous collections, dredged the depths of the internet, and spent countless nights compiling this compendium of products, supplements, and articles.

The first two editions were published respectively in 1996 and 1999, so the third one has a lot to catch up to. Here it is (in an early print version) next to its siblings at ChaosiumCon back in spring 2022.

Photo by Nick Brooke, MIG © 2022 Chaosium Inc.

You can get the newly released PDF here from Chaosium, with a print-on-demand edition coming soon. Interestingly enough, the digital version features a different cover (see below). I wonder if the print-on-demand will also have the cartographic cover, making the “blue cover” preview printing a limited edition item… which might then have to be included in the MIG 4th edition! (Rick describes this “blue cover” as a “provisional” cover, adding that “Along with the regular hardcover version we will also be doing a limited edition blue leatherette with gold foil.“)

© 2022 Chaosium Inc.

Rick has written more about this book, its history, and its making, in a recent “Out of the Suitcase” article on Chaosim’s blog. It includes even more inception, since the index that John Dallman and David Hall made in the early 1990s became an inspiration, and is now included in MIG3! Oh my.

Photo by Rick Meints

Anyway, get the PDF now, you’ll get a discount coupon from Chaosium later for the print-on-demand version when it’s available.

A New Hero: Episode 09

Chaosium’s RuneQuest actual play continues as James throws his players into some tense scene involving a centaur warband!

Rivers of London is Out

© 2022 Chaosium Inc.

Chaosium’s newest game is coming out very soon: it’s Rivers of London, based on the novel of the same name (and its sequels). It’s a modern-day urban fantasy setting that is pretty cool, but that’s not the point — even though I liked the book and I’m a sucker for urban fantasy games, this is a Gloranthan newsletter.

No, what I wanted to point you to is that Chaosium is, at least for this title, going back to the early PDF release model. I’m not sure why, since they’ve said previously that they were moving to simultaneous digital and physical releases… My guess is that this is a fluke, and that they already had planned the roll out of Rivers of London with Ben Aaronovitch using the “old” release model.

Anyway, I figured I would mention it here, since I know Gloranthan fans are rabidly awaiting several books, and from the looks of it, the Prosopaedia may be the only new book we get this year (plus the Weapons & Equipment sourcebook, if you only count its physical release). And maybe not even that.

Jonstown Compendium

The Jonstown Compendium is Chaosium’s community content program for all Gloranthan games, hosted on DriveThruRPG. Disclaimer: all the relevant links are affiliate links that hopefully will let us cover some of the hosting and maintenance costs for the website and podcast! Thanks for using them!

Holiday Dorastor: Moon Elves

© 2022 Stormspearia & Chaosium Inc.

It’s time for another look at Dorastor, courtesy of the official Dorastor Tourism Office, aka Stormspearia. Holiday Dorastor: Moon Elves describes the exotic and titular creatures that are somehow tied to the Red Goddess. And because it’s a Stormspearia book, expect extra skills, spells, scenarios, and more!

Glorantha Maps: Dragon Pass and Talfort

Mikael Mansen continues his cartographic coverage of Glorantha with two new maps. The first one is Dragon Pass and doesn’t need an introduction. The second one is “Talfort“, which is Mikael’s version of Wintertop Fort.

The Final Riddle is Coming

Andrew Logan Montgomery is teasing his next book, The Final Riddle:

The Final Riddle is a short campaign based on Lady Amarj’s infamous Lunar pillow book of the same name. Set in the Great Winter of 1622, a group of desperate protagonists are hired by a mysterious Esrolian noblewoman in New Pavis. She is organizing an expedition deep into the Wastes near Genert’s Throne, seeking the palace of an Earth goddess whose name is lost to Time. As they travel further from civilization, their minds and souls are tested by madness and Chaos, until at last they reach Shum Sarzum, the Copper City, and encounter its final riddle.

The book begins with a lengthy chapter on Illumination and Lunar Sevening, including rules for both. Next there is a history of the pillow book and it’s mysterious author. In the Characters chapter, we provide full RQG stats for all the protagonists of Lady Amarj’s pillow book, playable as pre-generated PCs, as well as rules for designing your own. There is a discussion of dealing with horror and madness in Glorantha and RuneQuest, and “The Weird Wastes,” a chapter on using Chaos in the Wastelands. Then come the actual scenarios. “Pavis in The Great Winter” introduces the characters to their new employer, her Troll bodyguard, and mysterious advisor. The players then cross paths with the famous Kost the Tracker. “The Final Riddle” is the last scenario, detailing the Gods Age city of Shum Sarzum and its inhabitants. Between the two there are a number of “optional” scenarios a GM can chose to run along the journey from Pavis to Shum Sarzum. “The Riddle of the Beasts,” “The Riddle of the Lost,” and “The Riddle of Truth.”

Sounds great, especially since Andrew then adds that this campaign plays more like Call of Cthulhu, and less than RuneQuest. And you know me by now, right?

Jeff’s Notes

Jeff Richard, the current mastermind on everything Gloranthan at Chaosium, is often posting notes and thoughts on the RuneQuest Facebook group. Here’s our curated list from the past week. A partial archive of these sources is compiled on the Well of Daliath.

Road Trip Through Dragon Pass

Jeff and his family are travelling across the US for Thanksgiving, so thankfully for my free time there aren’t really any new “Jeff Notes” this week. However, Jeff is taking a lot of pictures that he uses to illustrate what he thinks Glorantha looks like:

These are all great photos references, but they also indirectly illustrate my big pet peeve about Glorantha: it’s so fucking small. So some of those pictures, taken in Glorantha, wouldn’t look as good because, say, the Quivin mountains are really just a handful of peaks at best. These are mountains that are as tall as “real” mountains, but their mountain range is quite small and, well, “wrong”. Oh well.

Community Roundup

The community roundup is our highlight of interesting things being mentioned in the Glorantha-related Facebook groups, sub-Reddits, and other similar online places.

SimpleQuest Kickstarter is Live

Newt Newport’s D101 Games has announced the upcoming release of SimpleQuest, a simplified version of the existing OpenQuest (which some people describe as “the subset of RuneQuest that you actually use“).

© 2022 D101 Games

SimpleQuest was the original name for OpenQuest when I started developing it in 2007. Before the game’s release in 2010, I changed its name to OpenQuest to reflect the fact that it was entirely open gaming content under the OGL at the time.

OpenQuest today is much bigger than the short system that was SimpleQuest, since it grew due to customer feedback. But I always had the desire to present a shorter version of the game. D100 systems back in the 80s were very short and direct, one very famous ruleset had an edition that had 23 pages of rules!

The Kickstarter is live, and is already funded. If you want to take a look at an alternative BRP-esque system, and possibly bring a few tweaks to the parts of RuneQuest that drive you crazy (you know they exist!), I’d recommend taking a look at OpenQuest indeed (not to mention Mythras and Revolution D100, among others).

Last Few Issues of Hearts in Glorantha

© 2022 D101 Games

Speaking of Newt Newport, the last available stock for his “Hearts in Glorantha” magazine is still available from the D101 Games website. It was released during the HeroQuest era of Gloranthan publishing, so it doesn’t have RuneQuest stats in it, but it’s still good stuff, and perfectly usable for RuneQuest games!

Exploring Glorantha’s Grazelands

JM and Evan continue their exploration of Glorantha by heading off to the Grazelands! As always, their show notes are available in PDF to their Patreon subscribers, and it’s a great resource for quickly finding stuff when preparing your games.

Bryon Reviews Weapons & Equipment

Bryon has started a video series reviewing Weapons & Equipment chapter by chapter! Above is the first video, but there are six others at the time of writing, all the way to the “armor” chapter.

Elsewhere on Arachne Solara’s Web

Not everything is about Glorantha, although most things are! Here are loosely relevant things that we found on the interwebs.

Zeus Apomyius: Averter of Flies

When looking at the old HeroWars and HeroQuest books, you might quickly get tired with the many names and sub-cults that the Gloranthan gods have, especially the big ones like Orlanth and Ernalda… but think about the Greeks in the 5th century BCE having to deal with the many names and aspects of, say, Zeus, their own Storm King of the Gods. Wikipedia lists almost a hundred of them (I didn’t count but it looks about that long). What the actual fuck.

One aspect of Zeus that I absolutely love is one I heard a historian talk about recently on a podcast. It’s so representative of how polytheism was about practicality, and not dogma as much, for the people of these ancient times.

Illustration of the Temple of Zeus at Olympia, by William Lubke, Creative Commons

See, Zeus had this whole new spanking temple built all for himself at Olympia, although there were almost 70 other temples to other deities next door… it was a big religious place. Oh, by the way, Olympia is no way near Mount Olympus, where these gods were supposed to live. Totally different places. Not confusing at all.

Anyway, you have this temple, and lots of other temples around it, and there’s of course a lot of sacrifices being made all the time. That’s a lot of blood, guts, meats, fats, and so on being spilled, examined, cut, grilled, and burned all the time… and that brings a lot of very annoying flies, especially in the hot Greek summer. So the priests of Zeus, knowing that their god is so awesome, made up some story about how he’s also good at swatting flies away with his big hand, and lo and behold they have a new aspect of Zeus, Zeus Apomyius, who you can sacrifice to in order to get rid of the flies.

The irony of having to sacrifice one more animal to Zeus Apomyius in order to not have so many flies while sacrificing other animals was probably not lost on the Greeks of the time… probably some scam from the Olympia temple. Still, they supposedly had a small shrine to that sub-cult on the premises.

Zeus statue in Olympia, Creative Commons picture

Now what does that tell us? Despite the fact that you don’t necessarily need to go with a Gorakkiki troll priest like in Corflu to get rid of annoying insects? Well, to me, it shows how you can spice up your Gloranthan world-building with different aspects and styles of worship at different temples… and it can include things as stupid as “he swats flies away with his big hand“. The main thing to watch out for in my opinion is to keep things thematically consistent… for example, while Gorakkiki controls the insects, Orlanth might use wind to drive them away, and Ernalda might use reptiles to eat them.

If you want to get some actual magics and game mechanics involved, these sorts of local god variants can offer a special Rune spell, or a special Spirit magic spell, or even just have access to special cult spirits that do it all on their own. That’s one cool thing that would differentiate one temple from another, and give your players a reason to travel back to some specific place, such as, for example, the need to come back for worship at least once a year to maintain access to these spells or something.

Did you create any weird, funny, or stupid local aspects or sub-cults of Gloranthan gods? Send it our way and we’ll be happy to share it back!

Two Naiads

These two rivers near Mtskheta, in Georgia (the country, not the US state) are coming down the Caucasus mountains and, apparently, do not agree with each other! Of course, in the real world, various fluid characteristics would explain this picture, and the waters would end up mixing a hundred meters downstream or so… but not in Glorantha!

In Glorantha, I assume that the two naiads are arguing about which one is the main river, and which one is the tributary. It’s possible they’ve been arguing about this since before the Dawn, in which case the locals have learned to deal with it, and maybe even exploit it for fishing and irrigation. It’s also possible that this is a new development: maybe the local shaman messed up, or maybe something happened to those naiads upstream! This calls for some adventurers to investigate!

Thank you for reading

That’s it for this week! Please contact us with any feedback, question, or news item we’ve missed!

Welcome to a new issue of the Journal of Runic Studies, the premier Malkioni publication for studies into the nature of Glorantha. If you haven’t subscribed yet, please consult with the spirit bound to the appropriate electronic page.

This week I spent too much time ranting about various things that I didn’t have time to post some cool links and references in the “Arachne Solara’s web” section… sorry about that!

God Learner Sorcery

Here is what us God Learners were up to this week.

Lore, Tropes, and Goals: The Problem with New Settings

World map by Sebastian Munster (1544), Creative Commons photo

This is not strictly speaking a God Learner thing, but it’s a “Ludo” thing (that’s me) so that counts. Over at my personal blog I wrote an essay that challenges the idea that “too much lore” makes it difficult to approach a setting.

Some people are intimidated by vast amounts of existing lore because they assume that they need to assimilate most of it before they start playing. This is typical with old and multiply-published settings like Glorantha. But that’s not really what’s going on in my opinion.

Think about it for a minute. What is the game setting with the most amount of lore written for it? The Forgotten Realms? Star Wars? Nope, it’s Earth.

Read the rest here. Hopefully you find that article insightful!

Chaosium News

Here are this week’s Chaosium news!

Cults of Glorantha Update

Art by Loic Muzy © 2022 Chaosium Inc.

The upcoming Cults of Glorantha was originally slated to be done as a slipcase with two books in it. But the manuscript ballooned from 50-ish cults to more than a hundred, plus a Prosopaedia, and oh yeah, a global pandemic mess up both printing and shipping businesses.

So back in August, Rick Meints was “doubting” that it would be a slipcase set:

We expect that the cults material will be about 800 pages of material when layout is finished. Thus, it will be multiple books. That does not include the Prosopedia.

We doubt it will be a slipcase set.

The newest update on this is from Rick again:

The Cults books will not be sold all at the same time. The Prosopaedia will be one of the first ones sold, as its layout is done.

It’s funny to me because we chatted with Rick back in episode 10, and during the interview I asked why Chaosium wasn’t adopting a “splatbook” model for RuneQuest. In this model, I imagined that there would be individual books for cults or groups of cults that players can buy, thus multiplying revenues compared to books that only a gamemaster would buy (this is one of the ways White Wolf made a lot of money with their World of Darkness line). Back then Rick said that it wasn’t quite possible because of how Gloranthan cults are all intertwined with each other… but now we might actually see these cults released in small groups! Lo and behold, RuneQuest gains splatbooks!

Should I take credit for this? Definitely not. Will I take credit for this? You bet your ass I will!

By the way, Brian Duguid (which we just recently chatted with for our episode on the Hsunchen) made this prediction on Discord that the cult books will be split by “pantheon” (which I agree with), and that this is what will be in each of them:

This is all completely useless (but fun!) conjecture of course, but that seems very likely to me. If I had to nitpick anything, I would move a lot of the cult spirits back into their respective “overarching” pantheons. For instance, I would expect that Earth Witch, Kolat, and Sun Hawk would be with the Earth, Storm, and Sun pantheons, instead of in a “shaman cults” book.

Regardless of how Chaosium slices the manuscript, you know that some people will find a way to complain about it anyway. That’s going to be fun…

Give These Creators a Boost

Chaosium is generally very good at supporting their community content creators. Case in point: they have recently given a little push to all the Jonstown Compendium books that are close to earning their first DriveThruRPG medal (the “Copper Best Seller” medal). Of note, they also did the same for the Miskatonic Repository. Time to spend a few bucks and encourage some creators!

A New Hero: Episode 08

The “New Hero” RuneQuest stream continues and I’m still catching up! But I still like it! Looks like they’re still stuck in the Upland Marsh, heee hee.

Jeff’s Notes

Jeff Richard, the current mastermind on everything Gloranthan at Chaosium, is often posting notes and thoughts on the RuneQuest Facebook group. Here’s our curated list from the past week. A partial archive of these sources is compiled on the Well of Daliath.

Lunar Sages vs Esrolian Sages

In this note on Gloranthan education, Jeff compares Esrolian sages of the Lhankor Mhy cult with Lunar sages of the Irrippi Ontor cult. If you don’t know about Irrippi Ontor, it’s… basically the Lunar Lhankor Mhy. He’s one of the Seven Mothers and as most of them, he used to be human and became a god in Time.

If you’ve read the note (otherwise please do so now), you’ll notice that there’s an overlap in topics, but not in the methodologies to study these topics.

For instance, Lunar and Esrolians both study language, but they differ in their approach. The Esrolians reach to the Empire of the Wyrms Friends, with the language known as Auld Wyrmish. Auld Wyrmish is a tricky beast… it’s the language of dragons, but humans had supposedly lost the ability to speak and understand it back around the time of the Dragonkill War, because the dragons were so pissed off. But humans of the EWF also had previously figured a way to put that language in writing — something the dragonewts and other draconic species never needed. So I guess the dragons forgot to destroy the dictionaries and thesauruses, and humans regained their understanding of it from Second Age documents (although note that, by RuneQuest rules, they can’t get higher than 25% in that skill). On a personal note, I find all this quite ballsy: to do something that the dragons were pissed off about… people have short memory, I guess.

Anyway, this lack of draconic perspective is probably what made the Lunars rather oblivious to what was going on under their own temple construction in Sartar, and why the Dragonrise completely took them by surprise… on the other hand, I imagine that Lunars’ language studies involve a lot more etymology, semantics, semiotics, cryptography, and other such things that might be useful for achieving Illumination or, at least, in waging some Dart Wars across the Empire.

Similarly, both Esrolians and Lunars study music, but I imagine that this differs quite a lot too. Esrolians might research old forms of music and try to emulate the non-written components of draconic speech to better understand it (since “true” Auld Wyrmish is “musical” and “includes auditory, olfactory, and empathic components”). On the other hand, Lunars might innovate with modern music, basically the equivalent of ambient and prog-rock or something, in order to, again, help with Illumination.

The difference in how Lunars and Esrolians study metaphysics seems to be related to the sciences they do not have in common. Lunars study “suprasensorial perception”, i.e. all the meditation and LSD crazyness, while Esrolians study “knowledge”, which sounds like our own modern academia. As a result, I suspect that Lunar metaphysics are trying to be, you know, useful, because they could help deal with phenomenon outside of the mundane world. Nysalorean riddles can be redesigned as jazz songs you need to figure out… Meanwhile, Esrolian metaphysics are probably more like dry philosophical debates… although that could also have applications with, say, heroquesting, assuming nobody comes around and yells “that’s God Learnerism!“, that is.

Dealing with Superheroes

Any Gloranthan campaign will likely, at some point, introduce the setting’s “superheroes” such as Argrath, Harrek, Jar-eel, and so on.

These characters are important enough to be their own chits on the WBRM board game. They are heroes, even “superheroes”. Bringing them into your campaign can greatly enrich your players’ experience and immersion into the setting. But if mishandled, they threaten to steal the spotlight away from the players or worse become GM alter-egos.

Jeff outlines a few ways to handle this: put the superheroes in the background of the PCs’ heroic actions, have the superheroes help the PCs but somehow not take their spotlight, make the PCs companions of the superheroes, make the PCs key allies of the superheroes, or see the superheroes as guest stars with cameos in the PCs’ adventures.

Of course, I’ll add that Jeff’s advice is like a buffet — you’re encouraged to mix all these approaches in your game.

Personally, I find that this is one of my big challenges with Glorantha. Not so much because it’s hard to deal with a superhero with monstrous stats and a metaplot, but because I’m so used to telling “street level” stories. With my current RuneQuest campaign, I have to get myself out of my comfort zone and embrace the “epic heroes” aspect of Glorantha, and that doesn’t come naturally to me…

Battle Rules

Jeff talks about mass battle rules in RPGs:

Something I have long been frustrated by is the tendency that RPG battle rules have always been mass combat rules designed to determine the winner of a battle, rather than something player focusing – that tells us what our player characters did and experience in the battle.

This really depends on what the game is about, and what it’s trying to emulate. It feels rather ironic to me that someone who co-wrote a game that tries to finely model how skirmish combat works (complete with hit locations and individual wounds) does not see the appeal in modelling how mass battles work.

But I get it. RuneQuest’s combat is detailed because it deals with the character’s personal experience. Mass combat focuses on the entire battle, and is removed from that character… unless that character is actually the commander in chief, that is. I don’t have a lot of experience with RPGs with battle rules, but the couple ones I’ve seen do make the assumption that the PCs are in charge. As such, they might not even leave their tent at the top of the hill, and the whole thing is played through preparation, alliances, tactical choices, and successful Strategy rolls. Anyway, that’s another topic.

IMO, the GM should determine the outcome of the battle. That can be based on the player character actions (“if you can’t hold this position, the battle is lost” or “you need to defeat the enemy hero or the battle is lost”) or not (frex, in Shakespeare’s Henry V, the English have no idea that they have won the battle until it is over). In the Grand Pendragon Campaign, the battles take the latter approach (even telling us what Arthur rolled on his Battle skill!).

I personally prefer something a little more interactive with the players – give them a chance to have the spotlight on them (even if you have already decided the results of the battle, it is easy to say that the results are because of the players or despite the players).

I’ve seen some people online disagree or even complain about this bit here — especially from those who uphold player agency as of the utmost importance. There’s a bunch to unpack here.

First, the PCs can only influence so much stuff in the setting. Just as you can protest that the outcome of the battle is predetermined whatever the players do, you could also protest that the starting of the battle was also predetermined! Yet, I don’t know if anybody ever complained about that. Maybe it all happened while the PCs were travelling away from home, and they come back to these terrible news. Or maybe the PCs were at the meeting when the peace negotiation turned sour and the declaration of war happened, but if they were just one of the leader’s bodyguards, it’s not like they could do anything… or could they?

See, to me this isn’t a problem of player agency (not directly, at least) but a problem of narrative framing. What are the PCs really doing at the peace negotiation meeting? If they’re bodyguards that stand on the other side of the door only to witness history, that’s not dramatically interesting. However, if they are the bodyguards that can stop the assassin, that’s a lot more interesting. If they stop the assassin, the Kings and Queens realize that he was sent by a common enemy that was trying to weaken their nations by pitting them against each other. If they do not stop the assassin but still catch him after the fact, the situation become extremely complicated but war can still be avoided. And if they do not stop the assassin at all and he escapes, war is declared!

By shifting the story from “the NPCs are negotiating for peace” to “the PCs try to stop an assassin threatening a member of a peace summit“, we shift the focus from the NPCs to the PCs. In doing so, we bring back player agency on world events that they aren’t supposed to be able to affect usually. This is pretty much what Jeff is talking about, I think.

The other point here is that there is a lot of wiggle room even once the GM has decided the battle’s outcome. The players could still shift things a lot within that outcome. For instance, there’s a big difference between “the Lunars crushed everybody and your tribal king is dead“, “the Lunars won and your tribal king has been captured“, and “the Lunars had a narrow victory but have lost many soldiers, so they left your lands mostly unoccupied and your tribal king has escaped“.

The gamemaster could have decided that the Lunars would win either way, but use the players’ actions and their successes and failures to decide between these three aforementioned outcomes. Those are vastly different outcomes that propel the campaign forward in completely different directions. That still qualifies as player agency in my book. And you can mix that with the previous narrative reframing that puts the PCs at the pivotal moments! For instance, one of the battle scenes could have been the PCs stumbling upon their King, wounded and surrounded by Lunar Tarshite soldiers. It’s up to the PCs to fight/intimidate/negotiate and see whether the King dies, gets captured, or escapes. I’ve heard a few people who placed their PCs near Kallyr in the Battle of Queens, and ended up saving her from Lunar assassins, for instance.

What should be the center of the session’s activity is what the players characters do and experience during the battle. Do they spend most of the battle standing in a line dealing with missile weapons and spells? Do they engage in single combat with champions? Do they try to rush an enemy leader or hero? What goes on elsewhere in the battle is usually unknown to the players and they should only learn about it after the battle is over.

The upcoming RuneQuest battle rules (and their cousin, the upcoming Pendragon battle rules) are doing more or less that. We had an early preview of what these rules might look like in the White Bull campaign S02E09 (although I’m sure that was an early work-in-progress version of the rules, so don’t get hung up on details). Back in issue 12 of the Journal of Runic Studies, I had even taken the time to write a summary of what I gathered from the actual play. This might still be useful as we wait for these rules, possibly in the RuneQuest Gamemaster Guide.

Lay Membership and Extra Magic

The short version of this note is: encourage your players to have their PC become a lay member of a few cults.

So for example, IMG, most full-time warriors in Dragon Pass (and Pavis) are lay members of Humakt. That gets Bladesharp, Fireblade, Protection, Parry, Coordination, Vigor, Strength, and all sorts of other good combat-oriented spells. You also get discount training in sword and other combat skills.

This might affect your Gloranthan world-building a bit but yes, it’s not too hard to become a lay member of Humakt — it’s neutral to a lot of cults, and most people who would be interested anyway (Orlanth or Yelmalio cultists) share the same sort of “honourable behaviour” stuff that is required anyway.

So that’s one way to get extra magic, such as a Yelmalian getting Bladesharp. There’s another way: local cult variants. It’s easy to have a particular shrine or temple worship a variant of the god, a notable hero, a special cult spirit, or whatever that provides one extra/different spirit spell or Rune magic.

Note that the “easy” part is on the gamemaster: take a map of Glorantha and throw a dart at it. That’s where that shrine or temple is. The hard part is for the PCs! They need to learn about it, travel to it, and convince the priest or priestess to let them get that spell! If you’re like me, that will probably take three months of gaming…

How Common is HeroQuesting?

Another good question on heroquesting from the BRP Central forums: how common is it? Jeff answers here and here:

Let’s be precise about terms. Every initiate experiences the Gods World and interacts with it every time the deity is invoked with a successful Worship ceremony. But that’s how far most people go. They stick around the God’s Place, witness the god and its allies, but do not stray.

A few people – mainly Rune Lords and Rune Priests – go beyond this, sticking to more familiar paths and interact with powers and entities outside of the god’s control.

Far fewer people – heroquesters –  go off the familiar path and explore the Hero Plane. 

So heroquesting is very common when it comes to worshipping, or acquiring new Rune magic… but it’s so safe and common that it’s abstracted with, at most, a simple roll in the RuneQuest rules. The couple times I’ve had players acquire new Rune magic, I did try to spend at least a minute or two describing the ceremony and the heroquest involved in it. But not more than that.

Most every Gloranthan has some experience “on the Hero Plane.” When you sacrifice POW/regain your Rune Points, you experience your deity and gain the connection that allows you to briefly incarnate that deity in the mundane world. Every time you cast a a Rune spell, we get a momentary manifestation of the deity. I think a lot of people understate this – it is not Vasana who casts Lightning, rather it Orlanth’s Lightning Spear that appears in Vasana’s hands. The god is present with every Rune spell.

But that stuff is handled through the Rune spell mechanics, and not what we likely mean when we talk about “heroquesting” […]

Heroquesting that sticks to “familiar paths” can be played but, as people who went through the HeroWars/HeroQuest ruleset can possibly attest, there was something fishy, gameplay-wise, in going through an adventure for which you know what’s going to happen, and you need to act so that it keeps happening that way. Sure, the rulebooks did recommend to throw a few surprises here and there, but by and large it was a scripted affair.

To gain new powers, new gifts (and new banes and geases), you need to go outside and explore the Hero Plane. You might be armed with your stories, but they are simply guides of how things might be done – and things might not go that way. You need to make your own stories, participate in your own experiences, and risk transformation. That’s not easy – in real life or in gaming. That’s why people keep retreating to the King of Dragon Pass version of heroquesting – it is safer, more predictable, easier to control, and less likely to radically transform your character (and even your cult). But that is not really heroquesting.

So as far as I can tell, the new approach that Chaosium is taking with the upcoming RuneQuest rules is to focus almost entirely on the last category outlined in the first quote: people who treat the God Time like Oz or Narnia or Wonderland or whatever. It’s heroquesting as isekai, more or less. You go to the God Time to try and solve a problem (get some McGuffin, destroy a source of evil, whatever), and you have to survive long enough to get there, and not mess up your community and yourself in the process.

Community Roundup

The community roundup is our highlight of interesting things being mentioned in the Glorantha-related Facebook groups, sub-Reddits, and other similar online places.

Update on the Escalation! Magazine Lunar Issue

Evan posted this update about the upcoming Lunar issue of the 13th Age focused “Escalation!” magazine:

And the final pieces of the manuscript are now with art and layout. Those “departments” are one fantastic person who does it out of love and kindness and has other real world responsibilities and priorities, so it won’t happen fast, but her part of Red Moon and Warring Kingdoms will be amazing. I feel totally unworthy of the art that has already been produced! All hail the Reaching Moon! We Are All Us

As a reminder, we have seen two pieces of work-in-progress art for this:

Six Ages Sequel Update

Here’s the latest of the Six Ages: Ride Like the Wind sequel, tentatively called “Lights Going Out” (it’s set during the Great Darkness).

The big change that occurred between “Ride Like the Wind” and “Lights Going Out” is the destruction of the cosmic mountain which housed the Celestial Court. Needless to say, the world was a much worse place afterwards.

Here’s an “early draft image“:

© 2022 A-Sharp

As for the current status of the game, they’re getting through the artwork backlog and working on music, testing and tuning. Here’s some artwork:

© 2022 A-Sharp

Thank you for reading

That’s it for this week! Please contact us with any feedback, question, or news item we’ve missed!