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.

What Does YGWV Mean?

Since this question was recently highlighted on the Chaosium blog, I wrote this short article about my own take on the venerable acronym.

It’s a good opportunity however to remember what YGWV/YGMV is good for around fan communities. Wayne said it in his interview: it’s good to create a fan culture that embraces different visions of the game and its world, but it can be a tad annoying to see it thrown around any time someone asks a very simple question about the canon. A simple question should get a simple answer.

Read more here.

Chaosium News

Here are this week’s Chaosium news!

Update on the Cults of Glorantha

Art by Agathe Pitie © 2022 Chaosium Inc.

Jeff gave an update on Facebook about this. There are some good news, some extra details, and some bad news.

Good news: with the art all done, the book is currently in layout, with “a few charts and minor elements” still being worked on. Also, Chaosium is finally hiring professional proof-readers to avoid the problems found in most recent RuneQuest books. Apparently, the “community proof-reading” done on the PDFs was “mixed success at best”, which isn’t surprising to me.

Extra details: we have a final count of what’s inside this two-volume monster. “We have 96 distinct cults plus another 40 or so minor cults.” All 96 cults are long-form write-ups similar to those in Cults of Prax and Cults of Terror. The entire project is apparently bigger and more complicated than the Masks of Nyarlathotep slipcase for Call of Cthulhu, which is saying something.

Bad news: Chaosium seems to be moving away from the model of releasing the PDF first, and the physical book second. Instead, they are going for simultaneous releases, just like with the RuneQuest Starter Set. Back in 2018 I would have nodded or shrugged at this. In 2022 however, when a product ready to market doesn’t reach consumers for months because of paper shortages and shipping issues, I don’t know if it’s such a good idea. Obviously the people at Chaosium better know what’s up and how to manage their product pipeline… but what I’m saying is that maybe we won’t see much this year after all.

© 2022 Chaosium Inc.

To whet your appetite, you might also want to check back on the Well of Daliath, which now has a list of contents for the GenCon “preview edition” of the Cults of Glorantha from 2018. Things have changed since then, but it might give you a good idea of what’s in there.

Jeff on Real-World Mythology and TTRPGs as Media

This was an interesting video (thank you to James Coquillat for asking good questions!) on the relationship between real-world mythology and Gloranthan mythology. For instance, you’ll hear Jeff talk about how Gloranthan divine archetypes are skewed one way or another compared to ancient world pantheons because of gaming considerations.

Jeff’s remark that there’s too much war magic in Glorantha is good. I’m always sad that combat magic can routinely give big, or even massive, bonuses to combat skills, but non-combat magic tends to give only modest bonuses to non-combat skills… Even if it did, though, I think I still have a lot to figure out in terms of cool ways to involve, say, fertility magic into scenarios, both narratively and mechanically.

This second video isn’t directly related to Glorantha, but it’s got Jeff in it so I might as well put it there too, especially since there are a couple of good points about the difference between RPGs and movies/TV series.

Weapons & Equipment Guide in Print

Hold off your exotic mounts worth worth 400 to 1200L, it’s not quite out yet, but MOB has posted pictures of an advance copy sent by the Polish printer Chaosium is using. Behold, it exists in dead tree version!

© 2022 Chaosium Inc.
© 2022 Chaosium Inc.

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!

Lost in the Dark

© 2022 Josh “Skull” Dixon & Chaosium Inc.

Josh “Skull” Dixon, which we interviewed in our Glorantha Initiation series, has released a short 11 pages adventure called “Lost in the Dark” featuring a new Darkness spirit about… well, being lost. In the dark.

Secrets of Dorastor Update

Art by Dario Corallo © 2022 Stormspearia & Chaosium Inc.

Simon Phipp has updated Secrets of Dorastor with a companion document called “Personalities Tactics”:

It contains nearly 70 pages of notes about High Level Personalities and gaming. In it are:

– Expanded Tactics for all the Personalities from Secrets of Dorastor
– Some suggested tactics that can be used when playing RuneQuest Glorantha
– A quick review of the tactics from the excellent RQ2 RuneMasters supplement, which is recommended reading for anyone wanting to know about RuneQuest Glorantha tactics
– The latest Jonstown Compendium Wall of supplements

If you have already bought Secrets of Dorastor, you should already see this new PDF as a download.

Covers of the Jonstown Compendium

This was posted on the Chaosium blog, but it’s about the Jonstown Compendium so I’m putting there to even out the sections a bit… Various Chaosium people got together to pick covers they like in recent community content items, and I’m happy to report that my cover for Austin Conrad’s “To Hunt a God” was among the selection!

Art by Ludovic Chabant © 2022 Akhelas & Chaosium Inc.

You probably won’t be surprised by the other picks, from Katrin Dirim’s work on The Six Paths to Mark Smylie’s cover of The Armies & Enemies of Dragon Pass.

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.

Prince Saronil Stealing From The Dwarves

Agathe Pitie, whose expansive artwork will be all over the upcoming Cults of Glorantha, is apparently now working on the upcoming Sartar Homeland boxed set (or whatever it will be called). Here is “Prince Saronil stealing secrets from the dwarves”, from the “Illustrated History of Sartar” (whatever that is):

Art by Agathe Pitie © 2022 Chaosium Inc.

Jeff adds:

I think it is very important to present the history of Sartar visually, particularly for those now entering the game.

Silver Sartarite Coins

Coins featuring various rulers are a big cornerstone of the ancient world, so it was only a matter of time before we saw more Gloranthan material on the topic. But hey, remember that coin of Alexander with the elephant helmet from last week’s Journal? How about something similar but with Sartarite rebel-turned-Prince Kallyr Starbrow instead?

Art by Chris Huth © 2022 Chaosium Inc.

I mean, sure, once you try to emulate ancient Greek or Roman coins, it’s all side-portraits with or without helmets anyway, so not a lot of artistic wiggle room. Here’s another coin featuring Alexander with a similar-placed helmet:

Creative Commons photo

Back in Glorantha, the silver coin depicted above was made during Prince Kallyr’s short reign.

The ram horns are part of the Orlanth Rex inconography and give the Prince quasi-divine status linked with Orlanth. Kallyr’s celestial associations are minimized in this coin, and largely follows the design of previous Sartarite coins.

Silver currency was introduced in the Second Age by the Middle Sea Empire. Sartar enthusiastically issued silver coins during his reign 1492-1520, and his dynasty continued with that.

The Sartarites minted silver Sovereigns, which were replaced by Lunars after 1602.

I believe these coins are also called “Sartarite Guilders”, unless it’s actually another type of coin that I didn’t know about.

One of the first things a new ruler does is have coins minted. It advertises you, legitimises your rule, and let’s everyone know who is in charge.

Do You Want More Elmal/Yelmalio Debates? Of Course You Do!

A thread on BRP Central about what the Yelmalio cult might look like in the Holy Country devolves for a while (of course) into a whole Elmal/Yelmalio explainer once again. But with a few extra bits of behind-the-scenes information on some HeroWars/HeroQuest-era sourcebooks. Strap on to your sun horse!

Again I don’t know why people would expect that the cult of the Little Sun is going to look very different from Yelmalio, regardless of name. 

Prior to 1500 or so, the Little Sun cult in Sartar would look a lot like Yelmalio, although possibly with no gifts, no Cloud Clear, and probably no Sunbright. Now that the Little Sun cult is revealed to be Yelmalio, the Yelmalio-as-Orlanth’s Thane cult just swaps out Shield from Yelm with Shield from Orlanth.

You might remember that the general idea is that the Yelmalio cult was strong at the Dawn and during the First Age, since he kinda helped a lot of people during the Great Darkness by keeping the lights on. But the Heortlings had not met any of these people yet, so they just had the arguably weaker Elmal cult.

A guy named Monrogh Lantern eventually does some exploratory heroquesting and finds that Elmal is Yelmalio, and Yelmalio is much more powerful — enough to get the vast majority of Elmal cultists to adopt the new dogma:

No matter how you slice it, the pre-Monrogh Elmal cult had far less magical power and range than the post-Monrogh Yelmalio cult.

This is where we get into game publication archaeology, because the Elmal cult had a few write-ups. Whether Elmal was indeed “weaker” than Yelmalio therefore spills into game mechanics and edition wars.

For instance, in the 2001 HeroWars “Storm Tribe“, Elmal is described as providing magical abilities such as “Blazing Spear”. The 2009 “Book of Heortling Mythology” has stories about Elmal burning some stuff down. Jeff says:

Greg had very little to do with that writeup. And Book of Heortling Mythology was filled with draft ideas from us without any editing. I am sure I have said many times that Greg was ambivalent about publishing that for exactly that reason (same with Arcane Lore).

Remember folks: don’t believe everything you read in the Stafford Library books… they’re just Greg’s unedited notebooks.

In the 2009 and 2012 HeroQuest “Sartar: Kingdom of Heroes“, Elmal lets you shoot fire arrows and summon “lesser Fire gods”, among other things. Jeff replies:

I wrote the S:KoH writeup. In retrospect I got Elmal wrong (and I had serious doubts about it when I was writing it – but at the time I wanted it to link with KoDP).

So let me make it clear – if I was to rerelease S:KoH, I’d change that.

It’s worth noting that anybody who just stuck to RuneQuest and never looked into HeroWars/HeroQuest, or the uncommon system agnostic material, might have been a lot less confused about all this.

Here’s some more behind-the-scenes stuff about the writing of these books:

Mythically it was appropriate to understand the Orlanthi of the Dawn. That was the extent that Greg cared about Elmal. But KoS made it clear that by the Hero Wars Elmal was recognized as the Yelmalio we all know. Greg was working on his Harmast materials, set in the First Age. In fact, from about 1991 to 2012 or so, Greg had very little interest in the Third Age = his focus was the First and to a much lesser extent the Second Ages. It was working on the Guide that brought Greg back to the Third Age.

And this was the huge problem with Thunder Rebels and Storm Tribe, and the whole Hero Wars line – materials that were intended for the First Age got repurposed and packaged into a rules system that few of the writers or the editors even understood. Worse yet, Greg was not the editor on that material – that was someone who had a VERY DIFFERENT view of Glorantha than Greg (and did not play RPGs, which showed). Needless to say, once that person was removed from the process, things looked very different.

If you read through the Making Gods essay in KoS, the Elmali cult were not Friendly Neighbourhood Paladins according to most Sartarites. They were separatists, kinslayers, Lunar allies, and regicides, responsible for the deaths of least one tribal king and a Prince of Sartar. The Yelmalio revelations made the Elmali far less problematic as far as the Kingdom of Sartar was concerned. They could be their own thing, allied to Sartar but not a part of it.

We had already discussed this surprising bit of regicide from the Elmali (see issue 9 of the Journal), but Jeff repeats it, quoting from King of Sartar:

Elsewhere Greg confirmed to me that:

Prince Jarosar was fourth, who was called Hothead. He was the son of Jarolar. He found the Stone of Two Colors. He built a great road. He fell to poison, from a friend’s hand.

…referred to the Elmali. The Prince was killed by one of his own Elmali bodyguards (similar to Indira Gandhi being killed by two of her own Sikh bodyguards.

While I had looked at this passage before, I hadn’t read the “Making Gods” essay from the same book. It’s an interesting read if you haven’t checked it out yet:

Now I am emphasising this stuff more strongly because thanks to KoDP and Storm Tribe people started imagining Elmal as the “Friendly Paladin” cult. Which the above passages definitely are not.

There are no remaining loyal thanes. The old Elmal cult is gone. My population estimates in SKoH and SC were wrong and based on an error that Greg corrected me about.

Okay so let’s check back on the “revised” Elmal/Yelmalio timeline:

So during the Second Age, we had a network of thriving and vibrant Yelmalio temples from Prax to Fronela. But with the Dragonkill War this was broken, disassociated. Individual temples were left to be autonomous, and much was lost or stolen.

In Hendrikiland, the local Yelmalio cult became little more than a Spirit Cult associated with the larger Orlanth cult. The cult fled to Dragon Pass after Belintar became ruler (Heortland had no need for a small Fire/Sky deity, when Lodril was available for that position). That little cult came into contact with the vibrant Yelm cult of Peloria and many abandoned our little cult for Yelm. Others revolted against the Orlanth Rex cult, in betrayal and revolt.

Monrogh saw through the loss, and liberated the lost Yelmalio who was behind our little cult all the time. He revealed the Many Suns of the Sun Dome temples, and restored the Sun Dome network! The shadows and clouds dispersed and we could all admire the Light of Yelmalio!

Also, remember that virtually all of the Sun Dome material that has been published is about the Praxian temple:

So Sun County – the Praxian Sun Dome Temple – is an outlier. It is the frontier of the frontier. The temples in Dragon Pass and South Peloria are likely more typical of the cult.

Last we heard, Chaosium was working on a book about the Sun Dome in southern Sartar, which will probably be a lot different.

What Elmal/Yelmalio is Good For

Another good bit of information from the previous segment’s same BRP Central thread is what the Elmal/Yelmalio cult contributes to the Orlanthi:

The Horse Triarchy: These folk had the Sky Horse (aka Yelmalio) as their tribal patron. They worshiped horses, held them as holy – and also worshiped Hippoi and Hyalor, as the specifically horse deities.  They are one of the few groups that did not end up relocating to the Sun Dome Temple, probably because for them the Horse element was more important than the Sky.

If you’re missing the “horse magic” from Yelmalio, the Elmal subcult from the upcoming Cults of Glorantha gets Command Horse from Hippoi.

Troll Fighting: Folk specialised in fighting against the Trolls. Although the Hendriki were long allied with the Only Old One, they had their Light-worshipers there in reserve. The cult was preferred by the Only Old One to more powerful Fire and Light cults.

Interesting political manoeuvring for dealing with a “lesser evil” on the Only Old One’s part…

Solid infantry fighters: As a small but cohesive cult in a sea of Orlanthi, the Yelmalions were always better at being cohesive and solid infantry fighters. This goes back to the Second Age. Its not magical, it is something that the cult has done to be able to punch above its weight.

Of course, this isn’t really useful when you’re playing a lone Yelmalion in a party of non-Yelmalions… elsewhere, Jeff said this about these adventurers:

Why are you fighting alongside with untrained militia? Why haven’t you trained them? Is there some reason why a trained linesman is fighting outside their file mates? I’m sure there is a reason why they are doing something far outside of their temple and cult strengths – which makes it a good story and a good source of adventure.

Well, these are good questions, aren’t they? And since everyone who plays a Yelmalion has to answer them, it might be good to have possible answers written somewhere. In fact, I’d love it if each cult write-up in the upcoming Cults book had a “how to include this cult in your game” section. I strongly believe that it would (1) greatly help newcomers grasp which cults they might like, and (2) stomp 90% of the “this cult sucks” discussions because it would make it more clear what the gameplay role of a cult is — so far, cult write-ups only describe the in-world role of a cult, and it sometimes requires a good grasp of the lore before it can be translated and applied to a game.

Yelmalio in the Holy Country

Last segment from that BRP Central thread, I promise! This time, it’s about the actual topic, which is the Yelmalio cult in the Holy Country:

Maybe 1% of the population in the Holy Country follow Yelmalio. The area was part of the Shadowlands for over a thousand years. That being said 1% of the population of Esrolia means there are more than 10,000 initiates in Esrolia alone.

So the cult is a lot bigger in the Holy Country than in Sartar (bigger absolute numbers), but is less prevalent (smaller percentage of the population).

There are about as many Eurmal clowns and tricksters in Esrolia as there are Yelmalio cultists, and the cult is just one of many smaller cults in Esrolian society.

Ouch… what a sick burn! Something Yelmalio can’t ever do, by the way…. (ho ho ho). And speaking of fire:

Lodril is a far more important Fire/Sky deity in the Holy Country.

Caladraland, just next door to Esrolia, has actual volcanos, that come with lava magic! And Lodril is a sexy boi who’s most definitely more fun to hang around than Yelmalio, so you can’t blame the Esrolian priestesses for going with him. But Yelmalio also has a few advantages, so they keep the hoplites around:

Yelmalio in Esrolia revere the Light and the Little Sun, and has the same connections to elves, same obligation to protect the Earth goddesses, etc. It is just less significant.

Yelmalio has advantages for the Earth Priestesses. He is a husband-protector and thus associated (and subject to her magic like Inviolable). He’s pledged to defend them. He’s in competition with Orlanth for the privilege, which gives a counterweight against Orlanth. But his cult is small enough that it has no independent power base that make the cult a “peer” (like Orlanth, Lodril, Argan Argar, Issaries, Lhankor Mhy, and even Humakt).

One way of looking at Yelmalio is that he is a secondary husband to Ernalda, of lower status than Orlanth, but a rival for her attentions.

Waha’s Cult Limitations

Over on BRP Central there’s a RuneQuest thread about the “worst cults” which focuses for a while around Waha. I’ll spare you the min-maxing discussions to share something that I found interesting about the way cult write-ups are designed to reflect the myths. Jeff answers a question about Waha’s limitation to never have its initiates learn the Heal 2 spell (or above):

Greg’s take was because Eiritha is his mother and is always present, Waha can always go to the Herd Priestesses for friendly spirits who can heal. Greg insisted that was something key to both the cult and the culture – and I agree. Waha is the Butcher, the Taker of Life (so that we might live – food, rather than combat), and this limits the spirit magic his followers can get. But note that they have Heal Wound as common magic, and so they can always call upon the god to be healed. But of course, that requires a Rune Point plus magic points rather than just magic points.

Jeff later adds:

Greg wrote the RQ3 writeup, and Waha’s lack of much healing magic is something he wrote several essays about (including one for cults). In RQ2 Healing spirit magic was double cost, in RQ3 Greg just restricted it to 1 point as there were too many easy ways to get around that. In RQG, Greg and I let Waha have Heal Wound as part of the Common Rune magic package, figuring that the 1 Rune Point cost meant Waha cultists had access to healing magic, but it would be very expensive (and at the expense of more broadly useful spells such as Shield or Summon/Command Earth Elemental, or associated spells.

But the key point is that having Waha be comparatively weak on healing magic is there from the start.

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.

Another Round of Miniatures

Paul Baker has finished painting this assortment of Prax-related miniatures. I believe most of these are Rapier miniatures.

Coeur de Runes Updates

The previously mentioned French RPG “Coeur de Runes” has been updated to version 0.9.2 with a few tweaks, and the author has also provided separate files for the contents and the cover, for those who want to make their own print copy via Lulu.

If you’re good with French, you can also watch this interview of the author on the Vieux Geeks channel:

More Dragon Pass Tweeting

Effy continues her game of Dragon Pass (see last week’s Journal for the beginning), only with less fanfiction and more singing. Oh those poor Tarsh Exiles.

Creating a Grazelander Player Character

Runeblogger creates a Grazelander warrior called Tomiris, and you can follow along!

Below you can read how I followed the steps in the RuneQuest Roleplaying in Glorantha rulebook to create a player character. To avoid similarities with the pregenerated characters included in the core book and the Starter Set, I decided to create a Grazelander, since the Grazelands is one of the six homelands available for beginning characters. At the bottom of this post you can download the full character sheet of the PC I created, in case you would like to use it as a player character or non-player character in your campaign.

Fun With Memes

Over on Discord, Kelephant is having fun with crossing internet memes with Glorantha, something we haven’t done much here since our interview with Steinar!

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.

Roman Purse

This is apparently a Roman purse, worn as an arm ring: you can’t pick-pocket the coins inside without removing the whole thing from the arm…. or the arm itself.

Put A Krasue in your Game

Do you want some creepy spirit for this week’s game? How about a woman’s head with a bunch of dangling organs beneath it, hovering around marshes at night?

Creative Commons photo

This thing has a whole bunch of names, given it’s made its way through the folklore of a dozen Southeastern Asian cultures, but let’s go with the Thai name of “Krasue“.

Take your pick for what this spirit is about: maybe it’s a woman who got cursed for getting an abortion, maybe it’s a witch whose spells backfired on her, maybe you become that thing when one of these things infects you with their saliva, and so on. Sometimes they actually have a headless body left behind somewhere, which they need to protect.

I love this piece from Thai folklore:

It may attack cattle or chickens in the darkness, drinking their blood and eating their internal organs. It may also prey on pieces of cattle, such as water buffalo that have died of other causes during the night. If blood is not available the Krasue may eat feces or carrion. Clothes left outside would be found soiled with blood and excrement in the morning, allegedly after she had wiped her mouth. Therefore, villagers would not leave clothes hanging to dry outside during the night hours.

Because obviously, the most annoying thing about this absolutely terrifying thing is that it soils your fresh laundry! Oh the horror!

Noto Typeface

If you need to put some hieroglyphs or cuneiform somewhere, you could find them in this typeface from Google Font: Noto aims to have absolutely every character and pictograph known in the world!

Thank you for reading

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

Runic Rants is an irregular series of thoughts, opinions, and experiments about RuneQuest.

The titular question from the Fan Use and Licensing Q&A was highlighted in Chaosium’s blog this week, surprisingly enough. The post is pretty straightforward: it concisely explains what YGWV and YGMV mean (“Your Glorantha Will/May Vary”), and how it applies to community content on the Jonstown Compendium (where Chaosium is OK with “alternative” takes on Glorantha). Sticking to the “canon” established by the Guide to Glorantha, the Glorantha Sourcebook, and other “A-level documents” is only required when writing material for official Chaosium publications. That’s pretty much it.

It’s a good opportunity however to remember what YGWV/YGMV is good for around fan communities. Wayne said it in his interview: it’s good to create a fan culture that embraces different visions of the game and its world, but it can be a tad annoying to see it thrown around any time someone asks a very simple question about the canon. A simple question should get a simple answer.

Contrary to what looks like a common Gloranthaphile misconception, questions about canon very rarely signify that someone is somehow “beholden” to canon and is, I don’t know, paralyzed without it or something. In the vast majority of cases, it signifies that someone just wants to know if there’s any established lore to start from, instead of starting from a blank page. Making your own lore has many advantages (it’s easier to remember, you can make it up on the fly), but taking already-written lore also has advantages (it’s supported by published adventures, ties more deeply into the overall setting, is possibly more thought-through).

Take it from Jeff Richard himself, who has this to say when presented with someone’s own Heortland world-building:

That is wildly non-canonical. You can go with however you want in your Glorantha of course, but it does mean that you will likely have a lot of work in front of you if you want to use any of the material coming down the pike that is set in the Holy Country.

I find the acronym “IMG” (“In My Game/Glorantha”) more useful. Nobody should need any permission to do what they want at their table, but there is value in prefacing something with a sign that the source is your game, rather than a book. But hey, Your Acronyms May Vary.

If you have any comment about this Runic Rant, or some ideas for a future installment, please send them to us!

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.

Some Editorial Changes Coming

As of this month, Chaosium is properly archiving Jeff’s social media posts on the Well of Daliath. In fact, you’ll see that this week’s “Jeff Notes” section links to them, instead of the original Facebook posts. Before that, the Well of Daliath only had simple copy/pasted text without much formatting and without any accompanying media such as pictures or linked videos. These limitations were in part what made me start the “Jeff Notes” sections of this newsletter, since I figured they would act as “proper archiving”.

But now it’s time to re-evaluate this decision. With proper archiving now happening on the Well of Daliath, the only value being added in the “Jeff Notes” here are my annotations. I doubt that they’re worth reading Jeff’s posts here instead of on the Well of Daliath, so starting next week I will mostly likely simply compile the links to new entries, and annotate only those that I find interesting. Even then, the annotations will probably be much shorter than what you’ve been used to.

Do you think this is a good direction for the Journal? Do you have suggestions? Contact me here with your thoughts!

God Learner Sorcery

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

Episode 11: The Travels of Biturian Varosh (Part 4)

It’s a bit late but episode 11 of our podcast is finally out! Drew Baker joins us again to follow the travels of Biturian Varosh, which is doubly appropriate since he was with us for part 3, and his latest book is about travelling in Dragon Pass!

Chaosium News

Here are this week’s Chaosium news!

Quick! Campaign Coins Discount!

© 2022 Campaign Coins & Chaosium Inc.

Campaign Coins, makers of cool imaginary coins and other gamer-adjacent tokens, have a short-lived 10% discount on their RuneQuest coins, which include all the coins described in the Guide to Glorantha and RuneQuest rulebook. The coupon code is YELMAL10, but it’s only valid until midnight on May 9th… that’s tomorrow Monday, so hurry up!

More MIG3 Previews

Photo by Nick Brooke, MIG © 2022 Chaosium Inc.

Advance copies of the Meints Index to Glorantha were handed out at ChaosiumCon to contributors and special friends, but if you’re not one of those (like, say, Nick Brooke who has all three pictured above), then you can take a peek at these previews shared by Rick Meints:

The book should come out “soon”, probably via print-on-demand. It has 264 pages of Glorantha-related publishing history including all the information you never thought you wanted to know about all the different printings of RuneQuest 2nd edition, the miniature lines, the fanzines, and more.

Heroquesting Rules

In case you were getting confused about when and how the much anticipated heroquesting rules for RuneQuest would see the light, here’s the latest information gleaned from Facebook and BRP Central:

  1. The also-quite-anticipated RuneQuest Gamemaster Guide (which was cross-referenced in the rulebook four years ago!) will have the “core” heroquesting rules.
  2. A “full-fledged heroquesting book” will also be later published.

My educated guess is that this second book will include a sort of gazetteer of the hero and god planes. This will most likely include various maps (such as the one below that Jeff shared a couple times online), with details of what you might find in each location, who you might encounter, what sort of challenge they might give you, and what sort of boons and banes you might come out with.

© 2022 Chaosium Inc.

Jeff made this clear:

[…] it is VITAL that we get this right. Feedback from conventions, sessions for game designers, and other playtesting suggests we are pretty much there, but this links into SO MANY things that we need to do it right.

In other words, this won’t get published until Chaosium is happy about it, which means it might get delayed some more.

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 Six Paths

Edan Jones has just released The Six Paths, a book on “gender among the Heortlings”, illustrated by Katrin Dirim. This short book gives some information about how the many sexes and genders of the Orlanthi might look like (remember that the rulebook mentions 4 sexes and 6 genders in their culture), includes detailed write-ups for Heler, Nandan, and Vinga, and wraps up with several NPCs who belong to these cults.

The book is pay-what-you-want, but the authors ask that you give at least 50 cents to keep the product in the community content rankings. They also encourage you to donate some money to your local LGBTQ charity.

Duckpac Preview

Neil Gibson and Drew Baker are teasing Duckpac, a collection of supplements for Durulz characters! Releasing later this month on the Jonstown Compendium, the whole thing is modelled after the classic Trollpak structure:

  1. Book One is “facts, lore, history & legends” about the ducks.
  2. Book Two is for making a duck adventurer.
  3. Book Three will have some duck-focused scenarios.
  4. Book Four is a bit extra: it’s a solo-quest named “Redfeather Dreaming”. In fact, Neil had mentioned it in our gamemastering episode, when he was our guest, asking for playtesters.

The whole thing was too big to release as a single book, especially when you consider that anything over 200 pages or so tends to sell a lot less unless the author is ready to slash prices past any kind of sustainable point.

Andrasta’s Ring

Ernesto Orellana has been teasing a book about the Alone Confederation in northern Sartar:

Xavier and I can’t wait for this supplement to be released. An ambitious project with the tribes of Alone and their intrigues as background.

I’m very excited about this since the Alone area is where I’ve setup my own campaign. I’m sure my take on the area will be wildly different from Ernesto’s and Xavier’s…

Six Saisons en Sartar

Jonathan Springfield and 7Tigers have announced that a French translation of Six Seasons in Sartar is in progress.

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.

Also, note the editorial change coming next week, mentioned at the top of the newsletter.

The Adventures of Young Argrath

Jeff talks about the adventures of Young Argrath:

One thing we likely do not play around with enough is the iconography of Argrath’s adventures from 1621-1624. In Teshnos, he defeated elephants by cutting off their noses. He took the Emerald Frog from Teleos, and gained the friendship of the Purple People. In Flanch he was betrayed and trapped by the “eating trees” but survived and had his vengeance for their treachery. In Laskal, he helped Harrek against the Bat Hsunchen. Argrath was one of those who found the Iron City in Jrustela, and helped plunder Noloswal. And many more adventures as well.

I wonder if perhaps Argrath might sometimes be identified with an elephant helmet like Alexander or similar representations of his adventures in fantastic faraway lands.

Indeed, Alexander met Persian elephants in battle. The first time was possibly the Battle of Gaugamela in 331 BCE, although disappointingly there might have only been 15 elephants there, and they might have been retired because of fatigue. Alexander prevailed thanks to better organized troops and better tactics but Argrath, as always, is an asshole who goes into animal cruelty right away. I wonder if there’s any Chalana Arroy subcult analogous to PETA… anyway, Jeff points at this depiction of Alexander (below) when he writes about the “elephant helmet”.

Creative Commons photo

It’s almost certain that Alexander never wore such a helmet (in fact he’s often depicted on coins with various helmets he most likely never wore), but Argrath? He’s been drawn with crazier helmets, so who knows.

Ok, now let’s look at all these places and people mentioned casually in this laundry list of feats.

Teleos is a big tropical island just east of Magasta’s Pool, in the centre of the ocean. Argrath got there while circumnavigating Glorantha with his buddy Harrek and the Wolf Pirates. Anyway, Teleos is one of these weird Gloranthan things, where the six human tribes who live there each have a different skin colour (blue, green, orange, purple, red, and yellow). The little I found is that Argrath supposedly “helped the purple tribe” and “came away with the Emerald Frog”, also known as the “Eater of Souls”. It might have been a good thing because the “curse dividing people of Teleos by color” was ended after that.

Sandy Petersen has some wild theories about what that might be about, but we won’t go into that (you can find them in the Kraken transcripts of his “More Forgotten Secrets of Glorantha” panel).

Flanch is in the broader region of Maslo, all the way down south, in Pamaletela (we can see that Argrath’s youth was a giant cosmic road-trip… well, sea-trip I guess). It’s a jungle with Agimori cities dotting the shorline (the Agimori are like the Gloranthan Africans, basically). These cities are in constant warfare with the yellow elves that control the dense jungle that covers much of the land. They have “warriors who specialize in fighting against the elves”, so maybe if you have an elf problem, you can visit there to get a few pointers.

Laskal is also down in Pamaltela. This Bat Hsunchen stuff might be fun to play, though. There are 120k “bat people” around Fonrit, and while different tribes are associated with different sorts of bats as their animal totem, the main religious people are associated with the vampire bat. It’s hard not to get adventure ideas, right? Bonus point: the bat people sort of unified most of the local Hsunchen people in 1613 under the “Pujaleg Empire”, which is powerful enough to get tribute from the cities of Laskal. When the were-vampire-bats come to town, you better have your blood offering at the door…

Among his strangest adventures must have been against the Pujaleg Bat People. Argrath aided Harrek in defeating them, and the White Bear established himself as the ruler of Banamba aka Laskal.

Argrath, Harrek, and the Wolf Pirates beat up the bat people in 1622, among other kinds of local magical shenanigans. But when it looked like they might have to be actually in charge of the place, they got away to seek more adventures elsewhere. Way to go, guys! Responsibilities are for chumps.

I’m not sure what Iron City is… there’s an Iron City just at the edge of the gigantic whirlpool that sits at the centre of the ocean, but when it comes to Argrath, most sources talk about an Iron City in Jrustela. This is Glorantha, so it’s equally possible that this is a city that exists in two places at the same time, or spans thousands of kilometres underwater, or, you know, Greg forgot that he had already named something else “Iron City” and now there are two of them.

And with Noloswal, we are out of the Pamaltelan wilderness adventures and back to Genertela. This is a large city in Southern Seshnela is up the Tanier river. It’s actually the greatest port in Seshnela so, you know, of course the Wolf Pirates are going to plunder it. This is pretty impressive since the Navy of Nolos is based there… but maybe they had some allies that day: Argrath had previously gotten cozy with some locals from Pithdaros, near the mouth of the river:

In Pithdaros, Argrath even reportedly aided Hunralki, a powerful shaman from Jolar.

With all this travelling, Jeff suspects that, “like Conan, […] Argrath speaks at least a smattering in a LOT of languages“. Jeff’s suggestions include Sartarite, Stormspeech, Tradetalk, Spirit Speech, Praxian, Yggite, Old Pavic, Auld Wyrmish, New Pelorian, Teshnite, Banamban, Teleon, Seshnelan, Esrolian. Plus maybe Flanchite and Doraddi. So if your adventurers meet Argrath, he might say hi in their native language!

And again, this part of Argrath goes back to his earliest appearances. He is the Adventurer King, who may very well have been the template for what we know now as Orlanth Adventurous.

And Orlanth Adventurous got very short shrift in the old Hero Wars material. Nowadays I think he may well be one of the great engines of the cosmos.

The Revolution of 1627-1629

We looked at Argrath’s early years, now let’s look at his future. This goes into the hero-wars meta-plot stuff from King of Sartar and the Guide to Glorantha, which I haven’t delved too much into yet because it all seems so far away from my current campaign date of 1617!

What took place in Dragon Pass between those years was a revolution as great as any in Gloranthan history. At the start, the Principality of Sartar had nearly collapsed and was poised to tear itself apart in tribal strife. By the end of 1629, it had established itself as the dominant power in Dragon Pass and the former Holy Country.

Even more remarkable, the Sartarites had confronted the Lunar Army led by the Red Emperor and Jar-eel the Razoress and soundly defeated it. They did this with an army that matched every strength of the Lunar Army – the Lunar Cavalry Corps met equally spirited Praxian and Sartarite cavalry and the Lunar College of Magic was overwhelmed by the new Sartar Magical Union. Worse yet, Sartar revealed its own heroes – Harrek the Berserk and Gunda the Guilty.

This Battle of Heroes should be a grand moment of your campaign. Rune Lords, shamans, Rune priests, warriors, healers, Tricksters, Illuminates, sorcerers – all get their chance to shrine at Glorantha’s equivalent of the Kurukshetra War or the Trojan War or Gaugamela or whatever epic battle you can imagine.

You might be familiar with the classic Trojan War, and we recently talked about Gaugamela where Alexander faced Persians elephants. No Gloranthan historical bingo card would be complete without a Mahabarata reference, so yes, the Kurukshetra War is from there. But don’t worry, you can watch the movie version, too:

You can compare this Bollywood face-off between Arjuna and Karna to the 19th century painting below… pretty much the same, right?

Afterwards, Glorantha is changed. Argrath marries Inkarne and becomes the King of Dragon Pass. Heroes are in great demand, defeating monsters, Elder Races, and making it possible for a new Kingdom of Dragon Pass to be a moment of long-remembered glory.

Inkarne is of course the Feathered Horse Queen, since marrying her is the way to become King of Dragon Pass. She got the title after her sister Vistera died in the Dragonrise… but, of note, unlike all the pro-Lunars who died there, she was actually super anti-Lunar. She “made a terrible pact to awaken the Dragons”, and died “witnessing her schemes reaching fruition”.

With this we enter an Orlanthi Golden Age of adventure and heroism and the King of Dragon Pass competes as a peer to the Red Emperor. But of course, it is in the nature of Golden Ages to end….

If you started playing in 1625 when RuneQuest was released, you might actually be in 1629 by now so this is useful:

And so after 1629, key parts of the setting have changed. Sartar is unified, rich and powerful, with a powerful cavalry army and a Sartar Magical Union. The Prince of Sartar is married to the Feathered Horse Queen and is King of Dragon Pass and Leader of the Sacred League (or whatever we are calling his Holy Country allies). It is only a matter of time before Furthest falls to the Prince. Adventurers are sent forth to fight monsters, gain magic, and extend the Prince’s authority. Praxian beasts get to graze on Kordros Island and in the maize fields along the Oslir.

Meanwhile the Lunar Empire reels and enters a prolonged crisis. Civil war and dangerous introspection. And of course, as the Red Goddess turns to her Black Phase we should be aware that she always continues turning. Nothing is always Dying. And even the Dead come to Life.

If we want any comparison post 1629 are comparable to the Conquest and Tournament Phases of Pendragon.

Here Jeff doesn’t reference the Pendragon RPG in general, but the Great Pendragon Campaign specifically, I think. This legendary campaign is divided into various “periods” of the Arthur myth: the King Uther prequels, the Boy King period, and so on. The Conquest period is when factions from all around Europe come into play. The Tournament period is when Arthur’s realm is relatively peaceful for a few years, and the player knights alternate between heroic adventures and great tournaments across the kingdom.

The Battle of Heroes makes an incredibly epic end to a volume of your campaign. Characters can fight their great enemies on a battle field boiling with spirits, elementals, and Rune Magic. Scores can be settled, characters can die gloriously or live in triumph. Think the Iliad or the Mahabharata.

The Battle of Heroes happens in 1628, and it’s what starts off this new “golden age”, Argrath’s reign as Prince of Sartar and King of Dragon Pass. According to several documents, the Battle of Heroes is when Harrek kills Jar-eel, among other things, but hey, who knows, maybe the historians got it wrong. Play to find out.

Fighting at the Battle of Heroes should be an epic event for your players. Survive it and you have a good chance of being one of the Companions of Argrath, effectively a Knight of the Round Table, one of the makers of this new Kingdom of Dragon Pass.

The participants at the Battle of Heroes is pretty much a Who’s Who of Sartar and the Lunar Empire. The Red Emperor, Jar-eel, Beet-Pot, Pharandros, Argrath, Harrek, Gunda, Jaldon Goldentooth, Leika Blackspear, Vamastal Greyskin, and pretty much every Wind Lord, Storm Voice, Sword Lord, Storm Khan, and Rune Lord you could shake a stick at.

I’m sure that many gamemasters will complain along the lines of “what are the puny adventurers supposed to do in such a big battle, especially if all the superhero NPCs are doing the heavy lifting, and the outcome is decided anyway?” I think the key is to give important missions to the players, and to change the degree of outcome accordingly. For instance, the adventurers might have the responsibility to setup Jar-eel nicely for Harrek: they might have to steal some McGuffin to lure her in, or maneuver troops to get her separated from her elite warrior entourage, or whatever. Regardless of whether the players succeed or fail, Harrek kills Jar-eel… but the difference is whether Harrek is happy about their performance, or whether he had to kill Jar-eel plus an entire platoon of Lunar hoplites that weren’t supposed to be there… “Hey Argrath, mate, didn’t you send some assholes to make sure that wouldn’t happen? I lost two hundred men because of this shit! What are you going to do about it?!” I’m sure that this sort of outcome has just as much impact on the players and the campaign, compared to whether the Sartarites or the Lunars win.

Another way of looking at this is the Battle of Heroes is a “shared event” – like the Dragonrise or Starbrow’s Rebellion or the Lunar Conquest of Boldhome – that changes the dynamics of the setting. The difference is that it is intended that your characters be able to participate in this event, gain glory or loss, and then branch off from it.

[…] like any good epic battle, I am sure there were plenty of monologues, philosophical and mystical speeches, and more. Can’t wait to send another group of players there!

Anyway, back to the main thread:

In the aftermath of the battle, as we all know, the Lunars suffered the worst defeat the Lunar Army had taken in battle since the era of Sheng Seleris.

The Red Emperor fled along the road to Furthest. He left the Bagnot and 2nd Furthest Foot behind in Bagnot.

The Sartarites lost comparatively minor casualties. Argrath followed up with an assault of Bagnot, but afterwards he was prevented from marching on Furthest by Harrek, who reminded him of his promise to attack Black Horse County. And so the Sartarite army marched unopposed to Dunstop. He garrisoned both cities but then headed into the Grazelands before beginning his famous campaign against Muse Roost.

While in the Grazelands, Argrath met and courted the Feathered Horse Queen and sent his companions to perform tasks on her behalf. The White Bull was said to be smitten by the charms and the wiles of the Feathered Horse Queen.

The companions here would, of course, include the player characters… well, assuming you play in a “followers of Argrath” campaign. Generally speaking, the hero-wars meta-plot might work a lot better if the players follow one of those big NPCs, so that’s something to discuss in session zero.

Meanwhile the Red Emperor did not tarry in Furthest, but fled to Mirin’s Cross and then on to Glamour. During the Sacred Time rites, he was murdered by the Great Sister, beginning the Lunar Civil War.

Big picture – the Lunar Empire clearly underestimated Argrath. They figured they were dealing with a traditional uprising or the kingdom of Sartar circa 1602, with maybe a hero or three. Instead, they were completely outclassed in magical units. The Red Emperor got the bulk of the blame here by the egi, which resulted in his sacrifice.

The City of Wonders

Let’s talk about the City of Wonders, the magical place at the heart of the Holy Country:

Belintar was a sacred figure, not a political or administrative figure. That’s really really hard for us moderns to wrap our head around, but Belintar’s main function was to be a conduit between the Mundane World and the Gods Realm. He’s a Living God, acknowledged by everyone in the Holy County. His palace was in the Hero Plane and to visit him was to enter it. At the City of Wonders, one might encounter gods and spirits, emissaries and ambassadors.

So less like an actual King, and more like, say, Ra in Stargate. He’s a God, and he has better things to do than discuss taxes and temple renovations with you.

Of course mundane people also lived in the City of Wonders – at its height (around 1600) it had perhaps 50,000 people or more making it bigger than Raibanth. It was vacated in 1616 after the Tournament of the Masters of Luck and Death failed to produce a new incarnation of Belintar – without Belintar’s presence, the City did not function for mortals. Only a few people, such as the rulers of the Sixths, could even open the paths to the City.

During its height (1320 to 1616), the City of Wonders deserved its name. The Library (also called the University) was the greatest in the world, with scholars from across the world. Humans, triolini, trolls, spirits, and gods mingled there. Amazing things like the Tricksters Theater and the Theater of Drama showed the possibilities of Illusion. The Sea Bazaar let merchants trade with far off triolini realms. I hear the best sea food in the world was there!

The City of Wonders was familiar to the Sartar Dynasty. Sartar himself was known to have been there, and perhaps gained many of his insights from Belintar himself. Tarkalor lived there for a time, as did many of his descendants. Like Nochet, the City of Wonders greatly influenced the young kingdom at Boldhome, which in its own way is an echo of the City of Wonders.

Sounds like a great place (I know one of my players would love to visit this Tricksters Theater!), too bad it’s gone before the main timeline starts… It’s tricky to get there before 1616 even with the “classic” RQ2 timeline.

However, I figure that a gamemaster could include the City of Wonders in their game with a bit of effort. They can foreshadow it with NPCs who’ve been there in their youth, artifacts coming from there being sold expensively at the city’s market, and so on. Maybe later the adventurers are sent to retrieve documents that originally came from the Library. And later still they get a glimpse of the City on the hero plane during some heroquest… until eventually they visit its magical echoes? Or something like that…

© 2022 Chaosium Inc.

But the City of Wonders is now gone. Plundered and destroyed by Harrek the Berserk and now lost to the world.

I would say “goddammit, Harrek, stop fucking up everything” but Jeff has this to say:

The Golden Age must be killed for the story to start.

Orlanth had to kill Yelm. Zorak Zoran had to kill Flamal. Eurmal had to kill Grandfather Mortal. Death was necessary for the cycle of life and death to begin.

So remember how all the people who lived in the City of Wonders vacated it quickly when the magic started failing? Like I said earlier, they can show up in your campaign, but really they show up everywhere:

Now that diaspora from the City of Wonders ends up spreading this magical knowledge throughout the area. Imagine that diaspora going to Nochet, Whitewall, New Pavis, Boldhome, Wolf Pirates, etc. Even a few go to the Lunar Empire. And many end up influencing Sartar like the Chans, Leika Black Spear, Tarkala the Lover, etc. I suspect this is the origin story for many who end up in the Sartar Magical Union.

Combine this with the knowledge gained from participation in the Tournament of the Masters of Luck and Death, Argrath’s combination of Praxian vision quest + circumnavigation of the Homeward Ocean, and the swirling maelstrom caused by the Lunar wars in the Holy Country, and we have a perfect storm for the Hero Wars.

This is the environment we open with in 1625. And into that storm comes Argrath, Harrek, and Gunda.

If you are playing in an early era, here’s some useful information:

But let’s imagine the City of Wonders circa 1614. Many influential exiles from Starbrow’s Rebellion have likely taken up residency here, or at least have come to have an audience with Belintar. The City of Wonders is tied to Nochet, no doubt there is much shipment of grain and other foodstuffs to the City of Wonders (it is far too small an island to be self-sufficient).

When I think of the City of Wonders, I think some sort of fabulous version of the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco:

Creative Commons photo

And remember, the City of Wonders was vacated only nine years ago (from the default starting date of 1625) and finally disappeared from the Mundane World only LAST YEAR.

And so although we as gamers have likely done very little with the City of Wonders, our characters must feel its absence like a hole. A manifestation of the Golden Age or the Unity, lost forever to the conflict between Storm and Moon. A wondrous unifying dream destroyed by war and ambition.

Like Hy-Brasil, Ys, or Atlantis, the City of Wonders now exists only in our dreams. ALTHOUGH…. there are those who claim to have entered it from the Hero Plane.

This dream of Unity has been briefly achieved and then lost to war and conflict many times in Glorantha. One might even say that is a key theme of the setting.

Different Experiences of a Deity

Here’s a brief but interesting (to me) post from BRP Central about how gods and cults differ between different regions of Glorantha:

I find different “experiences” of the god a more accurate description than [different “interpretations” of the god]. In Prax, we typically experience the Thunder God as the Thunder Bird, and so we view him mainly as the Adventurous young god. In Pavis, the Sartarites brought the Dragon Pass Orlanth and so of course we know of Thunderous and Rex. But those aspects rarely manifest in Prax – perhaps the Dragon Pass Orlanth is just mightier than the Orlanth of Prax? Perhaps here his brother is mightier, nearest to his place of victory and close to his Raging Storms? We experience those often, worst of all being the terrible Copper Winds.

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.

Helmets!

Katrin Dirim draw some shields a couple weeks ago, and now she’s drawing some helmets! And they’re lovely, as usual. You can play the game of which helmet is from which homeland… there are many obvious ones, but a couple where I’m not sure.

Livetweet (Somewhat) of Dragon Pass

Eff (if you’ve been around any Gloranthan online community, you know her…) has kinda-live-tweeted parts of a game of Dragon Pass, the old 1980 board game. I’m just posting a few select pictures here, but check out the Twitter threads for the turn-by-turn explanations, and the fan-fiction that goes with it.

Start with the setup, then follows each turn here, here, and here.

Troll Votive Offerings

Andrew Joliffe found those illustrations (above) and wondered if they could be a good inspiration for some Uz votive images (the drawings are of items found in a Massagetan Warrior grave, published in the Antiquity Journal volume 64 issue 243). Andrew figured that “yes, these look nice”, so he actually made a model:

The idea, I belive, is to then cast it in metal.

RPGImaginings on Six Seasons in Sartar

What it says in the title! I agree with the host that Six Seasons in Sartar is great to shed some much needed light onto some of the obscure or hard-to-picture cultural and religious aspects of Orlanthi life.

Bud’s RPG Review on Six Season in Sartar

Incidentally, Bud, from Bud’s RPG Review, has also started a series on Six Seasons in Sartar! The first video is for members and patrons only, but I’m sure it will become public eventually.

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.

Slings, with Lindybeige

As mentioned last week, I kept watching other videos from Lindybeige! I really like his series on slings, which starts with the video above (there’s a handful of other videos on the subject, too, and I recommend you watch them all!) The bit about where and how to carry a sling at the beginning is just gold!

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.

The next episode of the podcast was supposed to be released this week but it’s running late by a few days. We had some last minute change of plans and had to scramble a bit, sorry about that.

This is an otherwise pretty quiet week in Gloranthan circles, which is good because I was busy anyway.

God Learner Sorcery

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

On the Concerning Normalization of the Spirit World

I managed to translate one of those ancient documents we keep finding around our wizard tower. It points at yet another side-effect of the God Learners’ studies, this time on the Spirit World and the magic that can be drawn from it… if you were wondering why the Red Book of Magic has so many Rune Spells compared to the Spirit Magic, here’s your explanation.

We are members of the Collective Chapters in Maniria, Wenelia, and Kethaela, sharing deep concerns about observed phenomena affecting the Spirit World. With most of the Collective’s budget and resources going to research in the theoretical Runic and applied Burtae/Srvuali departments, Spirit taxonomy and study has been rushed and overly simplified for the past four decades. In particular, projects such as the Worship Interchange Stability Experimentation and Assessment has left any Spirit-related studies scrambling for funding, especially now that its consequences are starting to be understood. Although we understand the value of these projects, we are deeply disturbed by the changes we are witnessing in the Spirit World and we urge the Council to turn their attention to them.

Read the rest here. Thanks to Austin Conrad for pointing me to some related detail from the Guide to Glorantha, which I quickly worked into the article just after it was published.

Chaosium News

Here are this week’s Chaosium news!

RuneQuest Fantasy Grounds Update

MadBeardMan keeps on chugging along on this (along with a few other modules for other game systems). Here’s a preview of the combat tracker, and a preview of the Starter Set scenario content (do not zoom in if you don’t want spoilers for the introduction scenario “A Rough Landing”).

© 2022 Fantasy Grounds & Chaosium Inc.
© 2022 Fantasy Grounds & Chaosium Inc.

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!

Glorantha Settlement 16

© 2022 Mikael Mansen & Chaosium Inc.

Mikael Mansen has released another generic settlement map. You know the drill.

History of Malkionism Gets Extras

© 2022 Nick Brooke, Katrin Dirim & Chaosium Inc.

Nick Brooke’s History of Malkionism, illustrated by Katrin Dirim, has reached the level of Silver Best Seller and is now halfway to Electrum. To celebrate the occasion, they added 26 pages of bonus content, and then bumped that up to 33 pages of bonus content. It includes behind-the-scenes “emails, group chat logs, sketches and line-art showing how the first sixteen illustrations were created (Before Time, Dawn Age Seshneg, Arkat’s Crusade Against Chaos & The God Learners)

For instance, you’ll find the art direction notes and explorations for the picture below, among several others.

© 2022 Nick Brooke, Katrin Dirim & Chaosium Inc.

If you want to see what the God Learners look like, it’s in there!

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.

Joh Mith’s Tattoos

Jeff continues to share the concept art for NPCs’ tattoos, this time with Joh Mith (we had previously seen Vasana and Vamastal). As far as I remember, these diagrams are mostly for art direction and future consistency.

© 2022 Chaosium Inc.

Joh Mith is a Goldentongue Issaries Priest, and a member of the Jonstown City Council. You can find more about him in the RuneQuest Starter Set‘s Jonstown write-up (my review is here). In his youth, he was running a famous trade caravan to Balazar, as described in Griffin Mountain.

Before you take a closer look, please note that:

The reference to Nida is a misprint (and fixed in the final version). It is about Greatway.

Greatway is a big dwarf settlement in the mountain range that separates Dragon Pass from Balazar. With Joh’s markings, it looks like you can not just trade with those dwarves, but also get safe passage through some local pass which lets you avoid a long detour via Lunar lands. There are also two marks specifically for traversing the Vale of Flowers, which you have to go through to get to Greatway: a friendship with the Bee Tribe Queen, who rules over some Gorakiki trolls there (the mark is on the belly, which is appropriate for some troll marking), and some spirit protection which I’m not sure about (it’s on Joh’s back, possibly to tell the local Vale’s elves “hey don’t shoot me!“)

What I love about it is you can see some of the strange pacts he’s had to make in order to travel between Sartar and Balazar.

Joh even has some general markings for treating people nicely:

The Mark of Friendly Passage is a general mark showing that Joh Mith is neutral in conflicts and should be allowed passage.

Other interesting tattoos include some sort of dual initiation into both the Malani and Colymar tribes. This is possibly because he’s originally from the Malani tribe, but is married to a Colymar member.

Early Malkionism

Here’s a quick note on early Malkionism:

Early Malkionism is thought to have been composed of sacrificial rituals, sorceries techniques and spells, legal proscriptions and philosophical speculations. Later Hrestolism preserved the rationalism and philosophical elements of early Malkionism and developed new philosophical schools, the most text being Romanism [sic? Rokarism?] and New Hrestolism.

Malkionism is the general family of philosophies which trace their origins back to Malkion, a bad-ass mythical wizard from before Time. These philosophies disagree on, say, whether society should be based on castes, and whether choice and mobility between these castes should be possible… but they all agree on wizards doing wizardy things, such as stroking their beard, hanging out in their towers, badmouthing deities which they consider to be just powerful spirits who mess up the Runes that make up the universe, and thinking very hard on various things nobody cares about.

But parallel to this exist uncomfortably Arkatism. With its emphasis on deities, heroquesting, and a respect for traditional practices despite their contradictions, Arkatism is the Shadow of Malkionism’s rationality.

And we can see plenty of traces of Arkatism in Second and Third Age Orlanthi thought – particularly in Kethaela and Dragon Pass.

So as far as I understand, Arkatism eschews the intellectual masturbation of the Malkioni. Instead, Arkati uphold ancient traditions and worship deities because, well, you can get cool Rune Magic from that, I guess. And that doesn’t eat into your Free INT.

I can’t really speak to the role and influence of Arkatism into Orlanthi culture and religion though… that stuff goes right over my head.

When we think of Arkatism, remember that it consists of many elements:

– A monomyth with heavy focus on Air and Darkness (think that presented in Cults of Terror and Trollpak)
– Heroquesting techniques including Ranging, Joining, Identify, Awaken, and Change – all are presented in song and story and are the focus of meditation, prayer, and other approaches to understanding.
– An acceptance of Darkness and Death as necessary counterparts to Light and Life.
– Extreme uses of Power Runes often in conjunction with their opposites.

You can see many elements of this in the Proximate Holy Realm of the Second Age and with the Tournament of the Masters of Luck and Death, as well as more rationalised elements with the God Learners.

To learn a bit more on the aforementioned heroquesting techniques, look over here. Here’s my understanding of them:

  • Ranging: leaving a myth’s “path” mid-way and starting another myth.
  • Joining: catching a myth mid-way
  • Identify: naming yourself or an entity met during a heroquest as a specific mythical archetype (“I am the Storm god”, “you are the Trickster”, etc.)
  • Awaken: I think that’s when you grab some “shadow-entity” from the background of the god plane and bring it into the story. It’s sort of like upgrading a faceless extra into an NPC that actually does something instead of just being there in the decor.
  • Change: I assume it’s got to do with changing the myth (see “Mutation” in the link above).

Arkatism will be mentioned in the upcoming Cults book, but just barely:

Arkatism is seeded throughout the Cults book. For the modern “Arkat cults” of Ralios we will wait for a better vehicle. Needless to say the modern Arkat cults are not what influenced other religions.

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.

JM and Evan’s ChaosimCon Recap

JM and Evan, from Iconic Production’s Exploring Glorantha series, talk about their experience at ChaosiumCon (I get a quick mention!) You can read my own report here.

Update on Red Moon and Warring Kingdoms

The Red Moon and Warring Kingdoms is an ongoing project for the 13th Age fanzine “Escalation”. It’s a 13th Age Glorantha sourcebook that focuses on the Lunar side of things. There was a call for volunteer editors back in 2020.

The book will establish the central conflict in the region and provide a history and gazetteer, serving as an primer to those 13th Age Glorantha players who were introduced to the setting in the 13G core book. It will also offer new classes, playable races, and feats.

© 2022 Chaosium Inc & Pelgrane Press

If you don’t know about this game, 13th Age Glorantha is a, well, Glorantha version of 13th Age, the D20 fantasy RPG by Rob Heinsoo and Jonathan Tweet. If you want to play in Glorantha but your players don’t want to play anything else than D&D, this is a great option. Plus, it contains a lot of great takes on Glorantha that you might not find elsewhere. Warning, however: this is not a standalone book, you’ll need the core 13th Age rulebook at least, and maybe a sourcebook or two.

Anyway, Evan Franke (yes, of Exploring Glorantha!) is working with Escalation on this special Lunarized issue, and he posted an update this week:

Hi! I’m the principal author on this fan project. It is still in editing (and map drawing) and still has layout and art ahead as well (and also compliance review with fan publication policies). It started as a little home brew project and grew to about 140,000 words. Many of them are pretty good. Much like Chaosium, I and the folks helping me at Escalation can’t say exactly when this will be out, but we’ve made a lot of progress. This is year four of this “little” project, but it’s coming.

And here is Evan’s “draft regional overview map with political areas highlighted“:

© 2022 Evan Franke & Escalation Magazine

If there’s a map, I have to buy it. I don’t make the rules, folks.

Evan also pointed people to this actual play from last year, as if I didn’t already have too many actual plays in my YouTube “Watch Later” list…

Note that issue 5 of Escalation was already a Glorantha special, so you can start there if you want.

© 2022 Escalation Magazine

All other issues of the magazine are here in the Vault of the 13th Age.

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.

Quick! Put Your Hoplite Armor On!

The Lindybeige YouTube channel has a lot of interesting stuff for anybody interested in ancient or medieval history. It’s got both informal lectures and actual practical videos, such as the one above where the host measures how long it takes to put on a standard hoplite armor (plus some tips and insightful information about the gear).

I’ll probably check out more of the videos and post those that I find relevant to Gloranthan gaming (I’ve already spotted some about shield walls, slings, and spear usage…) If you have specific ones to recommend, please send them to me!

Thank you for reading

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

Three copies of this document have been found in our tower, with a few more in various decomposed state. We date it to the late 890s ST. A partial note was attached to one of the copies, reading:

“Lestimus, none of the Council members have gotten back to me on this, and I’m afraid we may soon reach the point of no return. I think we need to appeal to the High Sorcerer Argalis directly. Please check with your contacts in the Confederation to make it happen as soon as possible. Love, K.”

To the office of <space is left blank on the original document>,

We are members of the Collective Chapters in Maniria, Wenelia, and Kethaela, sharing deep concerns about observed phenomena affecting the Spirit World. With most of the Collective’s budget and resources going to research in the theoretical Runic and applied Burtae/Srvuali departments, Spirit taxonomy and study has been rushed and overly simplified for the past four decades. In particular, projects such as the Worship Interchange Stability Experimentation and Assessment has left any Spirit-related studies scrambling for funding, especially now that its consequences are starting to be understood. Although we understand the value of these projects, we are deeply disturbed by the changes we are witnessing in the Spirit World and we urge the Council to turn their attention to them.

Archived data and differential analysis show that the landscape, characteristics, and efficiency of Spirit Magic has noticeably changed since the beginning of the century. For instance, a study conducted across Wenelia and Kethaela between 791 and 792 showed that there were 16 variants of the Bladed Tool Efficiency Improvement magic (vulgarly known as the “Bladesharp family of spells”), with efficiency improvements varying from three percent to almost eight percent per Magical Energy Unit [Baskith and Shinos, 793]. Each variant was attributed to different local traditions contacting different Spirit entities, each with their own names and characteristics (“Fineblade Enchantment”, “Karl’s Whetsone”, “Raven’s Blessing”, etc.) A similar subsequent study conducted in 812 found only 12 notable variants of BTEI magic, with efficiency improvements only varying between four and seven percent [Orlmas, Ven K’lati, and Wys, 812]. That study attributed the discrepancy to a sub-par data collection process on the part of the previous study, but Valastos With Seven Pens theorized that something else was happening in his Spirit World ecology essays [Valastos, various, 813]. Our own recent surveys confirmed and deepened Valastos’ discoveries. According to our highly peer-reviewed studies, the number of variants had decreased to 7 in 867, and further down to only 3 in 885, with efficiency improvements normalizing around five percent per Magical Energy Unit [Lestimus and Klogran, 868] [Lestimus, Klogran, and Horth, 885]. Simply put, Spirit Magic is losing its heterogeneousness and, in some places, its efficiency.

We believe that the act of classifying Spirits and Spirit Magic in too broad strokes is having a normalization effect on this delicate ecosystem. The simplistic taxonomy that we have been using for decades has been adopted by the indigenous population at an alarming rate. Traditional names have been replaced with our own terms (such as “Bladesharp”) in more than 65% of the communities surveyed by the signatories of this letter. This percentage is increasing with each generation. We believe that this has in turn affected local spiritual practices and modified the fabric of the Spirit World. We are losing localized idiosyncratic magic to this normalization effect, and it might soon be too late to reverse this trend.

We urge the Council to allocate resources to Spirit World studies without delay. We hope that we can not only save local magical variations but make efficient use of them by genetically selecting for the stronger strands of magic and spreading them to neighbouring communities. Given the scale at which the Collective operates, even a two or three percent improvement in magic among the Dronar caste could have incredible potential.

Here follows the names of the signatories:

<the list contains 54 names and has been cut for brevity>

As far as we can tell, this is the first time the entire text of this letter has been recovered. Only fragments of it had been found in Seshnelan ruins until now. Historians theorize that this letter was widely ignored by the God Learner Collective because of the increasingly dramatic political changes that shook the Middle Sea Empire and the EWF at the time it was published. Seven centuries later, it seems evident that Spirit Magic is entirely normalized across Genertela and possibly beyond.

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 Jeff shared an ungodly amount of material online, including some that generated a massive amount of discussion. It was impossible to find the time to follow, collate, and annotate it all — if I missed anything worthwhile, please send it our way!

In fact, it seems to me like the Journal has been growing in size over the past year. This is maybe a sign that RuneQuest and Glorantha have a growing audience, which would be great. However, it’s also a sign that the newsletter may become unsustainable as a mostly one-man job. I’d love to have more guest segments besides the occasional contribution by Joerg, so if you see a note from Jeff, a Glorantha-related video or article, or anything that would typically be featured here and that you’d like to annotate or comment, feel free to send it to me! I’ll be happy to include it in the next Journal issue.

God Learner Sorcery

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

Chaosium News

Here are this week’s Chaosium news!

Plot vs Fun

This new interview on the Chaosium YouTube channel is about the delicate balance between “story” and “fun” (for a given definition of those terms). Jason Durall answers the hard questions with some interesting points, and it most definitely relates to the “MGF” (“Maximum Game Fun”) pillar of RuneQuest.

VTT Design Exploration for Skills

MadBeardMan is still sharing updates on the development of RuneQuest’s Fantasy Grounds module. The current exploration is about having two “modes” for the character sheet, one for creating and editing the character (where point breakup is visible), and one for playing (where only the final total is visible).

I like this, and several other VTT systems work like that, including the official Call of Cthulhu module in Roll20.

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!

Highways & Byways

© 2022 Drew Baker & Chaosium Inc.

Drew Baker has released a 106 pages book on travel in Glorantha! I love the opening sales pitch:

We leave at dawn and travel on the road from Boldhome to Clearwine!”, a simple statement but one loaded with questions and the possibility of adventure.

What time is dawn?
How long will the journey take?
Is there even a road to take or will the party have to travel overland?

The book contains information such as travel speed, sunrise and sunset times, trade destinations, and… maps? Maps! Ok, I’m buying this, it’s got maps in it.

Best of Print Sale

DriveThruRPG is running a “Best of Print” sale and six Jonstown Compendium items have been selected: The Black Spear, The Company of the Dragon, The Armies and Enemies of Dragon Pass, Secrets of Dorastor, The God Skin & Mad Prax (aka Sandheart Volume 4), and Citizens of the Lunar Empire. You get 10% off on the POD!

Sneak Peek at Beer With Teeth’s Next Praxian Entry

Art by Kris © 2022 Beer With Teeth

Diana Probst shared this wonderful scene of a Bison Riders camp, from the next Beer With Teeth scenario.

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.

Cults and Game Balance

Nothing like a bit of controversy to start the week!

One thing about RuneQuest and Glorantha that some find it difficult at first is that the cults and occupations are deliberately not balanced. Orlanth has more and better magic than Waha. Or Storm Bull for that matter. Yelm has far more and better magic than Yelmalio or Polaris. Ernalda or Dendara are vastly more powerful than the Grain Goddesses. Humakt’s fighting magic (True Sword, Sword Trance, Shield, and Sever Spirit) makes many other war gods look laughable.

And that is just fine. Some cults have better magic. They survive because of social cohesion, tradition, etc.

The RuneQuest rules just try to model the setting mechanically (ironically enough, given the common rejection that RuneQuest is “sim-Glorantha”). The setting, on the other hand, was not originally design for roleplaying games: it was done as an intellectual exercise, a background for unfinished stories, a base for a board game. In this setting Orlanth and Ernalda are powerful, so the vast majority of people belong to those cults (and, possibly, vice versa!) It makes sense to me that world-building and mechanics reinforce each other — although of course there are many other ways to go about it, and RuneQuest is only one of them.

I think the problem is actually about gameplay expectations. Cults of Terror was very clear about this: it provides these “evil” cult write-ups but they’re NOT for player characters! Other cults are not so obvious. People might complain that the Dayzatar cult “sucks” because you can’t do much. It makes sense setting-wise, but is it meant to be played? If so how? Another more common example is the Yelmalio cult, which in the setting is the cult of mercenary phalanxes. Again it makes sense in that light (ha ha), but how do you justify a single Yelmalion going on adventures with a rag-tag team of other cultists? People complain that Yelmalio isn’t a good enough fighting cult compared to other fighting cults, but why did they even think that Yelmalio was supposed to be as good as (or better than) these other cults, when Yelmalio is actually about something else?

It’s a cult perception problem, and in my opinion that’s only fixed with the designers being more transparent about what the cults are supposed to be about. I’m convinced that some short “Why join this cult” and “Using this cult in game” sections for each cult would dramatically reduce criticism that currently sounds like it’s about “game balance”.

Another thing – not every human activity has a Rune spell connected with it. And some activities that do have Rune spells connected with it have only a few well-trod myths. The new heroquesting rules help show how cults form and change in Time – needless to say it is not as easy as some assume, and yet happens far more often than others seem to assume!

Yes! I felt very stupid in one of my very first RuneQuest games when I wanted to have some Yelmalions attack and burn things down, but I was like “no wait Yelmalio doesn’t have fire magic“… it took me an embarassingly long time to realize that they can set fire to things the old way… Lo and behold, the Yelmalions were shooting flaming arrows (the non magic kind) and the Alone Confederation was burning.

Cults of Differing Power

Here’s a related topic, but going more into worldbuilding:

So as we have noticed, the RuneQuest cults are deliberately not balanced. Some cults have way more magic – and effective magic – than others. Now that was part of Greg’s vision – but why?

One way of answering that is to look at the history of Time. At the Dawn, most people worshiped what we would call Spirit Cults. They provided a handful of Rune Spells at best (maybe not even Common Rune spells). These spirit cults are what carried those people through the Greater Darkness and Grey Ages that preceded the Dawn. Think of cults like Oakfed, Diros, Telmor, Rathor, Black Fang, Frog Woman, Grain Goddess, Lightning Boys, Yinkin, etc. and scatter them across Genertela.

All of these spirit cults are pretty weak. Lightning Boy, for example, provides Lightning. And that’s about it.

But in Dragon Pass, we have a group of cults called the Lightbringers or Theyalans. This includes early versions of Orlanth Adventurous and Orlanth Thunderous, Ernalda, Issaries, Eurmal, Lhankor Mhy, Chalana Arroy, Humakt, Yelmalio, etc., as well as cults like Kyger Litor, Zorak Zoran, Aldrya, etc. At this time, all of these cults have a comparable assortment of Rune Magic (but remember Orlanth has two cults!).

The word “Theyalan” literally means “People of the Dawn”, according to Jeff, with “Theyalan”, “Lightbringer”, and “Orlanthi” being commonly used interchangeably.

The Theyalans send out speakers to the people of Genertela. They show them their gods and teach them how to reach them. In some cases, they show that the spirit cults are accoutrements or aspects of the greater gods. Lightning Boy is proven to be one of the Four Magical Weapons of Orlanth Adventurous. The Grain Goddess is proven to serve Ernalda. And so on. In other cases, the spirit cults are shown to be related to each other. The Urox atop Stormwalk Mountain is discovered to be the same god as the Storm Bull of the Desert Wind, and the Block is revealed to be even more important than Stormwalk.

It would be interesting to play a couple adventures set at the Dawn, where the characters are Theyalans who meet isolated communities. The players would need to complete various magical challenges to prove that these communities’ spirits are sub-cults of the broader Lightbringers cults. I’m sure there’s a few interesting plots to write there.

Within a few generations, we have a diverse kaleidoscope of cults. Some are growing tremendously through syncretism, identification, and challenges – Orlanth and the Lightbringers, Ernalda, and so on. Orlanth Thunderous and Orlanth Adventurous are realized to just be aspects of the same god. That kind of thing.

But we also still have these little spirit cults and lesser gods. People still worship them because they fill some need, even if that need is largely tradition.

Map of the Broken Council freeform by Eric Hotz © 2022 Chaosium Inc.

Some gods that were fantastically useful in the Grey Age and at the Dawn remain popular – despite their comparatively weaker magic. Yelmalio is a good example of that. Yelmalio survived the Greater Darkness where the other gods did not. He showed people how to survive in the Darkness, even though his magic was not great. And his cult has always been tenacious and socially cohesive.

Meanwhile in Peloria, we have a Yelmalio horse cult worshiped along with deities like Polaris, Shargash, Hippoi, etc. ruling over a population of Lodril and Grain Goddess and River Goddess peasants. They kill the Theyalan missionaries they find within their realm and this leads to war between Dragon Pass and Peloria.

Eventually the Dara Happan lesser nobility rebel against their horse lords. The Pelorian Yelmalio cult is torn between factions. And a Dara Happan nobleman gathers magical accoutrements and enters the Hero Plane to ascend the Pillar of Yelm, the lost Sun God. He is acclaimed Emperor and reveals his god is the returned Yelm, the Imperial Sun, a god that previously only the Pure Horse People priesthood could contact. Unlike Yelmalio, Yelm has LOTS of magic. He’s got Sunspear, Trueshot, Shield, and plenty more. When the Dragon Pass armies defeat the Horse Lords, this new Dara Happan Emperor negotiates peace and neutrality with Dragon Pass.

But the Orlanth cults recognize his god – it is Yelm the Emperor, who Orlanth slew with Death. And worshiping Yelm places you under the authority of the Emperor, Yelm’s regent in the Mundane World. So most folk in Dragon Pass stay loyal to Yelmalio. As do many of the horse lords, who flee to Pent with Yelmalio aka Kargzant.

So now we have a wide range of cults. Some have only one or two spells, some have more than a dozen or two! This process continues over the next two ages. Sometimes cults collapse or contract, like what happened to Yelm during the Second Age, when Yelm was defined by what he was not. But usually, these syncretic agglomerations were lasting. Orlanth gained another big aspect when Alakoring brought back the magic of Orlanth Rex in the later Second Age. And the God Learners and Empire of the Wyrms Friends promoted identification and syncretism.

But still some old small cults survived. Yinkin and Odayla still have cults independent of Orlanth, even if they are small and their magic fairly weak. Yelmalio’s gifts were likely more important than his Rune Magic, but even that proved incredibly helpful in fighting against trolls and in contesting with the Orlanth Thunderous cult.

So if we think about this from a setting perspective, of course some cults are going to have better and broader array of Rune Spells. As an aside, the Common Rune Magic array I think is a byproduct of the God Learner/EWF era.

I find it funny that (as far as I can tell) people are generally asking why cult A is not as good as cult B from a game-design perspective, and Jeff explains it from a world-building perspective. As is often the case, endless debates stay unsettled because people are arguing about different things.

The question “why does Yelmalio get only 4 Rune Spells, when Orlanth Adventurous gets more than a dozen?” is rarely a question about the lore and history behind those cults: it’s almost always in the sense of “why are these cults designed with such varying scales of abilities?” I think this is a very valid question for people who come from games where character classes, vampiric clans, wizard orders, archetypes and playbooks are designed to be “equivalent” at least in structure. RuneQuest (not Glorantha!) is different in that regard, but this is rarely addressed clearly for newcomers. The real answer has nothing to do with the lore, and is more along the lines of “because the designers are mostly concerned about translating the setting into a game system, and players are simply expected to pick whatever they like, and ignore what they don’t.” Jeff actually spells it out clearly a bit later like that.

And so if we think about Yelmalio, his cult survives for a variety of reasons:

1. His worshipers are really really tenacious. They have learned to fight as soldiers and have tremendous internal cohesion. Sure they might lose a lot of duels and challenges to Wind Lords, but they win a lot of set-piece fights with tribes! And not through magic, but through things like pike and shield or Kuschile archery.

2. He is not Yelm. Yelmalio is far more easily tolerated by the Lightbringers, and his cult is not a political challenge in the same way Yelm is (even if both cults are equally neutral towards Orlanth). His cult can happily exist as an autonomous minority.

3. He has a long tradition of existence. The Delta House rule is real.

4. He fills an important niche. He is a Sky Cult that can coexist with Earth and Storm as peers. He is really good against fighting trolls and the darkness. Elves dig him.

The first point, to me, raises again the question of whether it makes sense to play a Yelmalion that is alone and away from his phalanx. The Yelmalion player must count on the gamemaster to bring that tremendously cohesive phalanx of Yelmalions into the story so that the character can shine in those set-piece battles, for instance. Of find another way to make that character shine (ha ha), for instance by bringing large amounts of trollkin.

Of course, this is basic gamemaster responsibility: if a player plays a talkative merchant, you need to have talking scenes at the market every now and then, and if another player plays a hunter, you can’t set the entire campaign in the city. Hopefully, everyone at the table has matching expectations about what this or that cult is actually about, and what kind of spotlight the gamemaster will bring for them.

Yelmalio for example provides 4 special Rune spells, all common Rune spells, 2 associated Rune spells, plus gifts. His magic is good for seeing in the darkness, getting rid of the darkness, getting rid of clouds, commanding hawks, blessing crops and healing body. His gifts give his followers an edge, potentially a serious edge.

Now Greg was very pleased with Yelmalio precisely because his cult isn’t that magically powerful in comparison with Orlanth or Humakt. But Yelmalio offers something quite important – a tale about being the Last Light in the Darkness. Yelmalio survived the Greater Darkness, even though he was very dim by the end. He was there to greet the return of the Sun and the other gods.

And to me that is a powerful thing.

I actually asked Jeff about how writers should approach the translation between the lore (what happened in the myth) and the spells and abilities you get. For instance, Yelmalio’s stories include a lot of “persevering” and “surviving at all costs”, and yet he doesn’t provide his worshippers with any sort of “magical resilience” spell or ability. At first I thought it might be because a Rune Spell for that would undermine what Yelmalio and his followers accomplish and stand for, spiritually and narratively speaking. But it’s actually not the case — I was interpreting the myth “wrong”:

[It’s] because some of these things aren’t magical. Yelmalio didn’t survive because he had a magical ability to survive. He survived because the Light was not completely extinguished even in the Greater Darkness. So actually Sunbright is that ability. Yelmalio can make it as bright as a sunny day, even during the darkest night!

Similarly, I thought Issaries was finding secret passages and optimized ways, but I misunderstood:

Issaries wasn’t about finding secret passages or shortest paths. He opened ways (Passage) and knew the threats on the way (Pathwatch).

Some people might indeed have a different interpretation of the myths (that’s what myths are for, right?), in which case they can devise new and different Rune Spells for this or that deity. But before you do that, another insightful and very interesting point is to consider the position of the deity within the broader monomyth, and whether you’ll create some overlap:

One thing I reject from proposed cult write-ups is stuff along the lines of “Argan Argar was the ruler of the Surface World, right? So shouldn’t he provide some rulership magic?”

And the answer is no. Thanks to Yelm and Orlanth, the position of Cosmic Ruler is filled. Heck, because thanks to there being two claimants for the position, the Sun died and the Darkness happened, so two is enough.

Of course, having overlap between two deities over a given role is also obviosuly what makes things interesting in the Cosmos… anyway, this is all good stuff if, like me and my players, you think about small local cults for your campaign:

This gets into a general writing issue. If you want to pitch a cult writeup to me, remember that most cults are not Orlanth, Ernalda, etc. Most Genertelan cults that have not yet been written up are hopped up Spirit Cults which might not even have Common Rune Magic. Or they are actually more or less cults we are already familiar with but with an unfamiliar name.

Moving on to Waha as an example:

Waha doesn’t have a lot of powerful magic. But like Yelmalio, he survived the Grey Age. He defines what it means to be a Praxian and thanks to him men and herd beasts can coexist in Prax. That’s frankly enough for him to be one of the two main cults in Prax, even if he provided NOTHING ELSE.

But Waha does provide Axis Mundi, Discorporation, Dismiss Small Earth Element, Shield, Summon Spirit of Law, Summon Small Earth Elemental. He has a shaman path and a Rune Lord path. And honestly that’s enough.

One thing that struck me when I started looking into RuneQuest is that, unlike most games where you pick a gameplay archetype (fighter, healer, netrunner, berserker, pilot, etc) (or a combination thereof), here it’s more about picking a cultural role. Waha is a good example of that: I can’t really define him and his worshippers in any sort of game-related way. He’s not really a fighter nor a hunter or whatever else — so the main reason to pick Waha as your cult is because you want to be a part of the survival leadership tradition of the Praxian nomads, or something like that.

And so if you are a person who wants a cult with a broad range of spells, then pick one of those. Orlanth, Ernalda, Humakt, or the other Lightbringers. Or Maran Gor, Babeester Gor, etc. And if having a relatively short list of spells isn’t your thing, then the answer is – don’t pick a cult with a short list of spells.

There, see? Jeff finally said it plainly. Time to leave the gameplay considerations and have a parting word:

Also what I hoped to show with that little essay is how much Gloranthan cults change with Time. The Orlanth Thunderous and Orlanth Adventurous CULTS of the First Age had lesser access to magic than the Orlanth CULT of the late Third Age.

Wherever the Theyalans went, they brought their cults and gods. So wherever you see those arrows [in the map above], you had awareness of the Lightbinger cults in the early First Age.

Import People of the Morokanth Tribe

All major Praxian tribes were featured last week except for everybody’s favourite sentient tapirs. This is now fixed:

The Morokanth are nonhumans, and they outrage the other people of the Plains by herding human-descended Herd Men, who are, in fact, herbivorous and unintelligent. Man being a social animal by instinct, the Herd Men cluster in large herds, and Morokanth clans tend to be large in consequence. They are far more gregarious than the solitary High Llamas and Rhino Riders. Their liking for company is one factor that has kept them alive on the plains, for the Morokanth are a social folk and always have large numbers of brothers and sisters on hand for any fight.

Morokanth culture follows the traditional Waha-Eiritha style very closely, as it is one of their claims to legitimacy in the plans. They are always quick to point out when one of their human coreligionists strays from the Waha way. Many follow the ancestor worship of Grandfather Morokanth, who is equivalent to Daka Fal, and there is even a dark Zoran Zoran cult. Several Morokanth have embraced the official tolerance of the Lunar Empire and use it to further their own political goals.

The Morokanths are one of those things that, I think, everybody loves about Glorantha, even though everybody also has a different take on it. A species-swapped tribe of sentient animals herding unintelligent humans is a great elevator pitch to get any fantasy lover to tilt their head and ask for more information.

The Wakboth is in the details, though. Gloranthas will vary based on what people think the rules of Waha’s Covenant were, whether the Morokanth cheated or not, and so on.

As a reminder for the new people in the audience, the Survival Covenant was something that the god Waha came up with while trying to figure out how all his people were going to survive after the land god Genert was killed by Chaos, and Prax became mostly barren. The general idea was to have a “contest” to split people in pairs, each one made up of those who eat from the land, and those who eat from the former. Or something like that… people interpret the text differently sometimes. The humans won most of the contests (against the bisons, high llamas, etc), except the one where the Morokanth won…

Unlike the other Major Tribes, Morokanth do not ride their herd animals, although some chieftains have trained Herd Men to pull in chariots or carry them in palanquins. Morokanth keep intelligent human slaves in addition to their herd-men.

In combat with other nomads, they use claws and sometimes spears to good effect. They favor the tactic of hamstringing mounts, then using their superior strength and claws on the ground versus the dismounted nomads. They are masters of using every nuance of the terrain to conceal themselves for ambushes, and often use night attacks on their tribal foes. They also use mercenaries and Awakened Herd Men as infantry.

The Morokanth accepted the Lunar presence in Prax as just another pushy human tribe and they dealt with the Empire as they would with any non-Morokanth – warily. Although many Morokanth fought against the Lunars at the Second Battle of Moonbroth, the tribal leaders are deeply suspicious of the White Bull Movement, even as many Morokanth warriors join it. Argrath’s noted dislike for slavery is an additional point of contention with tribal leaders.

Art by Lisa Free © 2022 Chaosium Inc.

One of the points of contention is about the Morokanth’s diet. Some people say they should be vegetarians, others that they should be omnivores. But even in our episode on Nomad Gods, in which David Scott was advocating for the former (as per Greg’s own wishes), he still said that Morokanth ritually eat meat at least once a week… which makes them omnivores in my book (I live on the West Coast, so I can guarantee you that none of the local vegetarian hipsters here would accept that!)

In fact Jeff clarified this point:

Morokanth are essentially sapient tapirs. They ritually eat meat, but normally eat fruit, berries, and leaves – which their herd men herd them gather.

A tapir needs about 30-40 kg of food a DAY. Given their size and the slow breeding cycle of hominids, there is simply no way that herd man flesh can be their main source of food.

The Morokanth are effectively omnivorous, although they mainly eat plant material. Herd men are ritually eaten as part of their Waha-EIritha ceremonies, after being killed and butchered with the Peaceful Cut. Given that this is usually twice a week, it means they supplement their diet with meat.

For what it’s worth, note how Jeff increased the Morokanth’s meat consumption to twice weekly.

Some people might give Morokanth an even more balanced diet (Sandy Petersen does, as far as I know, and I certainly would too), but it gets interesting in the more general context of Praxian diets. Do, say, Bison Riders mostly eat bison? (their own or that raided from other Bison Rider clans.) Or do they mostly eat other animals? (because they raid the other tribes more than their own tribe and, having not much use for non-bisons, they eat those first.) Figuring this out impacts whether Morokanth would mostly eat herd men or mostly eat the other Praxian mounts (at least outside of their rituals…) More importantly, if impacts whether the other Praxian tribes eat herd-men! How awkward and creepy do you want you Prax to be?

Michael “MOB” O’Brien has an interesting take which is based on the Morokanth having indeed cheated during the Covenant:

Because the Morokanth cheated their way to the “Eater” side of the Survival Covenant, they’re still physiologically herbivores. And also like the rest of the “Eaten”, they still lack hands and the ability to manipulate things, and actually get around far better on all fours too. While, as Jeff notes above, the Morokanth do eat meat on ritual occasions (or when goaded by other Praxians) as a means to demonstrate and affirm where they stand in the Covenant, it does not agree with them and they don’t enjoy it.

The other Praxians gleefully love serving up buffalo steaks and the like to Morokanth at intra-tribal gatherings. Lest they be accused of being “cheats”, to prove their bona-fides the Morokanth have to gamely gobble it down.

When human Praxians come visiting the Morokanth, they do get served meat. The Morokanth ostentatiously get served “steaks” too at such feasts, but these are cunningly fashioned out of plant matter. Imagine a 33 ounce rib eye made of lawn clippings and you get the idea.

I like this take a lot, but assuming that the Morokanth cheated at the Covenant because they don’t have opposable thumbs or bipedal-only locomotion sounds a lot like human bias. I mean, we even call them the “Morkoanth tribe”, instead of the “Herd-men tribe”! (tribes are supposed to be named after their animal, dammit!) But I’m absolutely convinced that many Praxian priests are using this logic to “prove” that the Morokanth cheated, so I’m totally putting it in the mouth of some NPCs.

On a pure world-building perspective, I don’t think I need, or want, to resolve this debate in my Glorantha anyway. I’ll probably leave it open forever, unless my players somehow heroquest into the secret Morokanth parts of the God Time, which has very little chance of happening. Right? Right… I think…. shit.

The Morokanth primarily use herd men, and not other animals:

Under the Compromise, one must “ride” one’s primary herd animal. So Bison Riders ride… bison. And not Sables, etc. It would likely be seen as wrong if the Morokanth let another herd animal pull their chariots.

The important people in the Morokanth tribe are:

Egajia Chewer of Flesh, Paps Most Respected Elder

The Most Respected Elder of the Paps is a Morokanth high priestess of Eiritha. Egajia personally negotiated the Armistice of Prax, which ceded control over the lands along the River of Cradles to the Lunar Empire in exchange for promises to stay away from the holy places in Prax. Once this made her beloved by all Praxians, but now many accuse her of having cozied up to the Lunar Empire. She does not trust the White Bull Society, and increasingly fears them. She hopes to remain in power long enough for the White Bull Society to fall apart, as Praxian confederations always do. Until then, she avoids politics to concentrate purely on spiritual matters.

Velakol Surestrike, Waha Khan of the Green Stripe Morokanth

Velakol is an influential khan of one of the more powerful morokanth clans. He led the Morokanth to fight for Argrath at the Second Battle of Moonbroth, but declined to aid him take the city of Pavis. Velakol has led the main Morokanth force in Prax away from the River of Cradles.

Like other Khans of Waha, Velakol is foremost a protector of the herds of his tribe and a raider of the herds of other tribes. When he has the time, his favorite recreations are sports and contests of physical prowess. One way to gain his respect is to best him in such a contest. Velakol possesses a magical thumb on his right forefoot, allowing him comparable manual dexterity to a human.

His special joy is his chariot with its team of four matched herd-men, which he races against teams belonging to other Morokanth. In both work and play his competitive nature comes to the fore. This is his vulnerable point. Though his honor and self-confidence are such that he would not cheat, once his need to win is aroused, he may take chances and make mistakes he would not ordinarily make. Velakol’s bodyguard is Yarin Blackhair, an awakened herd-man who can pass as human.

Kareel Keenclaw, Waha Khan

Kareel is a Waha Khan as wily as he is strong. A once-notorious slaver, he now captures humans for their ransom rather than selling them into bondage. Unsentimental in the extreme, he speaks in a languorous, subtly mocking drawl. He carries two sets of anti-magical bracelets which prevent prisoners locked into them from casting magic of any kind.

Hah! Anti-magic bracelets! We saw them in the Travels of Biturian Varosh, but it wasn’t clear if these were still a thing in today’s Glorantha. It sounds like they might be a rare magical item, rather than a widespread method for slave bondage.

Madam Black, Death Lord of Zorak Zoran

This huge female morokanth is one of the most feared warrior-magicians of the tribe. She is surprisingly cultured, especially concerning troll cuisine, but is also merciless and cruel. She hated the Lunar Empire but has been a sporadic ally of the White Bull at best. Madam Black was given a great troll by the Redstone Zorak Zoran temple, who serves her as a bodyguard and valet. Most of the time she is a lazy glutton, but in combat Madam Black shows surprising energy and speed, tearing her foes apart with enchanted iron claws that can harm spirits.

I love this Madam Black! I might even rename her “Madame Noire”, and give her a New Orleans voodoo witch vibe…

Shukan, Seven Mothers priestess

This extremely intelligent Morokanth is the leader of the Seven Mothers cult among the Morokanth. The daughter of a Morokanth Khan, Shukan joined the cult several years before the Lunar Invasion, attracted to it by its message of spiritual equality among all sentients. Shukan helped persuade the tribal leaders not to participate in the First Battle of Moonbroth and was rewarded by the Lunars with lucrative concessions. Shukan was a friend of the self-proclaimed Duke Raus of Ronegarth. Shukan withdrew from her human allies when Jaldon Goldentooth was summoned, and has managed to keep her followers safe from any reprisals from the White Bull Movement. She now seeks to aid her kinswoman Egajia maintain her position as Most Reverend Elder and tries to undermine the White Bull Movement without earning its ire.

Flarat Spirittalker, Grandfather Morokanth Priest-Shaman

This morokanth from the Green Stripe Clan is a close friend and advisor of Khan Velakol. He maintains continuity with the Morokanth Ancestors. He is strictly neutral in the conflict with the Lunar Empire, caring only about the spirits of the Morokanth and their descendants. He heartily dislikes Kareel Keenclaw, and may befriend anyone who has done hurt to Keenclaw.

Oasis People of Prax

Let’s keep looking at the people of Prax! The major inhabited oases of Prax are Agape, Bigglestone, Cam’s Well, Day’s Rest, Dwarf Knoll, Horn Gate, Moonbroth, and Tourney Altar.

Note: Despite Praxian boasts, Adari, Barbarian Town, Corflu, New Pavis, Pimper’s Block, Sun County and their surrounding villages and settlements are definitely NOT inhabited by “Oasis People”.

You can find all these things on this AAA map:

Argan Argar Atlas map © 2022 Chaosium Inc.

Native farmers are indigenous to this land and have descended from survivors from before the Darkness. These folk have survived bad conditions for centuries. Whenever a conqueror makes peace for a while, they crawl from hidden lairs and farm. When the conqueror fails, they fade again into the earth. They speak their own language, but avidly learn Tradetalk.

The Oasis People are mostly mixed stock, including many blue-eyed people alien to the Praxian nomads. They live in conical huts of dried mud and thatch within the walls, although in the Big Rubble. They grow herbs, dates, grain, and grapes.

The oases of Prax are always fought over by the nomadic tribes who want to “own,” even temporarily, the lush land.

Jeff offers some photographic inspiration for these oases of Prax: Afton Canyon in California, USA, and Papago Park in Arizona, USA.

Photo by Tom Egan, Defenders of Wildlife
Photo by Trevor Huxham

The Oasis People are treated like slaves or animals by the nomads, as though incapable of organized resistance or of independent thought. The nomads view them as listless and dullwitted. The natives rarely do anything to counter that opinion. They gather, plant, harvest, and so on the way they have since time began. When ordered to do so they will bring foodstuffs and tribute to the nomads who currently own the oasis. Good chieftains will trade with the natives and treat them fairly. Meat raising is generally forbidden to the oasis peoples and so gifts of it are greatly appreciated. They trade foodstuffs or child slaves.

Note that many Praxians consider Pavis County, Sun County, the Grantlands, and Corflu to be just other “oases”. At the same time, the nomads still sing about the Seventeen Foes of Waha that inhabited what is now the Big Rubble, and recall the savage and humiliating defeat they received at the hands of the Sartarite settlers in the Praxian Revolt in 1572.

Dorasar Founds New Pavis

This is how it happened, according to this slightly improved version of the story from Pavis: Threshold to Danger.

In Dragon Pass, the great and wise King Sartar started a splendid dynasty renowned for wisdom and generosity.

A son of King Sartar, Eonistaran the Sage lived in Jonstown. His two sons were raised with their cousins, the princes of Sartar. Dorasar was the younger of Eonistaran’s sons, and he was close to Prince Sarotar, the heir to the throne. He and Sarotar practised at arms, poetry, law and the hunt, and Dorasar was the first to swear allegiance to the prince when he was of age to receive fealty.

To situate all this in time, keep in mind that the Kingdom of Sartar is not very old: it’s less than 150 years old. Eonistaran was born in 1512, Sarotar in 1518, and Dorasar in 1531. With a 13 years gap, I imagine that Dorasar saw Sarotar as a mentor or older brother figure.

Dorasar was part of the Sartarite dynasty, being a nephew of the current Prince at the time, and a cousin and uncle of a couple later Princes. If you have a New Pavis-based game, that means there are maybe one or two undiscovered Sartarite heirs running around in your campaign!

Prince Sarotar fell in love with a woman of the Holy Country. Their love was deep and intense, but a terrible problem kept them apart. Sarotar, by virtue of his royal position, demanded wifely fidelity, while Arkilia, his love, would never take such vows. They had one child, a girl, but Sarotar was slain by her other lovers while attempting to secretly kidnap her.

This love affair and untimely death happened between 1540 and 1546. The story has been carried on in a few ballads such as “Saronil and the Sad Lady” (Saronil is Sarotar’s father), the mournful “Song of Marlesta the Dancer” (that’s the child), or the “Song of Vengeance” (which tells about Sarotar’s brother and cousin’s bloody vengeance upon his murderers).

And this whole thing left traces across the history of Sartar and the Holy Country. For instance, Queen Norina of Esrolia was killed in 1551 by “Sartarite assassins seeking to avenge the death of their prince”. This is of course misleading because the King of Sartar is called “Prince of Sartar”, and Sarotar wasn’t Prince (with a capital “P”) but a prince (a son of the Prince, or King). Ugh. Come on, Greg, get it together.

If you’re wondering what happened to Marlesta, she didn’t want anything to do with neither the Sartarite or Esrolian dynasties and joined the Puppeteer Troup.

Dorasar’s life was destroyed when his liege was killed. Dorasar had sworn to defend the man with his own life, and had only thought to sit at the hand of his lord. Dorasar felt guilty that his prince must depart without Dorasar’s sword in defence. Dorasar decided to make a place which would keep Sartar’s secrets and lifestyle pure and untainted by such inhuman traditions.

Dorasar was a clever man, much travelled. After long scouting, he settled on the wilds of Pavis. He returned to his clan with treasure and tales of wonders in the legendary Rubble of Pavis. He found many who would commit their bodies or money to his first expedition, one of exploration and plunder. Many who went returned wealthy.

Again, to provide a few dates, this first expedition happened some time in the late 1540s.

There was trouble in the land in those days, and many people wanted to withdraw before the encroaching Lunar menace. When Dorasar and his friends led a second expedition to settle in Pavis there were many volunteers.

The “encroaching Lunar menace” is referring to the Lunar Empire moving onto the Orlanthi Kingdom of Tarsh. At this point in time, Tarsh was actually enjoying a short-lived success of anti-Lunar rebellion, with Palashee Longaxe currently ruling the place with the support Sartar and the Shaker’s Temple. But a few years later, Palashee would be dead, and Tarsh irrevocably Lunar. I think that Dorasar saw the writing on the wall when he started looking eastward for a place to settle.

Dorasar did not approach this new land as a stranger, without plans or friends. His wisdom was evident in his foresight. While upon the plains with his people, he travelled with Gorgar Bluecloak, a sable chieftain and friend. Together they drove off a large warband of impala people and reached the river.

At the river, several others came to meet them. There was Ingilli the Fisher, who came with many people from the banks and mouth of the river to aid him. Too came Varthanis Brighthelm, a lord of the Yelmalio county which held lands down river, and sought allies against the Impala tribe. There was Olgkarth Arrow-eye, of the Zebra people who was made king of that tribe with Dorasar’s help. Finally came Ginkizzie, king of the dwarfs of Pavis, who spoke for the inhabitants of the Real City and the Flintnail cult.

All these folk sat down and counted their followers, added their wealth, boasted of their exploits, and determined what each would receive in the city to be built. During this time many folk came out of hiding from the valley and asked for refuge. A great troll attack was fended off. Finally, decisions were made and everyone agreed: oaths were sworn, pacts made, and promises spoken.

Dorasar staked out the limits of the city walls. Others performed parts in the rites as well. The council met in the centre, swore their oaths, and founded the city. The walls were begun, the streets laid out, and the buildings started.

Dorasar was chosen as King and became ruler of the city for life, but none of his heirs could take the title, nor could any other. After Dorasar’s death in 1579, the city was ruled by a council of its leaders, each aware of the others and of their part in the whole. The Pavis cult gave guidance.

New Pavis was founded in 1550. Dorasar lived as King until 1579. His body was burned, in Orlanthi fashion, though some say his spirit remains to protect the city in need.

It’s interesting to realize that New Pavis is a pretty recent development. The “old” Pavis (now known as the Big Rubble) is quite old (it dates back to 850, and was built around the older Robcradle which was founded in 780), but New Pavis is only 75 years old. It’s a new trendy city with many business opportunities to all young hipsters!

Also notable is that Dorasar was at most 20 years old when he founded New Pavis… what have your adventurers accomplished by the time they get 20? They got a horse and killed some broos? Good for them!

Art by Simon Bray © 2022 Chaosium Inc.

During his life Dorasar ruled strongly and well. His city was not part of the kingdom of Sartar, though it swelled with refugees from that war torn land. His farmers went up and down the river, expanding their holdings and remaining friendly with the nomads. The nomad irritation with the civilized rules of Pavis exploded in 1572 when those within the city revolted and tried to open the gate to allies outside. The plot was poorly planned and defenders moved to prevent the attack before it began. There was savage bloodshed as the nomads were defeated. They lost many rights because of that fight, for they no longer have a member upon the council, nor may they ever camp on the south of the river within thirty kilometres of Pavis.

The wearying troubles between the kingdom of Sartar and the expanding Lunar empire sent many refugees to distant Pavis. The city kept aloof and sent no warriors, though individuals certainly went on their own to fight the distant foe. Many Sartarites came just after Sartar fell, in 1602, when it seemed Pavis was safely out of the line of the Lunar advance.

But in 1610, after being turned back from the ports of the Holy Country, the Lunar army marched eastward towards Pavis. Valiant nomads gathered forces to resist the chaos foe, but were decisively defeated and slaughtered. The Lunar army marched against Pavis.

And of course the Lunars took Pavis, holding it for more than a decade. But in 1624, Argrath Whitebull unified the tribes of Prax and defeated the Lunar Army at the Second Battle of Moonbroth. He then proceeded to liberate Pavis, and was eventually acclaimed King of Pavis… you know… the title that Dorasar said nobody could have. Oh how times have changed.

The Lunar Occupation of New Pavis

While we’re in New Pavis, let’s rewind back to 1610 and look at the Lunar occupation:

As we all know, in 1610 New Pavis resisted the Lunar Army for a single day, then opened its gates to the besiegers. There was mutiny, but the ringleaders were caught and slain. Those who would resist were butchered systematically, or killed impromptu, depending upon your point of view. The conflict with the Yelmalio ruling family was a surprise to many: the purge of Dorasar’s kinsmen was less so.

For the next 14 years, the city has remained in Lunar hands, though the original army went home long ago. The first Lunar Governor, Sor-eel the Short, maintained peace with the barbarians and the trolls, and keep the city’s coffers full. Although the Orlanth cult was suppressed during this period, the political clout of Orlanth’s priests allows some of them to remain in the city despite the repression.

Sor-eel also preferred to allow the city to more or less govern its own affairs, although he reserved the right to intervene directly in civil or criminal situations as he pleased. A polite fiction was maintained that the city council was independent of the occupation forces, and Lunar rule was generally benevolent and unoppressive. Sor-eel had a sincere interest in the well-being of the city and he tried to cooperate with and coop the local authorities.

Again I find myself looking for dates to figure out when things happen… this next chapter starts in 1622:

Sor-eel was dismissed when Tatius the Bright became Governor of Dragon Pass, the result, no doubt of changing Imperial politics. His successor, Halcyon var Enkorth, was a very self important man, and had been an aide of the Provincial Overseer. Halcyon was not trustworthy, found it easy to lie through his teeth, would stab a friend in the back for a decent profit, and stole from the elderly for fun. Needless to say, the Provincial Overseer considered him perfect for the job. He had previously been responsible for the Balazar Precinct, and had also carried out illicit covert missions in the Holy Country on behalf of the Provincial Overseer. Although greedy and duplicitous, Halcyon was appointed for his personal loyalty and utility to the Provincial Overseer. He was accompanied by his right-hand-woman Marusa the Shrew, and quickly brought Gim Gim the Grim into their counsels and confidence.

Stole from the elderly for fun? Hey, that reminds me of something.

Halcyon’s previous position in the Balazar Precinct means that there’s a lot of material on him in Griffin Mountain. He has… some interesting bits of backstory.

Griffin Mountain was originally a fantasy campaign set in a custom fantasy world, but Greg Stafford asked the authors to move it to Glorantha. Jennell Jaquays, co-author and illustrator of Griffin Mountain, shares that this is when Halcyon was added:

Halcyon var Enkorth was not in the pre-Gloranthan version. He came when we added the citadels at Greg’s request and that there was a Lunar presence in one of the citadels.

Art by Jennel Jaquays © 2022 Chaosium Inc.

Back to Halcyon’s Pavisite promotion:

For the next three years, Halcyon’s regime was ruthless, thuggish, and thoroughly disreputable. However, he retained support in Boldhome and Mirin’s Cross because of his willingness to do whatever he was asked by his superiors. The Orlanth Temple was closed, other temples were forced to make personal contributions to Halcyon, and the barbarians were treated with contempt. However, the wars in the Holy Country and Dragon Pass meant that Halcyon has less military resources available to him than Sor-eel. He was forced to rely more on the detested Raus of Rone to maintain order in the Grantlands, granted much unofficial authority to Count Solanthos, and relied upon Sable Khan Inire the Red in Prax.

Jeff sums it up:

In short, Halcyon was the sort of thuggish, corrupt governor that robs his charge blind. But he wisely sent a portion of his profits up to his superiors, never refused to do dirty work on their behalf, and used Gim Gim the Grim to far more effective use.

During these years, the Moon Masks became more of a paramilitary/crime organization. They served as a private army of Gim Gim the Grim’s, and was thought to include many Lunar soldiers.

Gim Gim the Grim (sometimes written as Gimgim the Grim) was the head of the Lunar intelligence services in Prax until about 1621 when he was called back to the Lunar Empire. He always wears a moon-mask so nobody knows what he looks like. He’s what you get if Ernst Blofeld was raised as a Mandalorian:

Gim Gim should be a frightening guy. In command of the thuggish Lunar paramilitary/criminal enforcers/organized crime gang/off-duty soldiers, who is willing to play footsie (or more) with Chaos cults, assassins, and more – he’s a wonderful villain.

You can also refer to MOB’s notes on the history of the Zola Fel valley if you want to know more about what happened between the “classic” RuneQuest era and the new post-Dragonrise era.

I’ll leave on you these nice anecdotes shared between Jennell and Jeff in the Facebook thread:

Jennell: Halcyon var Enkorth was one of my player characters… the name at least. I liked the name enough to use it in Griffin Mountain. He didn’t survive the RQ campaign I had been playing him in, murdered by another PC who had been possessed by a powerful troll spirit. I’ve kept the original for that art ever since.

Jeff: Greg and I decided he should end up as the new governor of Prax after Sor-eel is canned. Greg always thought he made a wonderful villain.

Jennell: I had no idea. Always amused/amazed to find out what my characters have been up to after I finished my telling of their stories.

Esrolian Throne Room

Jeff takes this Minoan scene of a ceremony at Knossos and pitches it as Esrolian:

Art by Roussetos Panagiotakis

Here’s a nice illustration of the throne room of Nochet. Now obviously this is an adaptation of the Gloranthan original to look more Minoan but the base elements are there. We have the Queen with a child, one of her husband-lovers, a sister-priestess, and another priestess. A young handsome warrior is lower on the steps, perhaps a supplicant, perhaps a representative of a fertility cult like Barntar or Thunderer, or perhaps a bodyguard. A young noblewoman offers gifts, behind her is a line of offerants. To the sides are priestesses and noblewomen.

You can see the throne room is protected by Babeester Gor (see those axes), although I don’t see any of her cultists (but they might be in a different part of the room).

Pretty clearly this is part of a Holy Day ceremony. The Queen spends much of her time in rituals and such ceremonies, which is why many Queens are more ceremonial figures than hands-on rulers (although the last few have been hands-on rulers).

While Nochet is mostly run by Earth priestesses, there are many associated cults represented in the population, including the Husband-Protector cults like Orlanth. We have some numbers on this from a previous Journal: 10k Orlanth initiates! This is the biggest Orlanthi city, bigger than Boldhome! Many of those (and other cult members) are from Sartar, too:

Nochet is a city that plenty of Sartarites have been to. In fact, if the Sartarite community in Nochet was its own tribe, it would be a mid-sized tribe, bigger than the Culbrea!

There are maybe about 9000 Sartarites in total in Nochet. There are about 6500 in Boldhome.

Nochet shows up routinely when you roll the Family History of a RuneQuest character:

Many of your player characters may have spent a year in Nochet during the wars in the Holy Country, especially if they are Sartarite warriors or nobles. They’ve seen the culture and art, enjoyed the food and drink, with its exotic spices and flavours.

Many Sartarite leaders in 1625 spent years in exile in Nochet – for example, Erenava Chan could have been one of the priestesses in that picture! Now they have returned to Sartar, but the richness of Nochet no doubt remains with them.

And of course there are religious, trade, and cultural links between Nochet and Sartar. Probably more than you think.

Vamastal Greyskin’s Tattoos

Jeff, Jaye Kovach, and Anna Orlova have been working on defining the tattoos of many Dragon Pass NPCs (we had Vasana’s tattoos detailed in issue #27).

The idea here is to create a set of references for future art, but also to let people know what the various tattoos mean, and to let those tattoos be a guide to that character’s life experiences.

Obviously some Sartarites will be more covered in markings than other. One of the more extreme characters is Vamastal Greyskin, the current (post-Dragonrise) King of the Sambarri Tribe and City Rex of Wilmskirk. He’s a powerful Orlanth Rex heroquester and one of the more magically powerful people in Sartar.

© 2022 Chaosium Inc.

Born in 1574 to the Odonog (Squat Oak) Clan, Vamastal served on the Sartar High Council in 1613 and again in 1625. He was king of Sambarri Tribe until the defeat of Starbrow’s Rebellion. Vamastal gained his ill-colored skin on a failed heroquest attempt many years earlier which, many believe left him more mad than inspired. He has the gift of vision, and prophesized both the battle for the Hill of Orlanth Victorious in 1613 and the Dragonrise that destroyed the New Lunar Temple. One of Argrath’s earliest supporters in Sartar, he pledged loyalty to the White Bull in 1624. After the Dragonrise, which destroyed much of the Sambarri tribal lands, Vamastal was acclaimed tribal king of the Sambarri and was acclaimed City Rex of Wilmskirk by the local assembly.

Major Figures of the Hero Wars

There are a few important NPCs behind the Hero Wars meta-plot, and it looks like Jeff is starting a mini-series on that, so I’m grouping the first few ones here. This post also seems appropriate as an introduction:

The dance of the main characters of the Hero Wars – Argrath, Harrek, Feathered Horse, Jar-eel, and the Red Emperor – is the engine that drives the setting during this period. Your characters can participate in this dance, that’s one of the big advantages of setting the game in 1625.

It is entirely possible that an RQG adventurer from any of the starting Homelands could interact with everyone one of these characters directly in the years between 1625 and 1628. Or not with any of them, depending on the direction your campaign takes.

There’s lots of other heroes active in Dragon Pass at this time. Gunda the Guilty, Jaldon Goldentooth, Beat-Pot Aelwrin, Kallyr Starbrow, Sir Ethilrist, the Inhuman King, Ironhoof, the Dwarf, Keener Than, Lestus Creeping Ivy, Cragspider, Delecti, and many more. Any or even all of these heroes can be woven into your game as rivals, allies, enemies, or mentors.

To me that is the biggest development of RQG – that we finally get to play in the setting that started this all.

As a relative newcomer to RuneQuest and Glorantha, I’m curious about playing in the 1610s and early 1620s because there’s a lot of old material considered to be “classic” (Borderlands, Griffin Mountain, The Red Cow saga, etc) that I’d love to try. I don’t think I’m the only one who has this curiousity, judging from the play reports I see online. But for those that have been playing in 1621 for 30 years, I can totally understand that it’s a relief to see the “official” timeline moving forward:

Actually, I find starting in 1625 much easier than 1621. That way you skip stuff like the Windstop, the war in the Holy Country, and the Dragonrise. You start with a newly liberated Sartar and then build on it.

The Windstop is indeed one of the big gameplay problems of Dragon Pass: your players build up their Orlanthi and Ernaldan characters until, suddenly and out of their control, they can’t use magic anymore. It sort of sucks. Of course, it can also be a very dramatic part of their life: helping your community survive the Windstop can be a powerful arc, and leaving Dragon Pass for Pent, Kralorela, the West, or even Pamaltela can be a thrilling adventure… but I think that’s one of those big things the GM might want to talk to the player about.

From Dragonrise to the Battle of the Queens you mainly are dealing with one Second Tier Hero (Kallyr), the First Tier Heroes are present at the side of the board, although you might get a guest appearance from a First Tier Hero (Jar-eel). You get to see how the Principality functions, and then get to watch as it nearly falls apart. Basically you get a full year before the First Tier Heroes all start showing up.

I’m sure Kallyr would NOT appreciate being called a Second Tier Hero, so make sure she’s not within earshot when you say that…

All five of our major figures are complex heroes, with a variety of backgrounds, cults, and experiences. They also range quite a bit in age, so in 1625:

Feathered Horse Queen is 20(!) years old
Argrath is 29.
Jar-eel is 37 (but looks 22).
Harrek is subjectively 45, but really 140.
Red Emperor is who knows how old. The current Mask has ruled for 18 years. But there has been a Red Emperor for 375 years.

Now I know that meta-plots have been a hot-topic in TTRPG circles since at least the White Wolf era of Vampire: The Masquerade (if not earlier, with Traveller and such). But where some people see (and complain about) a supposedly “rigid meta-plot”, I see more a sandbox of faction gameplay, with various major NPCs leading various sized groups for whatever agenda they have. The more moving pieces, the better.

This is why I’d love to see more material about (and play more with) some of those NPCs and factions that don’t get as much spotlight: Ethilrist, the Inhuman King, Brangbane, Delecti, any dwarves, and, above all, Cragspider! Love love love Cragspider.

I also often think about historical settings. If meta-plots were so bad, would it mean we couldn’t play games in, say, World War II or in Middle Earth? That’s preposterous.

Anyway, on to the major NPCs!

Argrath

He’s one of the main guys, so better get to know him:

At a very fundamental level, Greg’s Argrath IS Arkat and fully experiences and participates Orlanth myths as a mortal. Now that doesn’t mean that he is trying to repeat the deeds of Arkat or Orlanth – in fact, very much not trying to repeat their deeds. Rather he is confronting new situations as if he was Arkat or Orlanth, if that makes any sense. Not only does he accept he will do something new, he intends to do something new! This makes Argrath more in tune with Orlanth than most any other Orlanthi hero, Harmast Barefoot included.

That is likely the secret to his success. Argrath discovered that not only is repetition of the myth unnecessary, but it is often undesirable. What matters is the participation with the raw powers and archetypes of the world, and a willingness to cause change in order to preserve the cosmos.

In other words (and as far as I understand), there’s no point in redoing the myths of Orlanth wooing Ernalda, killing Yelm and the then saving Yelm, and so on. The point is to get some girls, fuck shit up, own up to your mistakes, and keep going. These are the raw archetypes, and they’re more powerful than the re-enactments.

© 2022 Chaosium Inc.

It is worthwhile to look how much Argrath’s life experiences parallel those of Orlanth. Exile to the Strange Gods of the Wastelands. Communication with spirits and dragons. Marriage and kingship. And so on. His life parallels that of his god. No wonder that the post-Hero Wars cultures often viewed them as the same entity!

Indeed, Argrath is “exiled to the Strange Gods of the Wastelands” by, well, being literally exiled to the Wastelands shortly after his adulthood ceremony: he had to flee Sartar after killing some Lunars, and was taken as a slave by the Bison Tribe. And thanks to Brian McReynolds for pointing out the connection Orlanth here, which is found in King of Sartar: Orlanth and his brothers were “initiated” when some giants came and threw them into all kinds of annoying situations: Humakt was thrown into a Fighting Pit, Vadrus was cast into a Deep Well, Storm Bull was thrown into the Animal Corral, and so on.

Orlanth was put among the Strange Gods, which the giants thought would destroy Orlanth. But although Orlanth did quarrel with them at first (we wouldn’t expect anything less from him), he then made friends with some of them and came back. And that’s pretty much what Argrath did in Prax.

This is also tied with the idea that Argrath=Arkat. Like Arkat, Argrath fought Gbaji and was transformed in the process. In the end, the Red Moon was broken and the world changed. Like Arkat, Argrath embraced monsters to carry forth his task – Arkat with trolls, Argrath with dragons. And like Arkat, it is possible to view Argrath as purifying the Moon Goddess, removing its Chaos taint so that Glorantha’s cycles might no longer threaten existence but become fully a part of it.

At a very basic level Argrath and Arkat were the SAME ENTITY. In Greg’s earliest stories, a hero named Argat (Aragat, etc.) fought against Gbaji to end the age of legends and begin history. This character was then put into White Bear and Red Moon by Greg as Argrath, the Prince of Sartar. Later he was put into Gloranthan history as Arkat Chaosbane. But ultimately they had the same source.

Jeff’s favourite depiction of Argrath is this bonkers Moebius-esque illustration from the Nomad Gods board-games, later re-used in the RuneQuest Companion supplement:

© 2022 Chaosium Inc.

Here are a few more comments to get deeper into Argrath’s vibe:

Now to the Arkat-orlanth mix, I add for my own understanding Alexander and Bowie. He’s the romantic adventuring hero, the magical rock star who reinvents himself whenever you think you got him figured out.

Arkat was a rational materialist who needed to embrace his irrational monster in order to confront Gbaji. Argrath was a exiled outsider who needed to find his community to confront Gbaji. To overcome the Deceiver, we need to confront and deal with our own Shadow.

Lord knows Greg and I talked enough about Argrat-Arkat-Argrath-Arthur-Alexander.

Jar-eel

Let’s look at the Lunar bad-ass demi-goddess Jar-eel:

The Fourth Inspiration of Moonson, Incarnation of the Red Goddess in Time, daughter/lover/mother of the Red Emperor, poetess and musician, defeater of barbarians, etc. Jar-eel is the great-granddaughter of the demigoddess Hon-eel the Artess and the defender of Lunar civilization and enlightenment.

Blessed with grace, intelligence, and beauty, she has already become an immortal. She is a living goddess, seemingly flawless, merciful and cruel, with an enigmatic smile like the moon. The perfect face of Lunar civilization, she inspires lust and love with all who see her, and yet kills without hesitation or remorse.

Jar-eel has proven herself as a peerless fighter, magician, poet, musician, and Heroquester. She has stormed impregnable citadels, transformed rebels into followers, dismembered an enemy demigod, debated gods in contests where her soul was at stake, given rightful order to Chaos, and emerged triumphant from the Pit of Sorrows as the Balancer and Turner. She saves Beat-Pot Aelwrin and he becomes her most devoted servant and one her lovers.

Remember that Jar-eel was born around 1588, so when she led the Imperial Bodyguard victoriously up the cliff-face of Boldhome’s Royal Palace, she was 14 years old.

It is worth keeping in mind that Jar-eel and Argrath are each other’s shadow self. Argrath is the rebel, the romantic adventuring hero, the magical rock star who reinvents himself whenever you think you got him figured out. Jar-eel on the contrary is a goddess of the Empire. Her attributes are not only love, beauty, sex, war, and justice (and do not forget how important her sense of justice), but also political power. She moves on from conquest to conquest like Inanna. Although she is a goddess of love, beauty, and sex, she is not associated with marriage and is not associated with grains, general fertility, etc. She has one child as far as we know and that is not a key part of her identity as a living goddess. A living goddess of love and war.

The reference to Inanna here points to the real-world Mesopotamian goddess, famous for going into the underworld and coming back out. It’s a wild story: she wants to conquer her sister’s realm down there, but messes up and is struck dead! When her people come and save her, she gets her husband to die and take her place! Just because he didn’t mourn her death well enough or something. Later, Innana sorts of feels bad about it, so the husband is permitted to come back up to the surface half the year, but then Innana’s sister has to take his place during that time! Way to go Innana, you’re a stone cold bad-ass manipulator. Anyway, this switching of places starts the cycle of seasons.

In terms of a real world point of reference, I’d look at Inanna and her various echoes. Here’s a great hymn to Inanna that works great for Jar-eel:

“She stirs confusion and chaos against those who are disobedient to her, speeding carnage and inciting the devastating flood, clothed in terrifying radiance. It is her game to speed conflict and battle, untiring, strapping on her sandals.”

And of course, when we think of our goddess of love and war riding atop the Crimson Bat, we can’t help but think of Revelations – “I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy…” And that of course is Jar-eel as well – the Mother of Abominations, the Scarlet Woman, and of course Babalon.

Yep, this is indeed conjuring vibes of the Whore of Babylon, the “Harlot Seated on the Beast”, which happens to be all red and very dangerous, if that rings a bell. Jeff follows that thread all the way into the esoteric Thelemic bullshit of Aleister Crowley with Babalon. Aleister Crowley is an asshole but he has all the good stuff. And although Crowley wasn’t directly involved, check out the Babalon Working, an attempt to summon Babalon with ceremonial and sex magic by Jack Parsons (a founding member of the JPL… yes, that JPL) and Ron Hubbard (yes, that Ron Hubbard).

There definitely were Inanna-Babalon-Whore of Babylon themes going on with Jar-eel. Remember at the time Greg was publishing Bonewits, and Babalon riding the Beast was a common motif in the SF Bay counterculture of the 60s and 70s. Heck I can remember psychedelic posters with that theme in Berkeley bookstores as a kid in the late 70s/early 80s.

And when you imagine Jar-eel riding the Crimson (Scarlet) Bat with its many tongues and eyes, the imagery becomes unescapable.

Back to Glorantha:

If we look at the relationship between Jar-eel and Beatpot, we easily get Inanna and Dumazi. Beatpot is her lover, her cook, and her priest – but Jar-eel has all the agency. She takes other lovers – that is her prerogative as a living goddess of love and war. If Jar-eel gets killed, he’d better mourn her, or he’s going to be in a world of hurt when she gets out of the Underworld!

Dumazi here is Dumuzid, Inanna’s husband who ends up going into the land of the dead in her place. She has been gaslighting him for so long that he’s ready to die for her, and Beat-pot is the same with Jar-eel. There’s more about Beat-pot after this section on Jar-eel, because he’s a whole thing too.

Jar-eel is also the dominant personality in the Lunar Empire of the 8th Wane. She overshadows “her father” the Red Emperor and everyone else. She walks into the court, and all eyes are on her. Jar-eel is what most people see when they imagine the Red Goddess.

Justice is also a key attribute to Jar-eel. But it is not Justice as we moderns might think of it. It is the justice of Natha – retribution against those deserving of it, and protection for those deserving of it. It is beyond law, moderation, or social agreement – it is divine and terrifying in expression.

Natha is… hard to pinpoint. She’s the Goddess of the Second Underworld, Keeper of the Second Hell. She is the Lunar Goddess of Balance, the Avenging Destroyer, and one of the seven ancient Moon Goddesses. She is the Goddes of the Empty Half. She gives life or death, light or darkness, sour candy or kale salad, and so on based on what is needed to bring “balance” in the world. I get the feeling that she doesn’t do “Justice” as much as she does “What’s Needed” (for a certain cosmisc definition of “need”).

She is Nemesis to those who harms the Lunar Empire. Implacable justice against those who would harm or threaten the followers of the Red Moon.

This Nemesis function is where her Cruel/Merciful contradiction comes in. To those who have harmed the Lunar Empire (a very fuzzy definition), she is a terrible goddess of vengeance. But to those who need its protection, she is benevolent, kind, and loving.

To her foes, Jar-eel is the Whore of Glamour, who rides a Scarlet Abomination. She consorts with broo, vampires, and other monstrosities. To them, Jar-eel is a personification of the Lunar Empire and of Evil itself.

I cannot think of a more divisive figure in Glorantha than Jar-eel, maybe only Arkat rivals her. She is a living goddess within the Empire, a personification of evil outside of it. Even Argrath doesn’t engender that much hate – to most Lunars, he is “just” a barbarian rebel and not even the most frightening. But in the Provinces and beyond, Jar-eel is the personification of the Red Goddess and Her Empire.

One of Jar-eel’s most famous fucked-up things (almost literally in this case) is the “spiritual liberation” of King Moirades of Tarsh, also known as “having sex with Jar-eel”.

The currently known list of lovers (as of 1625) includes Beat-Pot, Moirades, at least one Mask (probably two), no doubt a god or three, no doubt satraps, yoga instructors, and many others. Moirades died at his moment of enlightenment, and no doubt there are tantric depictions of Jar-eel standing atop a prone but blissful Moirades, like Kali atop Shiva.

Yep:

Beat-pot Aelwrin

As promised, let’s look at Beat-pot next:

Aelwrin was born in 1592 amongst the Pentan nomads in the Redlands, and enslaved as a child when his tribe revolted against the Lunar Empire. He was made a kitchen slave, showing little talent for anything else. In 7/42 (1613), Beat-Pot organized and led a successful slave revolt, earning his name by using only the tools of his trade as weapons. Jar-eel repressed the slave revolt, but took it on herself to teach the Lunar Way to Beat-Pot. Now the high priest of the Moonsword cult, he is inseparable from the cult goddess: Jar-eel.

Beat-Pot is a strange one. A warrior, former slave, and bad man (a little of that Danfive Xaron role – and in truth, DX is based on Beat-Pot and not the other way around), he is also an agricultural-fertility figure (and one heck of a cook) in the Lunar Empire.

The Danfive Xaron sub-cult of the Seven Mothers is that of penance and repentance for those who seek redemption in the eyes of the Red Goddess… but Beat-pot took a slightly different route:

Beat-Pot Aelwrin is often identified with Danfive Xaron although he is not a member of that cult. Beat-Pot exemplifies the ability of the Red Goddess to purify even the most desperate criminal and bring them back into the community of gods and men. As a result, Beat-Pot is widely believed to be an incarnation Danfive Xaron and he is known to favor members of the cult. Once a year, Beat-Pot prepares an exquisite communal meal for members of the cult, to remind them of the beauty that exists even within the stringent strictures of Danfive Xaron.

[…] Beat-Pot is DX without the punishment, purity, or self-repression. His way is arguably even more extreme, but it is also definitely more fun.

There’s still more about Beat-pot:

One way of thinking about Aelwrin is that he is Dumuzi to Jar-eel’s Inanna. He is Jar-eel’s lover, priest, and servant – and is the advance man for his Goddess. As the right-hand of Jar-eel the Razoress, even the mightiest of satraps and generals are wary around Aelwrin.

However, Beat-Pot is also Jar-eel’s head chef, a noted gourmand, and thus the Lunar Empire’s version of Marcus Apicius or Lynceus of Samos or Taillevent. We know his diaries from his time as a kitchen slave for the Imperial Bodyguard – they are the height of popularity among the highly literate Lunar ruling class. It is compliment to the Empire that they allowed the famous “Aelwrin’s Complaint: the Slave Spitting on his Master” to be published in a cookbook. Beat-pot’s popular recipes included the ever-popular spicy liver-loaf, kidneys in fermented milk, and broiled walktapus tentacle fillet in a brown sugar glaze.

He is the Lunar’s Empire version of who what who? Ok, here are some quick search results.

Marvus Apicius was a Roman gourmet from the first century CE (under the second Roman Emperor, Tiberius). He is believed to be the author of the Roman cookbook Apicius:

Creative Commons photo

Lynceus of Samos was another gastronome, but from the earlier times of Ancient Greece, around 300 BCE. Besides essays on food, he also wrote some comedies and humourous stories.

Guillaume Tirel, aka Taillevent, brings us to 14th century France, where he was a cook to nobles, kings, and queens. He wrote many recipe manuals, and some restaurants are named after him to this day.

Jeff also mentioned that he sees Beat-pot at the “Anthony Bourdain of Glorantha”.

Beat-pot even has some explicit instructions, from his early diaries, for preparing and cooking a Walktapus. The full instructions are in Wyrms Footnotes #2.

Art by William Church © 2022 Chaosium Inc.

[Beat-pot] is recorded for having a great deal of bitterness towards how he was treated as a kitchen slave, and although he is completely devoted to the Red Goddess (through Jar-eel), he has notable contempt and righteous disdain for much of the Lunar elite and nobility. As the right-hand of Jar-eel the Razoress, much of that Lunar elite and nobility tries to curry favor with Beat-Pot, which just reinforces his contempt and disdain for them.

Remember that Beat-Pot has been active in Lunar affairs for some dozen years. He is admired by the peasantry and the common folk (if feared by them), and his recipes and diaries are collected by the literati. He is more a gourmet than a gourmand – he is said to eat sparingly, but very knowingly.

That being said he cares not about the status of a particular meal – merely its taste and skill in preparation. I once heard that he proclaimed the maize bread from a Furthest food stall better than that prepared by Hon-eel’s priests in Glamour.

Earlier, Jeff mentioned that Beat-pot was a “bad man”. This isn’t just in the eyes of the Lunar Empire (because he tried to rebel) but also because he pillaged, raped, and murdered:

Prior to accepting the Lunar Way and devoting himself to Jar-eel, he led a violent slave rebellion against the Lunar Empire. He committed many a crime in the process – and not just the crime of rebellion.

Beat-Pot was a bad man; he is now a good man. He is at peace with himself and the cosmos. He has forgiven himself for the crimes of his past, and now he works to further the community of gods and men. I don’t pity him – I envy him!

Beat-Pot holds out hope for all of us that have done things which we regret that it is possible to be forgiven for those things – and to return to community of people and gods in good faith and conscience.

Ironically, I am not sure that Jar-eel or the Red Goddess had the same blessing.

Ironhoof

Next up is the Lord of Beast Valley:

The son of Orlanth and the horse goddess, this demigod ruler of the Beast Men has reincarnated several times throughout – and even before – history, most recently in 1615. He adopted the Grazeland Pony Breeders and was the first sacred King of Dragon Pass. Ironhoof is a centaur and lord of all horses.

Ironhoof is a liminal being: half-man, half-horse; half-god, half mortal. He is caught between the two natures he embodies – both an embodiment of untamed nature and a wise teacher and just ruler.

I’ve heard stories that Ironhoof’s spirit resides at the Wild Temple and takes corporeal form when summoned by the Beast Men.

You can see more about the Wild Temple, and Ironhoof, in The Smoking Ruin & Other Stories scenario collection.

The Beast Men, when led by Ironhoof,, bore great friendship for the Grazelanders, always sided with them during the first wars after humans had resettled the Pass. As politics became more complicated (particularly after 1380), Ironhoof became more reserved, and often commanded his subjects to avoid all human contact. Even the Grazelanders became suspect after a time.

The reason things started getting more tense after 1380 is because the Lismelder and Colymar tribes, who only resettled in Dragon Pass a couple generation prior, tried to seize the farmlands of the Beastfolkf in the Duck Valley.

When the Hero Wars period began, the general increase of magical energies attracted the Beast Men from their lairs, and they could often be seen marching or scouting for either of the major combatants. Mercenary regiments of half-men were often hired, while Ironhoof himself would lead his armies in person when their interests were involved.

In other words: add some group of Beastfolk mercenaries and travellers here and there in your campaigns!

The “re-emergence” of the Beast Men as a significant faction in Dragon Pass was likely a response to the major release of magical energies in the Hero Wars era. Previously, humans just generally avoided going through Beast Valley, and the Beast Men, for the most part, stayed put. Sure wandering satyrs and centaurs might be seen in Sartar or Sun County, but they were no more notable than the occasion elf or troll.

But in the Hero Wars, Beast Men mercenaries became a common sight. Most were mere mobs of beasts – minotaurs, manticores, and other half-men hybrids. But some were bands of centaur skirmishers and archers.

The Orlanthi of Maniria

We know that the Orlanthi culture is spread all around Genertela: not only in Sartar but also in some of the Lunar Provinces, in the Holy Country, and, among yet other places, to the west of the Holy Country, where Maniria is. Here’s an AAA map to locate this:

Argan Argar Atlas © 2022 Chaosium Inc.

To the west of Esrolia are four Orlanthi tribal confederations. The first – Longsi Land has long been under the suzerainty of the Esrolian Queens. In older texts this was called Haradlaro or the Harandings. Some scholars speculate that this was the homeland of the great Orlanthi hero Aram ya-Udram. It is now a semi-autonomous part of Esrolia.

Longsi Land isn’t located on the AAA map, but you can find it around the city of Kosh, between Belernos and Roskoth, in north-western Esrolia. You can find it more easily in this archive map below that Jeff generously shared:

© 2022 Chaosium Inc.

The people of Longsi Land sided with Esrolia in the 12th century when Esrolia and Hendrikiland were at war. I didn’t look too much into this but basically they were granted the city of Kosh for their support.

Aram ya-Udram is an interesting figure, though. He was already a hero at the Dawn, having “captured a great Darkness spirit”, and was part of the Unity Council. His people, the Aramites, angered the Earth goddesses somehow and Gouger the giant boar was sent after them. Aram ya-Udram tricked it, killed it, and built the Ivory Plinth there with one of its giant tusks. But the Aramites didn’t really fare well anyway… it’s unclear what happened to them, but the fact is that the Tusk Riders call the Ivory Plinth home, and worship a trio of deities that include Aram ya-Udram, a Darkness spirit, and the god-pig Gouger. It can’t be a coincidence…

Further west are the Ditali, who have caused so much trouble for Esrolia in the decade. At the Dawn, the Vathmai came from this area. Although most of the population are Orlanthi clans, the Ditali confederation was traditionally an alliance held together by Trader Princes. However, in the last decade they have cooperated with the Solanthi in raids and invasions of the former Holy Country.

Still further west are the Solanthi. Although once allied to the Trader Princes, for the past generation this confederation has been held together by the household of Greymane, an Orlanthi warlord. The Solanthi and Ditali raided Esrolia for the last decade, then allied with the Esrolians against the Lunar Empire, only to betray the Esrolians at the Battle of Pennel Ford. The confederation is now in disarray after that battle.

Still further west is the Nimistor confederation. These Orlanthi are allied with the Trader Princes, although those alliances have been fraying in the last generation as the Trader Princes have lost much wealth with the Opening.

The Trader Princes traditionally had alliances with otherwise autonomous Orlanthi clans and tribes – that’s the various confederations, each centered on a river network for trade. They are “Princes” in that they are not kings or tribal leaders, but First among equals.

That system has been falling apart since the Opening. The Ditali Trader Princes have had to take a more active military role to survive, the Solanthi Trader Princes now must defer to the house of Greymane and his heirs.

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.

French Dundealos Territory Map

The maps from the French edition of RuneQuest Glorantha (see my article here) have been posted on Thomay Rey’s portfolio so it must be OK to share here! Check out these maps of the Ernaldori clan, and of the Dundealos tribe territory (you can click on them for the higher resolution version):

Art by Thomas Rey © 2022 Studio Deadcrows & Chaosium Inc.
Art by Thomas Rey © 2022 Studio Deadcrows & Chaosium Inc.

There are also two new maps showing the former clans of the Dundealos, and the clans of the Enstalos who replaced them when the Lunar seized the lands:

Art by Thomas Rey © 2022 Studio Deadcrows & Chaosium Inc.
Art by Thomas Rey © 2022 Studio Deadcrows & Chaosium Inc.

Thanks to 7Tigers who spotted this!

Collection of Glorantha Shields

Here is a very pretty collection of shields by Katrin Dirim:

Art by Katrin Dirim

From left to right they are Sartarite, Esrolian, Grazelander, Old Tarshite, and Lunar Tarshite

I love Katrin’s attention to detail.

Esrolian Trireme

And now, an “Esrolian trireme with figurehead and boarding gangways” by Martin Helsdon!

Art by Martin Helsdon

Dario’s Trolls

Dario Corallo also posted some trolls lately! Pikat Yaraboom (a powerful shaman Hell Lord of Dragon Pass) and a Kargg’s Son (I think Dario meant “Karrg”? One of the Seven Sacred Ancestors of the trolls?). Thanks to Mirza on Discord for reminding me that “Kargg’s Son” is the title for Rune Lords of Kyger Litor.

Troll Sage?

Art by Juan Ochoa

Juan Ochoa has this fun doodle of what looks like a troll sage, possibly dual-initiated with Argan Argar. There’s even a timelapse here.

Exploring Glorantha Episode 17: Ducks!!!

JM and Evans talk about ducks! Do you need to hear anything else to check this video out?

Runeblogger Reviews the Equipment Guide

© 2022 Chaosium Inc.

Runeblogger has posted a review of the RuneQuest Weapons & Equipement Guide.

All in all, this book is a must for any RuneQuest player or GM. On the one hand, it is “just” an expanded equipment list, but on the other is much more than that, as it also provides some extra rules that may be helpful, like the ones for managing your hides of land. I particularly like the dwellings and exotic items sections, but there are useful bits and pieces throughout the book, like the full helmet penalties, the price for enchantments, the types of arrows, land events, etc, all accompanied by wonderful art. On top of that, it also helps portray the Bronze Age feel of Glorantha through the depicted technology and the descriptions included.

Harrek Miniature

Mat Unsworth shared this painted miniature of Harrek! This is a 28mm mini from Lance & Laser.

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.

Preclassic Maya Caches in Residential Contexts

It looks like the Mayans routinely buried things under buildings in construction or renovation, as part of private rituals and traditions. The picture above is a 2000-year-old example from the Maya city of Ceibal in Guatemala, found in front of a domestic shrine.

It’s possible people in Glorantha do the same, with sacrifices to household deities and spirits, or charms for good fortune and health… but maybe also sometimes there’s something in there that doesn’t belong, placed by an enemy who wants to bring harm to your household, or placed by some Chaos worshipper in your building. What kind of adventure is going to start with a discovery like that?

More about the Maya tradition here.

Ladies in Blue and Minoan Procession

We were talking earlier about the Minoans, so take a look at this fresco is from the Palace of Knossos (in Crete), dated around 1500 BCE. Actually the picture is of a recreation of this fresco, done by Emile Gillieron in the early 20th century. As previously mentioned, Minoan hairstyles and dresses can be used for most Esrolian ladies, especially the Earth-cultists.

More here.

Another thing from the Palace of Knossos is this religious procession:

Photo by ArchaiOptix, Creative Commons

Take a peek at the instruments being played, the gifts being brought, and the religious artifacts being carried… now have your players go find one of them that’s missing, or bring one on behalf of their leader, or something!

Sarcophaguses of the Ayaa Necropolis

Located in Sidon, in modern day Lebanon, the Ayaa necropolis was discovered in the late 19th century. This read like a Call of Cthulhu scenario, with local workers stumbling upon the hypogea (my new English word of the day, which is a fancy way of saying “underground temple”). There’s even a bunch of awesome handouts for your players:

A few elaborate sarcophaguses were found in there, all built roughly between 500 BCE and 300 BCE. This would give you a good idea what a very very fancy coffin would look like for your Gloranthan rulers… first is the Tabnit sarcophagus, which looks cool as fuck, and not just because the bottom inscription (in Phoenician script) is a curse for those who would open it.

Creative Commons photo

It looks like someone didn’t believe the curse because the sarcophagus was indeed opened, and the perfectly preserved body of the Phoenician King of Sidon, Tabnit I, was found in there in the original embalming fluid.

Creative Commons photo

The story doesn’t say if it then rose, enslaved various NPCs, and tried to take over the world until Brandon Fraser & friends finally stopped him… but I’m pretty sure that’s how it happened.

The next sarcophagus is called the Lycian Sarcophagus, for its shape and general style which seem to come from the Lycia region of Ancient Anatolia.

Creative Commons photo

We were talking about royal hunting in a recent Journal issue, so note the bas-relief depicting what looks like a boar hunt. Other sides show a lion hunt and some fighting against centaurs and sphynxes. Obviously this king went to Beast Valley and got famous for it. I’ve got no idea if the sarcophagus had any remains inside, though.

Finally, there’s the Alexander Sarcophagus. Don’t get excited, Alexander wasn’t in there. But he was prominently featured on the bas reliefs, which leads to believe it might have been commissioned for him.

Creative Commons photo

The scenes all around the sarcophagus feature many of Alexander’s military accomplishments… that’s why you track your characters’ Reputation gains: it’s so you can tell the sculptors and painters what to do!

Creative Commons photo

Here’s a colour reconstruction of one of the sides, based on traces of paint on the original. This is a good reminder to tell your players to fight naked once in a while.. err, wait, no I mean to remind your players to have their characters fight naked once in a while. Although, I guess, it could be both, frankly. That’s what X-Cards are for.

Griffin-Headed Demon

One last pretty picture: a “griffin-headed demon” figure made of ivory, dated 8th or 7th century BCE in Eastern Anatolia. It’s currently in the British Museum like, you know, most things that are totally not from Britain.

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 posts from Jeff this week while I was busy with work… hence the slightly late Journal issue with less in-depth annotation. Oh well!

God Learner Sorcery

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

Initiation Series Episode 6

Episode 6 of the Glorantha Initiation Series is out! Wayne played RuneQuest once in the 80s and hated it. More than 30 years later he returns to Glorantha and talks about riding Praxian mounts, making miniatures, YGMV, ducks, silly location names, and more!

ChaosiumCon 2022 Report

I was at ChaosiumCon 2022 and wrote about it! Some pictures, some anecdotes, and a lot of praise for a great convention that I hope will become a regular thing!

Chaosium News

Here are this week’s Chaosium news!

Read These to Improve Your RuneQuest Games

Jeff shared the books that are useful to better grasp Glorantha. You’ll hear the usual suspects: Jung, Campbell, Eliade, Wolfe, old myths like Innana’s Descent into the Underworld, and so on. Plus, a lot of context around Alexander the Great.

When Players Know More Than You

James interviews Jason Durall about how to teach a setting to players who don’t know anything about it… and how to deal with players who turn out to know a lot more than the gamemaster.

I ran a short Star Wars campaign for a group that involved a giant mega fan, and it was actually quite liberating because I could just rely on him to tell us how this or that works. Most of the time it added to the story, rather than derail it.

Updates on RuneQuest Fantasy Grounds

Development continues on the RuneQuest support in Fantasy Grounds, according to the main coder. The general theme seems finished, and the character sheets have the Starter Set treatment:

The Bestiary material is also getting there:

I haven’t seen any updates for Roll20 or The Forge, which are supposed to also be coming.

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!

Settlement Map 15

© 2022 Mikael Mansen & Chaosium Inc.

The Jonstown Compendium has been pretty quiet lately, so the only release is a new settlement map from Mikael Mansen.

Sneak Peek at Legion Games’ Next Item

© 2022 Legion Games & Chaosium Inc.

This is supposedly coming “later this month”, from Neil Gibson and friends, who previously did things like LEGION. And in the meantime, Rubble Redux: Insula of the Waning Moon is discounted to $7.

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.

Heroquesting Lexicon

I was lucky enough to get a taste of the upcoming heroquesting rules at ChaosiumCon, so I know a tiny little bit to annotate this glossary!

Note that the following terms are those used in the heroquesting rules. They’re possibly the terms used by the God Learners too, but the majority of people in Glorantha wouldn’t be very strict about how they talk about visiting the God Plane, and most likely wouldn’t use those terms.

CHALLENGE
The Challenge is a formal contest in which participants pit their very selves, or parts of themselves, in a magical battle against a similarly anted foe. Challenges are deliberate and can only be accidentally triggered by a heroquester’s chosen opponents, in which case they will have some warning beforehand. Many cults and religions have specific challenges that their worshippers can undertake with a good chance of success if the preparations and teachings are followed.

We did go through a couple formal challenges in the game. It’s dangerous because failing a challenge makes your character lose bits of themselves (I think you lose points in characteristics, Runes, and/or Passions). But if you succeed a challenge you get a boon, which is sometimes a spell or ability found in one of the rulebooks, and other times is a rules-breaking power that’s unique and awesome.

GOD TIME
In the God Time, there was no division between the worlds of men and gods, between Life and Death, or body and spirit. The events and deeds of the God Time made the cosmos and established its patterns.

The Gods War introduced the power of Death, which separated all with violence, death, and entropy. Reality was fractured. The eternal gods would have ceased to exist but for the Cosmic Compromise, whereby the gods voluntarily abdicated their free will within the temporal world rather than lose all into the maws of nonexistence. The gods remained eternal at the cost of being limited to their God Time patterns.

We met some deities and mythical figures during our heroquest, such as the Rainbow Goddess, various Moon Goddesses, Humakt, and so on. In most cases they were indeed just stuck doing what you expect them to be doing given their backstory. There were also many unnamed or unidentified entities. We didn’t know who or what they were and frankly we didn’t really wanted to get too close and find out.

Characters can acquire heroquesting “techniques”, which let them affect the mythical landscape and denizens of the God Time. Some techniques which I really like (but didn’t get to use) involve being able to point at one of those unnamed or unidentified entities and, well, name or identify them. Do you need a flying horse or a giant boring insect to get from location A to location B? Sure! Roll under your Mastery Rune (it starts at around 20%), use some augment and spend some Hero Point(s) to increase your chances, and lo and behold there’s a flying horse or giant boring insect. You might have to convince them to help you out, and you might have to further roll to see if you don’t fall off the horse or get crushed by the insect, but hey, such is the dangerous life of a heroquester.

GODS WORLD
The realm of eternity. Every god and goddess who performed great immortal deeds is found here. Within this world of extremes lie the heavens and hells of the cults, where initiates and devotees go after death. Here, too, lie the great pools of creative material from which were made the primal oceans, ancient mountains, and first skies of the mundane world.

Often synonymous with the God Time.

I don’t really grasp the difference. Maybe the God Time is the reality of pre-Time cosmos, while the Gods World is the place? So the Gods World exists within the God Time?

HERO
A hero is any mortal that exists simultaneously in both the Mundane and the eternal Gods World.

I think that means someone with a Hero Soul, i.e. someone who heroquested enough that other people can worship them and their accomplishments in the God Time. This was mechanically vaguely described at the end of The Smoking Ruin, but there’s a good chance this mechanic will have been tweaked and changed by the time the full heroquesting rules are published.

HERO PLANE
This plane exists simultaneously in the temporal Mundane World and the eternal Gods World (and sometimes the Underworld). There live legendary beings, including worshiped heroes or traditional enemies. Incarnations of the gods manifest easily here and interact with beings and things. Mundane beings can interact with the Gods World while on the Hero Plane, enabling them to experience the God Time and bring its power to the Mundane World.

In my head canon the Hero Plane is what you call the intersection between the Mundane World and the God Time. It’s what people experience when they participate in a heroquest ceremony without being the “main” heroquesters. In that case these “extras” (dancers and singers and such) witness and interact with gods and weird entities manifesting during the ritual, while the important people depart for the God Time proper. So I picture the Hero Plane as the sort of bubble of weirdness that forms around the “portal” that heroquesters open.

But from what Jeff writes it sounds like it’s more than that? Maybe it’s a mythical plane for famous people who haven’t ascended to godhood and therefore don’t exist in the God Time? So for instance Argrath does some heroquesting to bring the White Bull back and such, and you would only experience that in the Hero Plane, not the God Time? I don’t know if the difference will be mostly academic, or if it will have some mechanical aspect. Greg’s notes in Arcane Lore described a cost difference between going to the Spirit World (Discorporate spell, costing one Rune Point), the Hero Plane (two Rune Points) and the God Time (three Rune Points). Maybe the Hero Plane is also safer because you interact with proxies and avatars and incarnations of deities, instead of the deities themselves when in the God Time? Oh well… so many questions.

HERO SOUL
The Hero Soul is that part of a mortal being that has immortality in the God Time. The Hero Soul must be awakened through heroquesting. Once awakened, the hero exists in two worlds, the Mundane World and the God World. The Hero Soul can lend its power to its mortal self, but requires worship to replenish itself.

See, this is confusing — how is the Hero Soul not in the Hero Plane? Anyway, I believe that’s the mechanic teased in The Smoking Ruin. As far as I know, it’s basically a dedicated pool of Rune Points that power the boons you obtained while heroquesting, only you don’t replenish those points by worshipping gods, you replenish those points by having other people worship you. I hope that mechanic stays because I really like it!

MAGIC ROAD
Glorantha is crossed by many magic “roads” that enable a quester to quickly travel to specific holy places along paths that skip in and out of the mundane planes, covering the distance in far less time than travel wholly on the mundane plane. Deities and spirits, or their avatars, are presented here, summoned by the magic of traveling on the road; ritual enemies are often summoned by the same magic.

When we played our game with Jeff, we were sometimes travelling along “paths” found on the God Time map we had (see below). Once we might have taken a shortcut, I’m not quite sure.

© 2022 Chaosium Inc.

We crossed over from the destroyed Orlanth temple at Whitewall and ended where the “Storm Lord” is on the map. Then we went on the “Bridge” and encountered the Rainbow Goddess. We asked her to build us a rainbow bridge to the White Moon. I don’t know if that was technically the “Cloud Lady”, or if we got off the map there. I don’t even know if those connections on the map are the same as “magical roads”, anyway. Sooo… well, I guess that wasn’t very helpful.

MUNDANE WORLD
This is the world of mortal beings, bound by Time. This is the physical world, of Life and Death. This is the world of your RuneQuest adventurers.

SPIRIT WORLD
This world is made up of non-physical (discorporate) entities and things. It has a correlation with the Middle World in that many spirits maintain their relative spatial positions in the Middle World and the Spirit World. It is a place of sublime beauty and life, but also where lost spirits wander, where broken dreams coalesce, and where nightmares feast.

The Spirit World can be visualized as a place without gravity or an exterior light source, but which is instead filled with various shapes of color. Real perception is limited, and depends on both the power of the viewer and the viewed.

The Spirit World is made of many smaller parts that are distinct but connected to other locations through spiritual pathways.

UNDERWORLD
The Underworld is the irrational ancestress of known Glorantha. It precedes all that can be known, and thus cannot be truly known. It houses mystery, spawns mystery and is a mystery itself. Many Gloranthans think that all the worlds of Glorantha spawned from the Underworld.

Hidden deep underneath the center of the bottom of the lowest Underworld is the Chaosium, the Fount of Chaos, which spews forth both monstrosities and raw unformed “stuff” into the world. What no sane Gloranthan really understands is that, without this Chaos entering the world, everything would be locked into Stasis.

Note how the Mundane World is also called the Middle World, probably because it’s located between the Underworld and the Sky World or something. Or maybe Greg was reading too much Norse Mythology. I also love how the Chaosium is a place in Glorantha.

Prax and the Wastes

Hold on to your riding beasts, we have a long series on Prax and its tribes.

Beyond Vulture’s Country is the vast lands of Genert’s Wastes. Although Vulture’s Country is an arid badlands, there are grasslands and scrublands in the Wastes. Although the Lunars were convinced that those tribes that crossed into Vulture’s Country were passing to their death, the reality is that probably two-thirds of all Praxians are in the Wastelands. But the Wastes are a harsh land – the Waha priests claim that the Praxians are tested and purified in the Wastes. Only thus are they worthy of Prax.

Almost nobody in Glorantha has a map of Genertela, so all they know about what lies beyond Vulture Country comes from rumours, hearsay, and whatever the Praxian nomads care to reveal. And when you mix in stories of the Raging Storm and such, it’s no wonder that most people think a slow death awaits anybody going there.

Jeff also shared this great map that features some of the grasslands mentioned above.

© 2022 Chaosium Inc.

See also David Scott’s map of the Wastes’ grazing lands:

Vector art by David Scott © 2022 Chaosium Inc.

When Argrath was taken as a slave of the Bison Riders, he ended up in the areas between the Vast Teeth Hills, the Kjarlki Bog and the Raging Storm. He saw such things as the Copper Sands and the Plateau of Statues. He learned to see spirits and gods in the vast Wastes. Argrath learned to survive in the Wastes – how to find water and food, how to survive the Copper Sands and the Raging Storm. When he gained his freedom and was accepted by the Bison Tribe, he could ride and survive like a native Praxian.

Jeff expands a bit on that in a comment:

Some speculate that Argrath’s time in the Wastes served as an extended initiation and – especially when combined with his circumnavigation of the world – was key for his ability to manifest Orlanth’s power.

Back to the main note:

In the wake of the First Battle of Moonbroth, the Bison Tribe and Impala Tribe migrated en masse into the Wastelands, as did many High Llama Riders. These exiles began to return after 1621, after a decade in the Wastes.

Sor-eel, always one of the cleverest of Lunar commanders, estimated that there were no more than 100,000 Praxians in total. His successor Halcyon believed the number much lower, closer to 60,000. Imagine their shock if they ever learned there is closer to 400,000 Praxians!

It’s unclear to me what is the deal between Prax and the Wastes for the Praxian nomads. If they “migrated en masse” into the Wastelands, it means they were previously not there, or had a much smaller presence there. My understanding is that various clans were rotating between several grazing spots from Prax to the Wastes from season to season and year to year… but after the Battle Moonbroth, they all went past the Zola Fel and Vulture Country and just rotated within the Wastes for years. I’m having trouble finding much information on that though.

Notable People of the High Llama Tribe

Jeff says we should read carefully… let’s see if I can spot something.

Art by EnSo © 2022 Chaosium Inc.

Yazurkial Blue Llama, Tribal Khan

Born 1595, Yazurkial is the high priest of Waha for the High Llama Tribe, and undisputed leader of the Blue Llama clan. He has been a close ally of Argrath’s since they were initiated together in the Dragonteeth Hills in 1615. Yazurkial is at once open-minded and gregarious, and bloodthirsty and cruel. He is Argrath’s right hand among the nomad tribes and sometimes called the Fetch of the White Bull. Yazurkial hates the Lunar Empire and has earned great renown for his defiance of the Empire. By 1625, he is already worshiped as a hero by the nomads. Yazurkial plays a role in all of Argrath’s campaigns and even though he often returns to the plains of Prax, he always returns to Argrath’s side.

Handsome and vain, Yazurkial trims and dyes his beard carefully with henna. He is very tall, strong, and very energetic in motion and speech.

Yazurkial is listed as one of the Six Allies that Argrath gathered to help him “fix the world”.

The initiation mention is intriguing. Argrath is just one year older than Yazurkial, so an initiation in 1615 would have been when they were 19 and 20 years old. It’s not a cult initiation, since I don’t think Argrath and Yazurkial share the same cult. It’s a bit late for their adulthood initiation (I think those typically happen between 13 and 16 years old), but maybe that was delayed due to them being slaves:

They were “initiated together” in the Dragonteeth Hills, while both were the slaves or captives of Narmeed Whirlvishbane.

My guess is that’s when Argrarth and Yazurkial learned some secrets from the White Bull or from dragons. After all, the Glorantha Sourcebook says that “while a slave of the Bison Tribe, [Argrath] freed the White Bull spirit and received gifts from the dragons“. We know this happens some time between 1610 and 1621, so it fits.

More intriguing is Yazurkial’s title of “Fetch of the White Bull”. Isn’t the White Bull already Argrath’s fetch? Or is “White Bull” in this case denoting Argrath himself, which… well, doesn’t help. Yazurkial is sometimes described as having “strange ideas about magic” so maybe he’s up to spirit shenanigans. His tribe supposedly rides animals that “nobody can name”. This guy’s weird and mysterious.

Vishine, Tribal Herd Mother

Born 1596 to the Blackwind Clan, Vishine is the high priestess of Eiritha for the High Llama Tribe. She is level-headed and intelligent. Vishine says that one husband is enough for her, as Yazurkial offers as much excitement as any four ordinary men, although she is not above using her considerably charm to manipulate other leaders. She shares Vazuarkial’s belief in his eventual greatness, gently nudging him from his wilder ideas. Unlike her husband she sees the defeat of the Lunars as an important end in itself.

Vishine sees Yazurkial and Argrath, with their combination of charisma and restlessness, as kindred spirits—and she is determined to steer both men towards the benefit of the High Llama tribe.

Full-figured, her face framed by luxuriant hair that appears to move with a will of its own, Vishine approaches any interaction with a knowing smile.

I think that this “Vazuarkial” is a typo for Yazurkial. Or it references someone we never heard of.

It’s interesting that while Yazurkial just hates the Lunar Empire, Vishine doesn’t see their defeat “as an important end in itself”. It’s not clear what her agenda is but I get the feeling she just wants the High Llama Tribe to become influential again in Prax. That might not involve chasing the Lunars away much farther than to the Far Place. So while her husband follows in Argrath’s war path, she might stay in Prax to take care of the power vacuum.

Orgwaha Eight-Horn, Storm Khan

This leader of the Storm Bull cult has close connections with the Kingdom of Sartar. He initially did not believe the Lunars were Chaotic but later grew to hate them with a passion. He was an early follower of Argrath’s White Bull society and by 1624 was a fanatically devoted follower of Argrath. He fought for Argrath at the Battle of Pennel Ford and summoned spirits who helped break open the Pavis Gate.

Orgwaha is impulsive, broad-faced and broad-shouldered. His face and body is heavily scarred from acid, claws, tentacles, and other chaotic appendages.

I like that he “initially did not believe the Lunars were Chaotic”. It’s important to remember that everything the gamemaster and players know about Glorantha is far from what people living there know. Whatever Praxians know about the Lunars is from the little they’ve seen during the occupation, and from all the stories and rumours they’ve heard from secondary sources, most of which might be false or baseless.

The reason he “grew to hate them with a passion” might be found in King of Sartar. At some point in the 1620s, the Sartarite Storm Bull worshippers were doing their holy day celebration despite disdain from the Lunar occupiers. Prince Temertain thought the rituals would prove fruitless after the loss of some of the cult’s rune lords in the wake of Starbrow’s Rebellion. But Orgwaha showed up that day, led by some visions or something, and officiated. Estal Donge, a Lunar spy and concubine of Temertain, had prepared some Lunar magic to disrupt those celebrations. So what was supposed to be a “simple” ritual slaying of a Chaos creature turned into an demonic outbreak. Fazzur and his soldiers slayed all these monsters at great cost, and Temertain almost got killed but was saved by Estal. Orgwaha supposedly fled back to Prax in shame and “killed himself”. I don’t imagine he actually killed himself if he’s still around in 1625, so maybe it’s metaphorical. Or it’s the author of Composite History of Dragon Pass taking the piss at Orgwaha. We know how unreliable that source is… in fact, other sources say that Orgwaha might have been behind the demonic outbreak, and that he was pretty happy when he saw the Lunars get slaughtered. So maybe he was behind it, or somehow turned Estal’s scheme against her.

Depending on what you think happened, that incident might be where Orgwaha got some of those scars mentioned at the end of his write-up. And speaking of scars, when I started reading about RuneQuest and Glorantha, I was initially confused about the existence of people with missing limbs and scars, given how healing magic is available everywhere. I only realized a bit later that:

  1. Each type of healing magic has a different “vibe”. So while Ernaldan and Chalana Arroyan healing magic may be “perfect”, the healing magic of Storm Bull or Babeester Gor might be far from it, leaving scars and weird-looking magical patterns on the skin.
  2. With the RuneQuest rules, you only have 10 minutes to re-attach a limb with magic. After that, you need to pay for Regrow Limb, and there’s probably a long waiting list for that. Some warriors might not even want to do that, and instead proudly display their wounds as proof of their valour.
  3. Given the 10 minute rule for limbs, one might also rule that, say, an acid burn that doesn’t get healed within that time-frame will stay forever, even if the Hit Points are recovered magically later.

Kharzdazial Blackwind, Wind Lord

A kinsman of Vishine, Kharzdazial was born in 1590. He joined the Orlanth Adventurous cult and became the leader of the Orlanth cult among the High Llamas. He pledged his loyalty to Argrath White Bull before 1621 and became part of the hidden temple of Orlanth Victorious. He is now the leader of the Orlanth cult of the High Llama Tribe and is a companion of Argrath Whitebull. His son and sister are also priests of Orlanth.

Straight up Orlanthi good boy. I like that. And I like clandestine temples.

Zamalanth, Sword of Humakt

Born 1591, Zamalanth is the half-brother of Yazurkial Blue Llama. Zamalanth dedicated himself to Humakt at the age of 16 at Tourney Altar. He is a ferocious and dedicated warrior, feared for his sword-stick that has been blessed by the God of War. He is the leader of the Swordbrothers, a feared cavalry unit that swears personal loyalty to Argrath above all things, even above clan, tribe, and death itself.

Lots of important people being super loyal to Argrath, eh? Including some of the pre-gens in RuneQuest… anyway, note to self: don’t forget to give cool names to units and bands of NPCs. The Swordbrothers, the Silver Shields, the Marble Phalanx, and so on… there’s a lot of them, and they add a lot of flavour.

Lower Farangli, Waha Khan

This warrior from the Blue Llama clan is a famed warrior. He is married to Thikidisti the Priestess.

Thikidisti the Limper, Herd Priestess

Born in 1590, Thikidisti is the assistant of Vishine. At the First Battle of Moonbroth she took an injury that could not properly heal and so she is known as Thikidisti Limper.

Orgdaka Blue Llama, Shaman

Born 1570, Orgdaka quests the Spirit World to return the Lucky Star to the heavens. He has made many pacts with powerful spirits. Rainbow Girl, the great messenger between gods and men, is a particular ally, and Lightning Boy owes Orgdaka three favors. Raven holds an old grudge against Orgdaka and pursues him from time to time. Orgdaka’s most valuable treasure is a small pouch filled with Copper Sand from the Wastes. Blown upon a foe, the sand is poisonous to all, and extremely lethal to those tainted with Chaos. Orgdaka carries several leather bags, each with a whirlvish bound to it. He uses the whirlvishes to blow Copper Sands at Chaotic foes.

Orgdaka is covered from head to toe with blue tattoos, each representing a spirit or event or place in the spirit world. Some are geometrical designs and patterns; others are beasts, birds, reptiles, and even fish.

This pouch of Copper Sand is cool (I love a good rare or unique magical item). The Copper Sands are located in The Wastes, past Vulture Country east of Prax. Nothing lives there, not even Chaos creatures. In fact, the Copper Sands were created by Genert as a last resort sort of thing to hold back the Devil’s forces, so it’s definitely anti-Chaos.

Vian Hornsaddle, Storm Khan

Vian is a leader of the Hooked Lance Clan, and takes his role as a Chaos fighter very seriously. He considers all Lunars to be Chaotic, regardless of what his senses tell him. Vian is supernaturally strong (a result of the magical crystal of gods blood he wears around his neck). He carries the clan’s magical Hooked Lance, whose bronze spearhead has a hook that can be used to disarm foes and disable enemy mounts.

I hope he’s got that crystal well secured to a solid metal chain. I know a few players who might get the wrong idea otherwise…

Important People of the Bison Tribe

And now, same thing but with the Bison Tribe.

Art by EnSo © 2022 Chaosium Inc.

Akasta Ironspear, Tribal Khan

Born 1582, Akasta became a Waha Khan by 1605, and became one the paramount leaders of the Bison Tribe during the 1610 Lunar Invasion. Passionately anti-Lunar, Akasta was outlawed by the Governor of Prax in 1616 for his numerous attacks on Lunar caravans in Prax. He is said to have killed at least a dozen Seven Mothers Rune Lords in single combat. Akasta is known for his hospitality and generosity which keeps him always poor, despite the profits of a hundred raids. Akasta has had more than two-dozen wives from as many different Bison Clans, although he rarely has more than a dozen wives at a time.

Narmeed Whirlvishbane, Tribal Khan

Born 1587, Narmeed became a Waha Khan by 1609. In 1611, he took the Sartarite exile Argrath as his slave (as well as the young Yazurkial Blue Llama), and was one of the first to pledge loyalty beyond death to Argrath Whitebull in 1616, and has fought alongside Argrath on many adventures. He shows greater tolerance of outsiders and other cultures than other Bison khans, and is a dangerous combination of fanatic loyalty to the White Bull with a patient, pragmatic self-restraint. Narmeed serves as one of the two leaders of the Bullocks cavalry, and fought for Argrath at Pennel Ford, Second Moonbroth, Pavis, and Hender’s Ruins. He has four wives, “one for each direction.”

Narmeed is tall and gaunt, able to intimidate with silence.

Remember my theory earlier about that mysterious initiation that Argrath and Yazurkial underwent in 1615? I’m getting more convinced now that it was White Bull related: how else would Argrath go from being Narmeed’s slave to being his boss the next year?

Varaneera Cow-eye, Herd Mother

The senior wife of Narmeed Whirlvishbane, Varaneera was married in a ceremony with great gifts provided by an Issaries priest, despite both partners being lesser chieftains at the time. She maintains contacts far and wide and, like her husband, shows great tolerance for outsiders. Noted for her beauty, she wears a fortune in silver and gold, gifts from those who seek her husband’s friendship.

Varaneera appeared under the slightly different name “Varaneena” in older published sources. And yes, funny story: hers was the wedding where Biturian Varosh (from “Cults of Prax”) showed up. Of course, the “great gifts” he gave were not his idea: he was scammed into it by his slave Norayeep. More of this in our old Travels of Biturian Varosh episode.

Takish Last-Strike, Waha Khan

Born 1595, Takish is the kinsman, protegee and companion of Narmeed Whirlvishbane. He is doggedly loyal to his mentor. Narmeed is positioning Takish to eventually succeed Akasta as a Tribal Khan.

Talkil One-eye, Waha Khan

Talkil is the leader of the Black Shield Clan. A fierce warrior, he lost his eye to a Sable Rider arrow at the disastrous battle of Moonbroth. Talkil will do anything he can to harm Sable Riders. His prize possession is his ancient bronze sword “Firebrand” that causes fear and terror in Talkil’s enemies.

Yay, another cool magical item. Also, make note of all the clan names being casually thrown around so far. Coming up with names is the worst, so I’ll take any pre-existing names where I can find them!

Important People of the Sable Tribe

You know the drill now.

Art by EnSo © 2022 Chaosium Inc.

Reminder: you can quite reliably tell which NPCs were previously known from those that are new based on the length of their write-ups. Chaosium tends to keep expanding stuff from edition to edition, so those characters that had only a few lines in the 1980s are now one or two big paragraphs. Case in point:

Roneer the Hue, Tribal Khan

Born 1591, Roneer the Hue opposed the pro-Lunar Tribal Khan Inire the Red. He allied with the Paps priestesses to covertly resist Lunar influence after the First Battle of Moonbroth and he was given the ceremonial title of Paps Khan and married the Herd Mother Lareel. Seeking allies in the Wastes, he joined the White Bull Society and pledged loyalty to Argrath Whitebull. When Jaldon Goldentooth was summoned in 1624, Roneer killed with his own hand two Sable Khans who refused to pledge themselves to Argrath. At the Second Battle of Moonbroth, he personally killed Inire the Red and chased down his followers. Following the liberation of Pavis, Roneer seeks artefacts and spirits of power to aid his people in the coming wars in Dragon Pass.

Roneel declines the quasi-civilized finery of past Sable leaders, associating it with Lunar decadence. He wears trousers of coarse fabric, a plain tunic, and no cape. His once-jet hair has faded to a dull gray.

Inire the Red was the Sable Rider leader who made his tribe side with the Lunar Empire at the Battle of Moonbroth. He was obviously not popular with the other tribes after that, but I guess even inside the Sable Tribe not everybody was pro-Lunar. #NotAllSableRiders

Queen Lareel, Sable Queen

Born 1595, Lareel was a young Herd Priestess at the Paps when she saw greatness in the Sable Khan Roneer. Fiercely anti-Imperial, Lareel agreed to take Roneer as her husband but extracted an oath that he cannot enter her tent until the Sable Nation are no longer slaves of the Red Emperor. Despite this, she is initiated into the Red Mask Dancers and the Twin Stars. She dwells in the Prax and has quested deep into the secrets of the Earth Goddesses. She was proclaimed Sable Queen after the Second Battle of Moonbroth in 1624. Now she seeks to undermine Egajia Chewer of Flesh and be acclaimed High Priestess of the Paps.

Lareel has two secondary husbands, both khans, but both subordinate to Roneer. With her straight, broad shoulders, handsome features, and luxuriant eyebrows, Lareel cuts a striking and palpably intimidating figure.

I’ve got no idea what the Red Mask Dancers are, but I assume it’s some sort of minor Lunar cult, possibly related to Hon-eel. The Twin Stars are a couple of celestial deities who are synchronized to the cycle of the Red Moon phases. I get the feeling that Lareel is getting this deep understanding of Lunar mythology while being fiercely anti-Lunar Empire. This shows how the two aren’t irrevocably linked, which is important for someone of the Sable Tribe because the Sable Antelope has some deep connection with the moons of before Time.

Egajia Chewer of Flesh is the current High Priestess of the Paps, and is a Morokanth.

Queen Delenda, Rock Speaker Queen

The impressive, dignified Queen Delenda expertly maneuvered, as she so often does, when the pendulum of power swung from the Lunars to White Bull. Having switched sides with precision timing, she now entertains offers of alliance from Argrath’s favorite Sable, Roneer. Delenda has three husbands, the Rock Speakers Khan Boronwaha, the Wasp Stinger Kalanjho, and Rokzeel. All of Delenda’s relationships are about formal alliances and the good of the Rock Speakers than emotional attachment.

Ijiran, Red Sable Khan

The son of the slain Sable Khan Inire, Ijiran leads a band of Red Sables. One day he hopes to avenge his father’s death, killing Roneer in honorable combat and rejoining the tribe. He bides his time, waiting for the White Bull Army to burn out, and with it the political sway of Roneer and his wife Lareel. That leaves survival as the immediate goal. Ijiran cares more about redeeming his family honor than loyalty to the Lunars. Others of his band remain fervent Seven Mothers converts. They take special pleasure in disrupting Argrath’s supply chain.

Those last two NPCs are great for some faction play in a Praxian campaign!

Notable People of the Impala Tribe

And finally, the biggest tribe all, the Impala Tribe. We even get a few paragraphs of general description on the tribe:

The impalas ridden and herded by the Impala Tribe are larger than their wild brethren, but are still far smaller than any of the other riding animals of Prax. Their Riders, therefore, are small to match their steeds. Any child born to the Tribe who grows too large is banished.

Character concept alert! An Impala Rider who grew too big and is now riding something else! Actally, Jeff mentioned in passing that Greg himself had a Pol-Joni with this backstory.

Impalas graze in huge herds. Each of the males claim a patch of ground which they guard for use by their females and young. Bachelors are left to fend for themselves and tend to group together in skittish groups which surround the main herd and graze in unclaimed, poorer ground. The riders perform likewise, for they do not form a single huge camp like the bison riders. Instead the Impala people have many smaller camps surrounding their herds. Bachelors are not rejected by the tribe, but formed into warrior bands which earn their keep by herding and hunting and look forward to the day when they will be allowed to choose a wife.

Still the Impala Tribe are ready to band together for war. Their preferred weapon is the recurved bow, and they are master skirmishers. They have turn their small size and inability to carry armor (because of the comparatively small strength of their beasts) into an asset, for it forces them to concentrate on missile attacks. They are generally considered to be useless in a melee.

Despite their small size and lack of hand-to-hand prowess, the daring Impala Riders are some of the bravest individual warriors on the Plains. They devised the system of counting honors against a living foe by striking him and getting away unscathed. This practice is followed by young warriors of the other tribes, but the Impala people have practiced the methods until they are unparalleled.

This system of proving bravery has also gotten into their tribal politics, so that a great leader is one who can “touch” an opponent and humiliate them without taking a “wound” themself. This often makes clan squabbles entertaining for bystanders – and frustrating for slow-witten participants.

Their concentration on hunting prowess and missile weapons has made the Impala people one of the largest groups of worshipers of Yelmalio, which rivals the traditional Waha cult. Orlanth Adventurous is also popular among the warriors, and many bachelor societies are led by a Wind Lord instead of a khan.

Like Bison Riders, the Impala were leaders of the defence of Prax against the Lunar Empire. Though their sure-footed beasts did not fall victim to caltrops, their arrows did little against the Lunar heavy infantry, and when the Lunar cavalry charged, the Impalas could not hold their ground. They were forced to flee and scattered when their heavy support was doomed, and were exiled beyond Vulture’s Country. Neither tribe is happy with the other, since each feels betrayed by the other in the battle. Like the Bison Tribe, the Impalas returned to Prax in 1624, but unlike the Bison Riders the tribe is divided about the role of the White Bull.

Art by EnSo © 2022 Chaosium Inc.

The important people are:

Mokwaha Hearthand, Tribal Khan

Born 1585, more commonly known as “that fierce pygmy”, Mokwaha was blinded by a Sartarite war party many years ago, but has replaced his human eyes with one from a mouse and one from a bear. He hates all non-Praxians and will not suffer them to live in his presence. Mokwaha fled to Vultures Country in 1621, but returned leading numerous Impala Riders to attack settlements throughout the River of Cradles. Although Mokwaha acknowledges Jaldon Goldentooth’s primacy, he is not a member of the White Bull Society and pointedly follows Jaldon and not Argrath.

I suppose that with both mouse and bear sight, Mokwaha benefits from prey vision and predator vision. One of his eyes lets him detect movement easily without having to focus on anything in particular, while his other eye gives him precise vision with some night-time reflective elements. Or something. I don’t want to think about it too much…

Jaldon Goldentooth is a Bison Tribe hero from the Second Age, who conquered Pavis. Argrath summoned him to retake New Pavis from the Lunars — both of which helped a lot to federate many nomad clans behind him, in addition to his relationship to the White Bull.

Varata, Eiritha Prophet

Varata is a shaman and initiate of Eiritha. An early recruit to the White Bull Society, experienced a spirit visitation from Mother Impala, in which she was instructed to achieve unity between the five tribes, starting with the Bisons. A teeming group of Impala Riders follows her wherever she goes, proclaiming her a prophet of peace who will one day eclipse Argrath.

I don’t know where these followers heard their prophecies, but hey, it’s nice having a fan club. Plus, as far as Praxian tribes are concerned, the prophecy might be true: once Argrath is gone into Dragon Pass, Varata might indeed rise to prominence in local politics.

N’Krun, Impala Waha Khan

N’krun has wholeheartedly embraced the White Bull movement. All his life he has led his people with caution, always one bad moment from disaster. By crushing the oppressive Lunars, White Bull will usher in a new era of unity and freedom. Though N’krun still acts judiciously in his everyday life, he looks forward to the great new day promised by the Eiritha shaman Varata, who has shared with him a convincing tale of a revelation from Eiritha in the spirit realm. Argrath gave the New Pavis Temple of Eiritha and Waha to N’Krun and his wife Lalaira Horndaughter.

Lalira Horndaughter, Eiritha Herd Mother

The wife of N’Krun, Lalira has been given the New Pavis Temple to Eiritha and Waha by Argrath. Lalira’s new position forces an uncomfortable reconsideration of the attitudes she has always lived by. She used to believe that all Praxians should come together through the blessings of Eiritha, and that no other culture warrants trust or admiration. Now she finds herself in a dizzying era of cooperation between nomad and Sartarite, required to live in a settlement, under the command of a so-called Praxian who vies for an Orlanthi throne.

She loves her husband N’krun unreservedly but fears the trust he has placed in White Bull. Unusually tall for an Impala Rider, she has a long, willowy frame, high cheekbones, and a pointed chin.

She’s not wrong. Just sayin’.

Yellow-Face, Impala Light Captain

Yellow-Face (born 1594) is the martial leader of the Yelmalio cult for the Impala Nation. He maintains stiffly formal relationships with the Yelmalio cult leaders in Pavis and Sun County, holding them in private disdain. Famed for his skill at striking a foe and getting away unscathed, Yellow-Face carries a staff marked with a hawk feather for each success. Yellow-Face spends each Truth Week purifying himself, appearing publicly only to fight and lead his followers in war. He pointedly refuses to follow White Bull captains, demanding to be an equal to any other war leader present.

Yellow-Face wears a golden mask in battle that can shine like the sun.

I love a good Yelmalion.

Ilina Lightning Thief, Impala Wind Lord

Born 1600, Ilina’s parents, both Impala warriors, died at the First Battle of Moonbroth and she ended up an orphan in the Badside of New Pavis, becoming a leader of the Blood Knives. She was brought back into the Impala Nation by a fellow exile, and joined the Orlanth Adventurous cult. She was an early recruit into the White Bull Society and has pledged her loyalty to Argrath White Bull. She is the marital leader of the Orlanth Adventurous cult for the Impala Nation.

Ilina is open minded and adventurous, and more than a little reckless.

Jovanka the Tall, Impala Seven Mothers priestess

Born 1595, Jovanka was banished from her clan for being too tall to ride an Impala. She was embraced by the Seven Mothers cult of New Pavis, and received an oversized Impala from Sor-eel the Short. She returned to her tribe as a Lunar missionary – through her efforts she now leads one of the largest Praxian Seven Mothers temples outside of the Sable Nation. She kept her temple officially neutral when the White Bull attacked New Pavis, although she provided shelter for many Lunar refugees.

Nice. Jovanka adds some much needed nuance and complication to New Pavis in the post-Dragonrise era.

About the White Bull

Here are Jeff’s notes about the White Bull:

By 1625, about one in twenty Praxians follow the White Bull Society. This of course varies by tribe. The Bison and High Llama tribes have the most members, with nearly one in ten following the White Bull, followed by the Sable Tribe (although the Pol-Joni have the highest percentage of members).

© 2022 Chaosium Inc.

The Impala and the Morokanth have the fewest members as a percentage of the population. Even then, there are nearly a thousand morokanth in the White Bull society and nearly twice that in the Impala.

In total, approximately 13,000 Praxians follow the White Bull. As they are an intertribal society and pledged personally to him, without the filter of clan, this gives Argrath immense military resources.

That being said, Argrath must tread carefully with the Great Khans as only the khans of the High Llamas, Bison, and Sables have pledged personal loyalty to the White Bull.

And with this you can begin to see the contours of White Bull-era Praxian politics. Argrath, who is NOT a khan, has a growing number of warriors and priests from the Waha, Storm Bull, and Orlanth cults who are personally loyal to him – in many cases, above tribe and other cult ties. The High Llama and Bison tribal leaders are strong supporters, as is the current Sable leaders. But the Impala and Morokanth’s support is shallower and more pragmatic. And there are plenty of ambitious leaders who simply wait for Argrath’s confederation collapses like so many before him.

At the same time, tribal affairs remain dominated by the Waha-Eiritha cults. Eiritha especially is outside of Argrath’s authority (he is a husband-protector of the Earth, and not its ruler), although many herd priestesses support him.

Jeff adds this comment on how loyalty to the White Bull (aka Argrath) cuts through traditional tribal lines:

Usually Praxian cults are organized on a tribal level, so we have Waha-Bison, Eiritha-Bison, Waha-High Llama, etc. But the White Bull cult is organized around Argrath without tribal filter.

Back to conquests:

I suspect it is to everyone’s pleasure that Argrath enters Dragon Pass with Jaldon and the core of the White Bull movement.

In 1625, this White Bull society led “confederation” of Praxian tribes is still quite new and quite unstable. Also worth keeping in mind that more than half of all Praxians are in the Wastelands.

The White Bull society likely circle around New Pavis, where the White Bull is. So between Pavis and Dragon Pass (Good Place, Caravan Alley, etc.), most Praxians encountered are likely connected with the White Bull (if they are not members, they have close kin who are). There are White Bull clusters in the grasslands near the Vast Teeth Hills.

But elsewhere the society’s presence can be quite thin. You can find bands in Wahaoranstol (the southern Wastes) or near the Snowline that are completely unaware of the White Bull. Or bands in the Head Acres with very few members.

Now this also helps explain the political crisis in Sartar post-Dragonrise. Kallyr is there on the scene and liberates Boldhome and leads the warriors there to fight off a last Lunar offensive at Dangerford. She’s acclaimed Prince on the grounds that:

1. She was nearly acclaimed Prince back in 1613 so people are used to her claims. After a dozen years, plenty of folk assume she IS Prince already!
2. She is the great-granddaughter of Prince Jarolar.
3. She leads the army that is there at Boldhome and after Dangerford, she’s pretty popular!

Argrath on the other hand has a much bigger military at his beck and call. He’s the great-great-great grandson of Prince Saronil, which is a slender thread indeed. But his military forces are primarily Praxians that worship him as the White Bull. He’s not personally known except to his companions and followers – he’s not been a fixture in Sartarite politics at all, and has little contact with his clan and tribe.

When Kallyr dies, he’s the logical choice, but people fear what they don’t known – and Argrath is a big unknown. In the end, he marches on Boldhome in 1627 and is acclaimed Prince, but there’s a lot of uncertainty swirling around him.

Now it is unlikely that Argrath and Kallyr were the only possible heirs to Sartar. I suspect there were several Esrolians who might fit the bill. But they are the only candidates with a snow ball’s chance in Lodril’s furnace of success.

So if we think about the military resources that Argrath has easily available as Prince in addition to the Sartarite Free Army and City Militia, he’s got access to more than 10,000 Praxian cavalry. Which is nearly half as many cavalry as the entire Lunar Army had in 1621 – and more than the Lunar Army had in its campaigns in Dragon Pass and the Holy Country.

This also goes a long way towards explaining why Argrath – unlike Kallyr – made cavalry his decisive arm. Like Alexander, Argrath was fundamentally a brilliant cavalry leader, although even the Lunars eventually agreed that he always made excellent uses of the forces he had at hand, even second rate infantry.

Why is the White Bull Society so popular:

Beyond providing useful magic, the White Bull cult provides a way that Praxians can cooperate with each other against their foes beyond the limits of tribal structure. The cult is associated with and shared by the cults of Waha, Storm Bull, and Orlanth. During the Lunar Occupation, the White Bull became the most effect means of resistance and counter-attack.

The White Bull cult has very few Yelmalion members. I think the Sun County hierarchy is understandably more concerned that the Praxians are far more numerous now and that they have formed a confederation, making it much more difficult to play tribes off against each other.

As an aside, the White Bull cult is associated with and shared by Orlanth, Storm Bull, and Waha, and it often forms a subcult of those cults that is held in common by all three (providing a point of cooperation among those cults).

The flip side of that is that it does not provide a whole lot of Yelmalio – except that the Sun Dome must be even more careful than usual.

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.

RPGImaginings Continues the SoloQuest

I didn’t post a link to all of these SoloQuest videos, but better late than never! Vasana gets into a dangerous duel with a Lunar, and we learn how the Battle of Dangerford ends. The four-part series is available here.

RuneQuest Through White Dwarf

Over on Twitter, @OldShabbyGamer reminisces about the RuneQuest adventures from the magazine White Dwarf:

1/The first RuneQuest adventures I ran were “The Money Tree” from RQ3’s advanced rulebook and “When Mad Gods Laugh” from White Dwarf #88 (1987). The first was fairly generic and forgettable (even 35 years ago!), but the latter had something primeval and sinister about it.

2/And always that tantalizing mention of “Glorantha” in White Dwarf, but no traces remaining in the rules (like socialism in the Labour party). A Tale to Tell (WD#85) fascinated me, but I don’t think I ran it because the Gloranthan lore (at once so attractive) felt so dense.

3/White Dwarf’s early years were closely intertwined with RuneQuest, and I hope to rediscover some lost gems as I start running RQG sometime this year. Still it’s sobering to discover that I’m a RQ newbie but ran my first games for it in 1987!

Did anybody run these scenarios? I’d love to hear some feedback about them. I might hunt down some old White Dwarf issues…

Stuck in rabbit hole, please send Pleistocene era carrots

I’m not going to say anything, just go check it out. This is why I love Erin and Beer With Teeth.

Six Ages on Sale

© 2022 A-Sharp

The Gloranthan video-game Six Ages is currently on sale on Steam (even though I prefer the iPad version personally).

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.

Lascaux’s Aurochs and Black Stag

The caves of Lascaux are a famous archaeological site in Southwestern France that features hundreds of… err, “parietal art“. I guess that’s my new word of the day. It sounds fancier than “doodles on rock”.

Photo by prof saxx

This painting is in the “Hall of Bulls”, which is a section of the caves featuring a lot of animals like bovines and equines and such. Most importantly, it features aurochs, which also show up in Argrath’s story in Glorantha (he supposedly “brought them back” to Dragon Pass). So here you have a ready-to-use handout when your players find some old auroch-related prophecy in a cave!

Photo by HTO

I like this one: it’s called “the Black Stag” and it’s thought to be a painting of a Megaloceros, an ancestor species of the deer that was 2 meters tall at the withers. That’s one big fucking deer! Your players probably need to, like, bring him back from the God Time and worship him and such, right? Right?

Virtual Visit of Skara Brae

Skara Brae is a Hsunschen… errr, I mean, Neolithic settlement found in Northern Scotland. It’s pretty much 5000 years old, and you can now visit it from the comfort of your sofa! There’s also a detailed model of one of the dwellings. Check it out on SketchFab.

Fingal’s Cave

Photo by Paulien Dam/Getty Images

This cave in Staffa, Scotland, is one of the most famous examples of hexagonal basalt columns, and a great inspiration for a cool location in your games. You can find many photos and videos of this cave, but here’s one if you’re curious right now:

For more columnar basalt goodness, also check out the Giant’s Causeway, in Ireland (among many other places in the world featuring this phenomenon):

Photo by code poet

Technically all you need to justify columnar basalt in your game is the past existence of a volcano, and the rapid cooling of lava flow, which is why these sites are almost always by the water. But Glorantha isn’t tied to physics, so maybe it wasn’t a volcano, and instead it was Lodril. And maybe it wasn’t water cooling, it was Valind or some strong Air spirits blowing over it. You can even just shrug and say that some Earth goddess made it this way, but that might be unsatisfying — I find that myths are best when there’s an intersection between a silly narrative and an explanation of the real-world. At the very least I would give a reason, such as Ernalda building a hexmap table for Orlanth’s gaming club…

Thank you for reading

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

From the 1990s to just a few years ago, roleplaying for me was really just getting together with a bunch of friends and having fun a couple days a week. At first I wasn’t really aware of conventions. Then I was aware of them but couldn’t be bothered to travel to any of them (skiing has pretty much been the only thing motivating enough for me to organize anything involving not staying the fuck home). Then I went to one or two local conventions here in Vancouver, BC (where the gaming scene is rather underfed, what with everybody going outdoors all the time). I floated the idea of going to GenCon back in 2017 but that seemed like too much work for something involving large crowds and meeting many new people, both of which I hate. But when I heard about ChaosiumCon, I knew that would not only be the convention that got me off my ass, but also the convention that got me to run some games.

I’ve been a fan of Chaosium ever since I discovered Call of Cthulhu in the mid-90s, and that was only reinforced when I finally got into Glorantha around 2018. And now I’ve got this thing you’re currently reading and, maybe sometimes, listening to. I wasn’t going to miss ChaosiumCon.

After getting approval from the missus, jumping on tickets as soon as possible, juggling cancelled flights and airline companies bullshit, playtesting two scenarios, stressing about those two scenarios, arranging all the necessary COVID-related precautions and then some, tweaking my two scenarios and stressing again about those tweaks, and going through my usual unpleasant treatment at the US Customs, I was finally there!

View from the hotel

Opening Banquet

The taxi got me to the hotel with just an hour or so to spare before the opening banquet on Thursday evening, just enough to mingle a bit with the few people I knew online from social media and the several online conventions that flourished since the pandemic started. Chaosium has some pictures here, and you might even spot me in a corner, sitting next to the incomparable Doc Cowie, which we interviewed for Episode 8 of the podcast.

I didn’t linger too much after the banquet. First because I’m somewhat introverted and that was enough socialization for one day, and second because I still wanted to tweak one of my adventures some more. I went to sleep pretty happy but still a bit stressed about running those games.

Friday

What’s New At Chaosium

The opening seminar was where Chaosium was announcing some of their new products for this year. If you’ve been following things closely on forums and social media, there wasn’t anything new here: Rivers of London, Regency Cthulhu, Pendragon 6th edition’s Starter Set… but what we’re interested in on this blog is the RuneQuest Prosopaedia! The final cover was revealed:

Copyright © 2022 Chaosium Inc.

As we already new, the entire book is illustrated by the excellent Katrin Dirim. It contains information (including Runes!) on virtually every deity and major spirit of Glorantha. Sometimes it might be only one paragraph, and sometimes it might be a bit more, but never too much since it’s meant to be a quick high-level reference.

This announcement created a bit of confusion in fan circles, however. It was originally understood that the upcoming Cults of Glorantha slipcase would include two big books plus the Prosopaedia… but now people were wondering if the Prosopaedia would be released separately. It’s not the case: Chaosium is just announcing the different elements of that slipcase one by one, it seems.

If I was going to nitpick something (and it’s my blog so I’m gonna!), I’ll agree with Phil Hibbs’ observation that the subtitle “An Encyclopedia of the Gods of RuneQuest” feels wrong. RuneQuest is a game, not a setting or a place. “Gods of Glorantha” would sound better and more correct to me.

Running Some Games

Next, I had two games to run back to back! Todd and the other organizers did a great job here by booking lots of small rooms with only one or two tables in each. Not only was it safer with regards to the spread of COVID, but it was also nice because there was only at most one other gaming group making noise in the background.

Gaming tables at ChaosiumCon (I’m running Call of Cthulhu in the back)

My first game was a RuneQuest adventure called “The Bloody Banquet”. Among the six players, only one of them was new to the game and the setting. Here’s the pitch:

You are Telmori Wolfbrothers, from the fierce tribe of werewolves who live at the edge of Sartar. You have a strained relationship with the other tribes of the Kingdom, but the Dragonrise ushered a time of turmoil that you can use to your advantage. Your tribe wants to take back the hunting lands they lost to both Lunars and Sartarites over the past couple generations, and that requires negotiating with the neighbours. The problem is: you were invited to a banquet and you blacked-out. Now, you’re waking up, covered in blood, surrounded by corpses. What happened? How are you going to fix this? What are you going to do?

My second game was a Call of Cthulhu adventure called “Survey on Mount Seton”, set in my neck of the woods:

Mount Seton is located in British Columbia (Canada). It has been largely left to nature by the local First Nation tribes, but BC Hydro, energy provider for British Columbia, has been looking into expanding their presence with a bigger water reservoir and hydro-electric power plant. A survey team was dispatched on the mountain, but contact was lost. Now, a multi-disciplinary team has been hastily assembled to find out what happened to them.

“Survey on Mount Seton” is a modern horror scenario set in the Canadian Rockies’ back-country, and everything you think might happen will definitely happen. And then some.

With only 4 players it was a lot of fun, with a lot of improvisation on my part since I kept tweaking things up until the point when the players were reading their characters’ bio. Yeah, that’s how I roll.

I will try to bring both of those adventures to Chaosium’s community content programs… fingers crossed.

Cake and Questworlds!

At some point during the day, Margaret “Eff/Effy” Gill organized a “Happy Birthday Elmal” celebration with some cake. It was a great culinary opportunity to talk about everybody’s favourite Gloranthan flamewar! “Thirty Years of Confusion” says the cake!

Photo by Margaret Gill

I also played in a nice game of Questworlds with that same Margaret. Ian Cooper, line editor for Questworlds, was our gamemaster, so we know we got the “proper” treatment of the game!

By that time I was already getting tired, but even after the game it was hard to pass on more nerdy talk with random people at the hotel bar until after midnight.

Saturday

This was another day of gaming for me. In fact, between the games I ran and the games I played in, I didn’t have time to go to any seminar. Oh well.

RuneQuest and Hawkmoon!

My first game of the day was “Jeff Runs Something!” We didn’t really know what to expect besides it using RuneQuest, and Jeff Richard running it. I was happy to see that it turned into a heroquesting adventure, which gave me a first look at the upcoming heroquest rules. They exist, people! I tried them!

You might recognize the same kind of heroquesting sheet that Jeff had already shared on Facebook, only here filled with Yanioth’s stats. Further back are some maps of the God Plane, one of which he also had shared previously:

Bryon was playing in the group and recorded the game’s audio — he may publish it somewhere soon. There’s a few other convention recordings on his channel by the way.

Then I played in Jason Durall’s Hawkmoon game… knowing virtually nothing about Hawkmoon!

It was fun and quite interesting: Hawkmoon’s BRP rules have a limited skill list with pretty low scores, and dice rolls for your armour protection!

Cancelled Freeform

The end of the convention was supposed to feature a Glorantha freeform (my first ever!) but it was sadly and understandably cancelled after a couple people were revealed to be COVID positive among the crowd. As far as I know the virus didn’t spread much (all trace contacts that I know of, including myself, tested negative) but obviously a 60-people LARP could have changed that compared to groups of a handful of people at separate tables. I gave my thanks to John Wick for making that difficult decision, especially since he was feeling down about it.

Chaosium Auction

I missed the Chaosium Auction, which was happening at the same time as Jason’s Hawkmoon game, but I managed to sneak in a few minutes at a time while we were taking small breaks.

There was a whole mix of products, from old classics in perfect condition (including some of them still in shrink wrap) to some truly exclusive items such as original layout boards and uncut cover prints (which are very suitable for framing and putting up on a wall).

Photo by Andrew Cowie

I was there when this mint 1st edition Pendragon boxed set went from a couple hundred dollars to $1200 USD in a matter of seconds. There were some very wealthy and motivated collectors in the audience that day.

In fact, as far as I can tell, many items went for higher prices than what you can find on eBay or Noble Knight. Of course, those items were in perfect condition (and, again, some were still shrink-wrapped). Some were even signed. So that’s understandable. But most of us mere mortals just need a readable and usable item, so I can definitely settle on more reasonable prices for a slightly damaged box with “good” or “very good” booklets inside. No regrets there.

Market Hall

At some point during the convention I checked out the market hall, where Chaosium, Petersen Games, and a few others had stands. There’s no way I could buy any of the giant board game boxes from Petersen Games, having only carry-on luggage for the flight back, so averted my eyes from their products and walked over to the reasonably sized books on the other side.

Chaosium had all kinds of products there, including the entire Stafford Library collection, some Glorantha Classics, the Argan Argar Atlas, and the possibly-now-out-of-print Glorantha map sets.

I missed it but apparently Jeff Richard and Claudia Loroff tried Type40’s Vasana outfit!

I saw it later on Claudia’s phone, as she mentioned that Jeff didn’t “fill up the armour” correctly. I replied that he might fill it, just not in the right places… who wore it better?

As already mentioned in our recent interview with him, Rick Meints didn’t have the new Meints Index to Glorantha available for sale at the convention, but he did have a few advance prints for friends and contributors (it’s “at the printer” and will be available for sale later this year). In fact, there were many gifts brought by various people for various other people. It was like an Orlanthi gathering. I was there when a fan (whose name I forgot, apologies to them) gave Jeff this awesome bronze plate etched by Ben La Barge:

Photo by Jeff Richard

The main new thing to buy for Gloranthaphiles was the “Stafford House Campaign”, also known as volume 1 (ominous!) of the “Chaosium Archival Collection”. Rick had, again, teased it during his interview:

It contains a collection of very early articles by Greg Stafford from APAs such as Alarums & Excursions and The Wild Hunt, plus some unpublished ones. These are mostly notes and comments on his RuneQuest campaigns at the time, and even features some of his players’ character sheets. I started reading it on the plane back home and it has some interesting bits in it! As far as I heard, it will be a print-on-demand item, probably like the other Stafford Library books.

Between a few purchases and the Gamemasters’ raffle organized by Chaosium, I came back with quite a few more books than I expected! In fact, after taking this picture, I even got one or two more books for random reasons.

Red Goddess Libations

With the Gloranthan freeform cancelled, there was some food and drinks that would go unconsumed. And in particular, some people had brought this magnificent amphora of wine!

So a few people gathered for some “Libations to the Red Goddess”, some of them in their orginally-intended LARP costume. Claudia gave us some explanations about where each of these foods came from (I think there were Esrolian dates, Praxian cheese, Caladraland wine, and some rare dried Pamaltelan flower, or something). Chatter, laughter, and music went on late into the night as we hung out between Gloranthaphiles, talking about pretty much everything and anything besides Glorantha.

Other Highlights

One thing I was a bit sad about was the lack of time to mingle with the Call of Cthulhu crowd. There just aren’t enough hours in the day to stretch between two big fandoms, so I only briefly got to say hi to Bridgett, thank Sandy, nod at Seth, or drink with Mike.

On the plus side, I was floored by how many people knew about the podcast! Thank you to all the people who, after hearing my sexy French accent, exclaimed “oh you’re the guy from that Glorantha podcast!” You made my day over and over again!

I got to chat with JM and Evan from Exploring Glorantha, witnessed Nick excitedly explain Lunar history to Arthur Petersen, saw Margaret’s legendary water bottle, got Doc Cowie to do push-ups, embarrassed Pedro, dived into furries and bronies with Simeon and Herve, discussed the pros and cons of various ski resorts with Jeff, wore some red-tinted glasses while listening to Moonchild by King Crimson, and had other wonderful and fun discussions with Ian, Ben, James, and too many other people to list here (apologies to those lumped in here!)

Photo by Chaosium

Special thanks go to Todd and the convention organizers who did an excellent job given the difficult times we’re in, Neil and Rick for their help and support, and Jeff and Ian for their very kind words. Everybody at Chaosium was friendly, accessible, and welcoming.

People say that conventions are all about the people you meet. People say that the Glorantha fandom is like being part of a tribe. Well, it’s a great bunch of people, it’s a wonderful tribe, and judging from the half dozen Facebook friend requests I came home to, I guess I’m part of it too now! I’m definitely looking forward to the next ChaosiumCon. If you’re there and you hear some sexy French accent, there’s a good chance it’s me, so come and say hi!

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 issue is shorter than usual because a lot of people (including myself) where at ChaosiumCon from Thursday to Sunday. Expect an article about it this week!

Chaosium News

Here are this week’s Chaosium news!

Mad Knight’s New Kickstarter

Mad Knight has been churning out officially licensed Kickstarters for many lines of Gloranthan miniatures for a few years now, and the new one is up and running! You have 12 days from the time of writing this.

The new models include Bolgar Stomping Bull riding a Skybull, some Thunder Rebel Flyers, Lunar Sable Lancers, Lunar archers from the “Blessed Daughter” unit, some Newtlings warriors, and a troll spider rider hero.

If you back the Kickstarter, the pledge manager will offer some limited options (as stock allows) for also ordering some of the previous models.

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!

Jonstown Compendium Reviews

Here’s your reminder that if you’re unsure about a Jonstown Compendium item, there are reviews out there! For instance, Pookie from Reviews From R’lyeh has many Jonstown Compendium articles, and Sean Hillman has reviewed A Rough Guide to Glamour on RPG.net.

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 Legend of Greg

David Bell found this 1994 article about Greg Stafford while moving houses. It’s from the UK Sunday Express Magazine:

The second picture should be good enough for you to read it:

With his earrings, pale skin and Caribbean shirt, Stafford seems like an ageing rock star. His fans are often professionals in their twenties or thirties, and produce an array of magazines and books about his works. Using the Internet, which links computers by phone, they swap ideas worldwide.

Nick Ryan, the journalist who wrote the piece, commented on the Facebook post:

I’m the author of said piece and tbf, I also smile at some of the text now 😉. I was a long-time RPer who, as Daniel Barker was saying, was hanging out with the Tales of the Reaching Moon Crew at the time. I wouldn’t over-analyse it (I don’t): it was simply a fun piece in between other commissions, some of which involved going out to war zones. Everyone laughed at the sub-editor adding the line about riches. And I think they did charge me £66! 😁

Wheel of the Year

Here’s another great illustration from previously-featured Lee O’Connor:

I drew this to go in the background of something and then got carried away. Had to colour it too, it was only right.

So it’s a Gloranthan Wheel of the Year with the seasons on; Sea, Fire, Earth, Darkness and Storm. The deities for each one are; Heler, Yelmalio/Elmal, Ernalda, Argan Argar and Vinga / Orlanth Adventurous.

I also stuck in a Maran Gor and Eurmal too, since I have players who are initiates of them. And Umath. And a god who I’m going to leave you to guess. There’s even a really small and wobbly Kallyr Starbrow too. Oh and I realised I missed out Sacred Time, so I crowbarred that in as well.

Humakti Tattoo

Here’s a great Humakti tattoo on Danny Bourne’s arm:

This is as good a time as any for a round-up of Gloranthan tattoos, such as Wesley Samsal’s Rune Magic tattoo, and Ian Brumby’s (of Fenris Games) Runes tattoos:

Gloranthan Miniatures Pinterest Board

Torbjorn Andersson is maintaining this Pinterest board about Gloranthan miniatures… so if you need colour choices and suggestions, real-world non-marketing pictures or models you’re considering buying, or links to non-Gloranthan models that work in Glorantha, this is a good starting point.

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.

The Urra=hubullu

Yeah apparently, that’s the official name. It’s basically a 24-tablets-long dictionary which translates between Sumerian and Akkadian. It’s organized by topics, so for instance one tablet lists naval vehicles while another lists plants.

Creative Commons picture

There are many other similar tablets.

Historians and linguists might yell at me for my ignorance (preferably in written form so I can publish their comments in a later Journal issue), but here’s the little I understand about this.

Cuneiform can be used both as a syllabogram (a character represents a syllable, like the Japanese hiragana and katakana) and a logogram (a character represents a word or a morpheme, which is basically a “bit of a word”, like the Egyptian hieroglyphs). As a syllabogram, you can technically use cuneiform to write whatever language you want (give or take some approximation of that language’s sounds). This is how services like Dumb Cuneiform can print you a custom tablet without actually translating your text to Akkadian or whatever. This also means that if I had known about it as a kid, I would totally have used cuneiform as a secret language instead of inventing my own.

Anyway, as far as I understand, the tablet in the photo above has Sumerian words on one side and their corresponding Akkadian on the other side. The photo features the 16th tablet of the lexicon which is about “stones”.

Orlanth Going After Yelm

Picture by Ilkgul Menzil

Even though this picture is most likely a digital manipulation, it’s a great bit of flavour to add to, say, your Sacred Time ceremonies when your tribal nobles re-enact the Lightbringers’ Quest.

Greek & Roman Mythology in Movies (Part 2)

I had enjoyed the first video on the topic (featured in issue #37), so of course I checked out the second part which Vanity Fair published a couple weeks ago and which is just as interesting. It even features Jason and the Argonauts and Xena: Warrior Princess, with an absolutely spot-on commentary on both.

Plus, my new English word of the day: “etiological“.

The World’s Oldest Pants

I recently had to put on pants for the first time in ages to take a plane to ChaosiumCon, so let’s talk pants! These are from between 1200 and 1000 BCE in Western China. It was interestingly designed for horseback riding.

Photo by Wagner et al.

The world’s oldest-known pants were part of the burial outfit of a warrior now called Turfan Man. He wore the woven wool pants with a poncho that belted around the waist, ankle-high boots, and a wool headband adorned with seashells and bronze discs. The pants’ basic design is strikingly similar to the pants most of us wear today, but closer inspection reveals the level of engineering that went into designing them.

Exploring Hattusa

If you want to see what the capital of the Hittite empire looks like today, Irena and the Ancient Sites channel has a pretty seemingly complete walk-through of the site and its surroundings, with some historical commentary on top.

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 is issue 42 of the Journal! We have reached the meaning of life, the universe, and everything! Thank you to everybody who has subscribed to the newsletter, left a comment, sent an email, or even gave it a like or thumbs up on social media.

Note that next week is ChaosiumCon so the newsletter will be delayed by a day or two while I travel back to Western Canada.

God Learner Sorcery

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

Episode 10: Out of the Suitcase

Episode 10 of our podcast is out! Chaosium president Rick Meints chats with us about Pavisite fanzines, ChaosiumCon, RuneQuest streaming, podcasts. his “Index to Glorantha”, foreign licensees, QuestWorlds, LARPing, board games, collector items, and more!

Bog Struggles Sneak Peek

Here’s a preview of the cover for my second RuneQuest adventure! (the first one being, of course, A Short Detour) Bog Struggles is going to be shorter and simpler, as I’m trying to channel the early Beer With Teeth formula of a straightforward encounter that’s very easy to drop in any campaign, is scalable, and has one cool twist. I’m hoping to release by the end of the month!

Chaosium News

Here are this week’s Chaosium news!

RuneQuest is Now Available in PDF

And we’re talking about PDF as in “Papyrus Delivery Format”, of course. You can read the announcement here.

Yep, it’s April again. And I hope you got the Ea-nasir reference.

Balancing Old & New RuneQuest

James Coquillat continues his interviews with Chaosium designers. This one with Jeff Richard is very interesting because it deals with the Gloranthan design process, including how to deal with the 40 years of material, how to revise it, and how to find new things to invent. Jeff talks about the Elmal/Yelmalio problem, heroquesting, and more interesting things!

We Are Featured on Chaosium’s Blog!

The latest “Out of the Suicase” post on Chaosium’s blog mentions Rick’s interview with us this month. Plus: a funny advert for RuneQuest from 1983!

What’s Next for RuneQuest

© 2022 Chaosium Inc.

Jason Durall, line editor for RuneQuest at Chaosium, has given some informal update on the current product pipeline:

The Gamemaster Sourcebook is well underway. I work on it almost daily, though managing all of the other projects and keeping them moving eats a bit into that time. I expect it to go into layout sometime this summer.

This Gamemaster Sourcebook is actually referenced directly (as “RuneQuest Gamemaster’s Guide”) in the core rulebook published 4 years ago, but we’ve been waiting for it ever since. Of note, Jason also confirmed that the much awaited heroquesting rules are part of this Gamemaster Sourcebook.

The product pipeline for 2022 looks like this:

Dragon Pass Gazetteer, Cults of Glorantha + Prosopaedia, Gamemaster Sourcebook

It’s interesting to note that the “Dragon Pass Gazetteer” has been branched out of the Sartar Homeland project. This possibly indicates that the latter won’t be a boxed set anymore, but that’s 100% conjecture on my part.

QuestWorlds Rebranding

The HeroQuest Glorantha books are supposed to go through a rebranding to remove mentions of “HeroQuest” and replace them with “QuestWorlds”. The last update we got was from Rick Meints back in January:

The Sartar book, Pavis book, and Sartar Companion book for Questworlds should be available in a few months.

We have some confirmation now that the older HeroWars material is not going to get rebranded.

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!

Vilinar Cave Miniatures

© 2022 Dario Corallo & Chaosium Inc.

Dario Corallo has another pack of paper-miniatures for us. This one is for the “classical nest of broos” from the “Revenge of Muriah” adventure of the Borderlands campaign (also found in Borderlands & Beyond).

Seven Tailed Wolf Preview

Andrew Logan Montgomery has shared some more sneak peeks at the third (and supposedly last) volume of the Haraborn campaign, which started in Six Seasons in Sartar and continued in The Company of the Dragon:

Six years after war drove them from their lands and families, the Company of the Dragon has returned home. But Black Stag Vale is ancient, and the powers that have re-awakened in their long absence are not so easily tamed. As the Lunar Empire threatens from the north, and the Prince they helped put on the throne falls, the Company stands at the crossroads between the lives they lost and the lives they have been forced to lead.

Which way they turn is up to you…

There are more pretty pictures where that came from.

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.

Suppressing the Orlanth Cult

During the Lunar occupation of Sartar and Prax, the Orlanth cult was prosecuted, and worship of the Storm God was forbidden. But how and why did it happen in practice? Jeff spills the beans on BRP Central when it comes to the city of New Pavis:

Sor-eel the Short kept the Orlanth temple open in New Pavis, but installed a priest who was widely considered to be Illuminated. Although the cult was suppressed by the invaders, the political clout of Orlanth’s priests allowed some of them to remain in the city despite the repression.

When Sor-eel was removed in 1621 (some say through the influence of Tatius the Bright), he was replaced by Halcyon var Enkorth, who had served with success as a Lunar legate to the barbarian king of Elkoi (and who had ties to the powerful Assiday family of Raibanth). From 1621 to 1624, Governor Halcyon was more aggressive in his suppression of the Orlanth cult in Pavis, and made active use of Gim Gim the Grim and the Moon Masks to suppress the cult. However, in 1624, Argrath and his nomad army defeated the Lunars and seized the city, at which point Orlanth Rex became the ruling cult (in contrast with Pavis which remained the city god).

The “aggressive” suppression of the cult would include:

1. Closing the temples known to the Lunar authorities that are near New Pavis. That would be the major temple in New Pavis, the minor temple at Garhound, and a few other shrines and minor temples. The minor temple in the Rubble might get raided, but the Rubble is too dangerous to waste soldiers in garrisoning a temple location.

2. Exiling/outlawing known priests and Rune Lords. Just forbid them from entering New Pavis, the Rubble, etc. Identifying them is a job for Gim Gim.

3. Harassing prominent initiates. That’s a job for Gim Gim and the Moon Masks.

4. Watching associated cults like Ernalda, Issaries, Lhankor Mhy, and Chalana Arroy for covert associated worship.

You might wonder whether there was a lot of heroquesting going on to try and change these things one way or another. This is especially worth thinking about given how the Lunars managed to “kill” Orlanth: the Windstop lasted from 1621 to 1622 and during that time all Air magic failed around Dragon Pass and Prax. Ernalda was dead too, with Earth magic also largely failing, but this is often considered an unwanted and unforeseen side-effect. It’s possible that the Lunars underestimated how much Ernalda would “stay close” to her husband. Anyway:

There is often an assumption because a group has heroquesters or is at least known to have had heroquesters, they will use heroquesting to solve all sorts of “problems” like the Thunder God being associated closely with the Earth Goddess.

Of course this is rarely the case, even in groups with many active heroquesters, such as the Lunar Empire or Argrath’s Sartar. First of all, most of these problems are largely academic or abstract compared to the actual threats that face the group. Hon-eel’s biggest quests were: 1. getting a new very productive crop to help feed the post-Sheng Seleris Heartlands, and 2. proving that the she (and by extension the Red Goddess) is the lover of Yelm and thus closer to the Sun God than the Pure Horse People. Her third big quest – to prove that she is associated with Ernalda in order to gain the support of the Provincial Orlanthi ultimately failed (but conventional Lunar military assets proved enough to cement her dynasty in Tarsh, although not without many reversals and set-backs).

And those threats were all immediate and tangible problems, and her quests were not about “re-writing the past” but about finding out something new that does not invalidate what was known before, but does result in a reinterpretation based on the new discoveries. Yes the Pure Horse People and their Queen were close to Yelm, but Hon-eel is even closer – she is Dendara to Yelm. Sure the Horse Queen continues to speak for Yelm, but needs to be wary around the Lunars because they too can speak for Yelm.

I find this reference to “re-writing the past” interesting, since I’m still unsure exactly what is possible or not with a heroquest. Heroquesting isn’t time-travel so you can’t change something that happened in Time. But I think you can change something that happened in the God Time? At least to the extent that you can make a new story that tells something different (or differently), and somehow convince everybody (including the Cosmos, maybe) that this new story is more important… or something along those lines?

Nochet Notes

Yep, pretty much what it says in the title:

Nochet is five times the population of Furthest and ten times that of Boldhome. At 600 hectares, it covers almost twice the area of Rome within the Servian Walls. With an average density of about 165 people per hectare (remember, the city has areas much less densely populated and areas much more densely populated), it is comparable to ancient Alexandria. Another roughly comparable size and population would be that of medieval Venice.

The Servian Wall is shown in blue in the map below. It encompasses the seven hills of Rome and was built in the early 4th century BCE. It was expanded around a century later with the Aurelian wall, shown in red in the same map:

Creative Commons image

Within its walls are:

15k Ernalda initiates
10k Orlanth initiates
5.5k Issaries initiates (more than all of Sartar)
4.3k Chalana Arroy initiates (more than all of Sartar)
4.3k Lhankor Mhy initiates (more than all of Sartar)
3.8k Dormal initiates
3k Argan Argar initiates
2k initiates of Asrelia
2k initiates of Gusbran
2k initiates of Lanbril
2k initiates of Lodril
1.6k initiates of the Seven Mothers
1.5k initiates of Maran Gor
1.3k initiates of Esrola
1.3k initiates of Babeester Gor
1.3k initiates of Humakt
And another 10-15k initiates of other cults.

In short an incredibly diverse city, although recognizably Theyalan. Almost all oceanic trade to Dragon Pass and Peloria pass through either Nochet or Karse. In Nochet we can get silk from Kralorela or Teshnos, spices from the East Isles, Fonrit, or Maslo, crafted goods from Seshnela or Loskalm, and more.

Note that most of the three thousand Argan Argar initiates are humans. These are all the people who facilitate life with the neighbouring troll lands.

There are not too many Esrola worshippers compared to the Ernalda cult because these represent people who directly worship Esrola. All Earth cultists would still worship her as an associated goddess:

[…] Esrola is the Grain Goddess. She has relatively few people who worship her independently of the Ernalda cult.

It’s interesting that, with 10-15k initiates of “other cults”, there’s still a LOT of room! For instance, water deities have a pretty good presence in Nochet, what with the Mirrorsea Bay (aka Choralintor Bay) and the access to the ocean:

Choralinthor has a lot of initiates – enough to support a major temple. But that is just a drop in the bucket with a city the size of Nochet.

In fact, you can add at least another 20 Major Temples for any non-listed-above cult in Nochet with these 10-15k. Or 40 to almost a hundred different Minor Temples! Go crazy, world-builders!

This makes me think that a trip to Nochet might actually be fairly common for minor cult worshippers in search of a sizable temple? It might be far from wherever you are, but you benefit from Royal Roads, the many possible caravans and travel companions, and many other opportunities once there.

Jeff warns Gloranthan scholars against relying too much on Stafford Library books like Esrolia: Land of 10,000 Goddesses for their campaigns, because these books are often about how stuff was a long long time ago:

This is a problem with using the 10k Goddess material. It is set up from the perspective of the First Age and has very little material about Nochet in the Third Age (about one page).

Anyway, Jeff continues about Nochet:

Many Sartarites have a strong connection to Nochet, as the kingdom is linked to the city by trade, culture, and religion. Many members of the royal dynasty lived there for some time – and many others lived and died there.

In contemporary Sartar, Erenava Chan lived there for many years. Gorangian the Chief Librarian of Jonstown is from Nochet (as is Sorala). Vasana and Yanioth both fought for Nochet against the Lunar Empire. Argrath himself was there for several seasons and is rumoured to have had a dalliance (or even been a Year Husband) of the young queen.

We can think of Nochet as the de facto center of the cults of Ernalda (Ezel is more sacred, but Nochet is still where everyone goes), Babeestor Gor (Axe Hall is more sacred, but Nochet is where the cult has its biggest presence and nearly one in twenty initiates reside there), Chalana Arroy, Dormal, Issaries, and Lhankor Mhy.

Ezel (west/north-west from Nochet) has a Great Temple complex to Ernalda, and is considered the “home” of the goddess. This is where those “10,000 goddesses” are actively worshipped.

Axe Hall is, surprisingly enough, at the top of the Shadow Plateau. I’m not sure why is but apparently we’re not supposed to argue with Babs… indeed, the short write-up from the Guide to Glorantha makes me chuckle: “Axe Hall (sacred place): Babeester Gor chose this place as her own. No one argued. No one else goes near it.

The Shadow Plateau

Jeff is definitely spending some time in the Holy Country these days:

The Shadow Plateau is one of the great centers of trolldom in Glorantha, allthough it is now but a shadow of the former Kingdom of Night.

Hee hee hee…. it’s a shadow of the former Ki… what? Come on, let me have this one, okay?

There are some 41,000 trolls on the plateau. Of those over 8000 are adult dark trolls, 1600 are great trolls, 1200 are cave trolls, and over 26000 are trollkin. The rest are immature dark trolls.

That’s a lot of trollkin to bring down the defenses of your Sword-Trance’d Humakti!

These number don’t include the very small minorities:

[Mistress Race trolls] are always so few that they don’t end up in those counts. Any more than I am going to list the number of nymphs or dryads.

Trollpak’s random percentages had no more than 1% of troll society are mistress race trolls. I suspect the numbers are much lower. But in any case the range is probably somewhere between 40 and 200. And likely closer to 40 than 200.

Remember that there aren’t supposed to be many of these super ancient scary troll ladies. They’re supposed to be memorable encounters. I picture them a bit like Methuselahs in Vampire: The Masquerade.

Anyway, back to the Shadow Plateau:

Kyger Litor is the most important cult among the trolls (of course), followed by Argan Argar. Zorak Zoran is surprisingly popular with 1400 cultists, and Xiola Umbar has some 750. Most interesting are the 400 trolls who belong to the Orlanth cult!

Orlanthi trolls? Hey, that reminds me of some drawing I saw recently

Because of the influence of the Argan Argar cult, the trolls are perfectly willing to work with humans on the right terms. The presence of ZZ insures that the humans respect and fear the trolls and let them drive hard bargains!

Sightseeing wise, the Shadow Plateau is probably impressive:

The presence of the Shadow Plateau in the Holy Country is an interesting one. Darkness is right there, looming over the land of Earth, Air, and Water. Covered in shards of black glass and pulverised obsidian.

Jeff recommends the Obsidian Flow at the Newberry caldera (in Oregon, USA) for reference. Here are some pictures:

Oh and yes, I just learned today what a “caldera” is.

Krarsht Design Notes

In a thread on BRP Central, Jeff mentioned some changes to the Krarsht cult.

As written in the old Cults of Terror, this Chaotic cult was deliberately designed as a sort of “anti-Storm Bull” cult. Its Holy Days aligned with those of Storm Bull, it had a special skill called “Sense Order” (mirroring Storm Bull’s “Sense Chaos”), and its Rune Magic included spells like “Defend Against Law” and “Face Law” (mirroring Storm Bull’s “Defend Against Chaos” and “Face Chaos”).

Some of this has been revised in the upcoming Cults books. The two anti-Law spells were gone from early drafts, and the Sense Order skill has been removed from later drafts.

The holy day stuff “made it through” because I felt no need to change that (especially because of the [myths]). The “anti-Storm Bull” nonsense comes from one of the two main myths we have of Krarsht (the other is Larnst and the Footprint)

[…]

The cult hates Storm Bull because of the damage he did to the Devouring Mother during the Gods War, especially since she has never fully recovered from her grievous wounds. [… Krarsht is] not a reverse-Storm Bull – she’s someone who hates Storm Bull because that god nearly destroyed her.

Ty Kora Tek

Jeff posted a note about everybody’s favourite zombie granma:

Ty Kora Tek is propitiated each Wildday by Earth cults. Wildday of Death Week is her seasonal holy day. The entire Death Week of Darkness Season is dedicated to her; her High Holy Day is Wildday of that week. On that day, the dead visit the living and must be fed and offered gifts.

Of course, Jeff illustrates this with the Mexican Day of the Dead:

Now that last sentence is pretty darned filled with possibilities. Obvious that means a festival analogous to the Día de los Muertos is going to be found in many Theyalan lands – particularly in the Holy Country, Sartar, and Maniria. But it also means that each year, the dead leave The Necropolis and travel to Nochet along the Sacred Road. And the living costume themselves up as the Dead, offer them food, songs, and gift, and celebrate their anscestors.

And so not only in Nochet and Esrolia, but no doubt in Boldhome and other Sartarite communities, we get Ty Kora Tek’s Day of the Dead celebrations!

I’d really like to play an adventure or two during the Necropolis procession. It can even be a reason to travel to Esrolia. Paying respects or asking for advice from an ancestor could be a roleplaying opportunity, but finding some particular dead person for information on a McGuffin could be a decent narrative hook. Plus, it could be used as a great, dynamic backdrop to some action scene (the way action movies like James Bond would use the Mexican celebration), and if you stretch it out for a bit, there’s a whole bunch of fun little side-adventures you can run with various ghost-related shenanigans. Yes, I’m very excited about the Necropolis procession.

Heresy in Glorantha

Jeff answered a question about heresy in the Lunar Provinces, and this post appeared. I”ve split it up in two parts (one about the Seven Mothers cult, and one about the Orlanth cult), and added some later comments below in this preface, because I think it makes more sense this way.

First, Jeff wants to make sure everybody understands the difference between heresy, apostasy, and blasphemy:

  • Heresy is adherence to a religious opinion contrary to the cult’s dogma.
  • Apostasy is the act of refusing to continue to follow, obey, or recognize a cult’s beliefs.
  • Blasphemy is insulting or showing contempt for a deity.

So I’d say that heresy is about wrong thinking, apostasy is about slamming the door and leaving, and blasphemy is about drawing penises on the temple’s walls. Well, assuming it’s not a temple to Eurmal or Lodril or something (in which case it’s totally appropriate and please carry on).

Most Gloranthan cults are transactional – Orlanth agrees to give you some fraction of his powers on the following terms. If you violate those terms, that’s not heresy – that’s contract violation or apostasy.

I introduced the term “heresy” in quotation marks for a reason. But let’s remember what it is – a heresy is a belief that violates important religious teachings but is not apostasy. With many Gloranthan religions, if you are able to contact the god, wield its magic, and do not trigger spirits of retribution or other forms of divine anger, then it is pretty hard to argue that what you are doing is wrong in the eyes of the god.

And the follow up question is if it is ok with the god, who are you to argue?

Of course, in order to know whether spirits of retribution or divine wrath are falling upon a cultist, there must be a gamemaster making that decision! So we still need a good way to figure out if something is indeed “right” or “wrong”.

Heresy and the Seven Mothers

Let’s start here – when thinking about heresy in RQ, it is always worth looking at a cult’s organization as there must be people who declare something to be heresy. Here’s the organization of the Seven Mothers cult:

The supreme priest of the Seven Mothers is the Red Emperor. The Red Dancer of Power guides the overall activities of the cult. Within the Lunar Heartlands the cult is overseen by the local satrap, and in the Provinces, it is overseen by the General Guide for the Lunar Way.

From who the leaders of the cult are (and what their basis of authority is), we can quickly figure out a few things that they might consider heretical:

Challenging the authority or legitimacy of the Red Emperor
Challenging the authority or legitimacy of the Lunar Empire as a temporal political institution
Challenging the authority or legitimacy of a given satrap
Challenging Lunar policy in the Provinces.

I assume that this is all heresy because the Lunar cults’ dogma includes the Red Emperor being the son of the Red Goddess, incarnated on the surface to rule her empire and all that jazz. You can challenge the Lunar policy in the Provinces as an outsider (that’s called “rebelling against the Lunar Empire”), but you’re risking heresy saying the Red Emperor is wrong.

In short, the White Moon movement is pretty much the textbook definition of a Seven Mothers heresy. The problem there is that a 7 Mothers cultist can subscribe to the White Moon movement and unless that individual is Banned by a priestess, they retain full access to cult magic, spirits, etc. This gets even more thorny if the person is a Red Goddess initiate (and thus Illuminated). The Seven Mothers have no spirits of retribution, so the decision to call the White Moon movement “heretical” is fundamentally political, not easily enforceable without resort to coercive violence, and possibly poses the problem of being blown off by powerful Lunars.

The White Moon movement is another one of those things I’ve heard about but am just now looking into. It sounds like they believe that the Red Goddess never intended to have a lasting Lunar Empire on the surface — instead, she allegedly just wanted her “way” to spread through Glorantha’s cultures, and that doesn’t require a whole imperial war machine. It did require force at the beginning, but the White Moon people think it’s time to let the empire wither away, and to let the Red Moon become White, a moon of peace and calm. I guess the White Moon cult wants to spread as a philosophy rather than as a nation.

And thus we can see the problems the White Moon movement poses for the Lunar political authorities. Much better to get White Moon followers to agree that they were wrong through debate and discussion.

Some other “heresies” in the past – the most significant was “misidentifying the Red Goddess”. So saying that the Red Goddess is actually a manifestation of Entekos or Dendara – that’s a no no. The Red Goddess herself slapped down Valare Addi for that one. And she had good reason for that – the Red Goddess was an active heroquester and misidentifying her could pose serious dangers to her!

Valare Addi is only briefly mentioned in published material, as an early Lunar hero of the first wane. This was back when the Red Goddess was a mortal on the rise. Valare must have had her own opinions about the whole thing since she had her own cult going, but it seems like her and the Red Goddess reconciliated: Valare later went on to live on the Red Moon. The Valar-telsor is one of the main Lunar noble families, and claims descent from Valare.

Ok, I lied. There is a whole bunch of information on Valare Addi in the Entekiosad — in fact, the Entekiosad is supposedly co-written by Valare Addi herself. But I have not read the Entekiosad and you probably shouldn’t unless you really want to.

I do find it very interesting that once you start having a Hero Soul (i.e. a presence on the mythical plane), you have to keep an eye on other people, and on how they use or relate to you. I don’t imagine it would be important for adventurers unless you play at really high power levels, but it might be an interesting scenario idea to have, say, Argrath asking the adventurers to participate in some heroquests that aims to mess with Jar-eel’s identification!

Speaking of Jar-eel:

This was important enough that Jar-eel the Razoress needed to spend seasons debating with prominent White Moon leaders to get them to agree that they were wrong. And even then – with all the power and charisma that Jar-eel could bring to bear – it was only partially successful. The Red Emperor ultimately resorted to violence to suppress the White Moon movement. The resulting rebellion crippled the Lunar Empire during the crisis of 1625.

I’d say that the White Moon rebellion is probably viewed as a far greater threat by the Red Emperor than anything going on in Dragon Pass. Probably a greater threat than even the Voor-ash (which are viewed as far more threatening than anything in Dragon Pass).

The Voor-ash seem to be, basically, the return of the Pentians in the Lunars’ nightmares. You might remember that Sheng Seleris and his horse-riding nomads were a giant threat to the Lunar Empire during its 3rd and 4th wanes, almost destroying it. No doubt the Lunars were traumatised, so they must be getting extremely nervous with Dranz Goloi, the Khan of hte Voor-ash tribe, who is unifying the new Pent tribes and getting all setup to channel Sheng Seleris’ legacy once again.

Heresy in the Orlanth Cult

Jeff continues by looking at the Orlanth cult for comparison:

Individual temples are pretty much completely autonomous unless that have acknowledged a Rex – a tribal king or prince or similar “wide-ruler”. That Rex has the ability to bend the temples to his will, but needs to work to do it!

Without the Rex, Orlanthi temples have historically done such radical things as agree that a mortal hero can become the new Orlanth or decide that we should learn the secrets of the dragons and give worship and sacrifice to them. The Rex is able to keep constituent temples from doing that – assuming that the Rex disagrees!

So for the Orlanthi, “heresy” doesn’t really have any meaning. “Blasphemy” does – violating a religious rule or treating a god or sacred site with disrespect – but that’s the sort of thing that triggers the Spirits of Retribution.

In short, if a temple can access the god, gain Rune magic from it, and there are no spirits of retribution being sent, then it is ok. Individual temple leaders may impose restrictions, but that is going to differ wildly.

Instead what you usually see is that if a temple is able to get a more effective relationship with the god – more or stronger magic, more success in rituals, more or stronger spirits, whatever – then other temples are likely going to adopt that approach. Because ultimately it works and we can see and feel the results!

One of Orlanth’s Runes is Movement, and to me that means a willingness to try things and change, so this all makes perfect sense to me.

So when the Feathered Horse Queen revealed that La-Ungariant was a title for the great goddess Ernalda – which also gave her the ability to confront the Yelm priests – she was able to magically defeat her foes, gain the support of the farmers, gain the support of the powerful Shaker Priestess, and get the support of the local Orlanth priests. The La-Ungariant priestesses embraced this because 1. she was the high priestess, and 2. it worked!

We can see a similar thing going on when Monrogh revealed the Elmal was but a name for Yelmalio. individual temples rapidly embraced Yelmalio because 1. it worked, 2. Monrogh could get the god’s confirmation and repeat it, 3. it was also in everyone’s interest (and had the support of other powerful groups in Sartar).

But if a temple tries to go too far, it won’t have access to the god. Or might not have the full range of useful magic and spirits. And so it fails.

So rather than thinking about this in terms of “heresy” it just ends up being a question of effectiveness.

Now what you might often see is a temple saying, “we worship god this way HERE” without saying that worshiping that god in a different way somewhere else is wrong. That’s pretty common in polytheism.

I think that’s what happens with the Elmal conservatives around Runegate for instance. Generally speaking, this gives the gamemaster license to add a little local flavour to their campaign.

And of course we know that with the Orlanth cult. Specific temples might be dedicated to Orlanth Thunderous, but of course the members of that temple don’t think the tribal Orlanth Rex temple or the local Orlanth Adventurous temple are heresies.

The Red Emperor’s Rule

Since we were talking about challenging the Red Emperor’s legitimacy, here’s how the Red Emperor claims universal rule. It’s based on:

1. Being given charge of his Divine Mother’s affairs in the Temporal World,
2. Being Yelm’s deputy in the Mundane World, and
3. Being a god in his own right.

The Red Emperor is charged with providing peace and order to the whole world. Now that doesn’t mean he needs to govern the world – he’s perfectly willing to acknowledge clients and allies, and let them govern themselves. But they need to acknowledge his supreme status. Independent states outside of this system are fundamentally illegitimate- they are rebels against the divine order. Sartar, the Holy Country, the Voor-ash, Praxian tribes, Loskalm, they are all the same.

One question is the status of the Elder Races. Some Lunar philosophers claim they are doomed, but the Red Emperor generally has a live and let live attitude towards the trolls of the Blue Moon Plateau (even granting them the status of Ally) and the Yolp Mountain Trolls. Same with the dwarves of Jord and the Brass Mountains. And the Red Emperor often speaks of friendship towards the elves (which is usually ignored by them);

Another question is Ralzakark, whom the Red Emperor treats as a peer. Some anti-Lunars claim that may be tie of kinship….

Importantly the Lunar Empire has no “fixed” borders or boundaries other than the Glowline itself.

Dranz Goloi and the Voor-Ash

A couple days ago I would have said “Dranz Who and the What Now?” but in light of the Voor-ash mention above (in the heresy segment) I actually now know what Jeff is talking about.

I’m not going to quote him in full, since he’s pretty much rehashing what’s in the Glorantha Sourcebook: that Dranz Goloi is coming through the Redlands (the area between the Lunar Empire and Pent), raiding the eastern Lunar Provinces, with a couple easily repelled attempts at first in the early 1620s, but then with increasing force in the following years. Of note:

[In 1625], Oraya fell, as did most of First Blessed and the Red Emperor was forced to personally thwart an attempt by Sheng Seleris to slip out of the Underworld. Pentan bands raided the outskirts of Raibanth, and deep into Imther and Holay.

Sheng Seleris is trying to get out of Lunar Hell, people. This is, like, bad-ass villain stuff. It’s ridiculous but the first thing that comes to my mind is Tai Lung’s prison in the first Kung Fu Panda movie.

It only takes a goose feather for him to escape! What will it take for Sheng Seleris?

Then in 7/54 (1625), the True Dragon rose in Dragon Pass, and the Lunar Army of the south was lost. Soon after, the Lunar army was routed by Dranz Goloi at the Battle of Diavizzi Ford in First Blessed. The Red Emperor ordered the remaining garrisons of the Lunar Provinces to be stripped and sent them to First Blessed to fight. The Red Emperor appointed his demigoddess Jar-eel the Artess to command the remaining imperial armies.

People like to think of the big conflict of the Hero Wars as being the one between Sartar and the Lunar Empire, possibly because a lot of Gloranthan publications have been Sartarite-focused, but really, as Jeff mentioned previously, the Lunar Empire is a lot more concerned about this Dranz Goloi guy.

So if you ever wondered why the Lunar Empire seem unfocused on what is going on in Dragon Pass, well they kind of have bigger and more immediate problems right now.

Jeff offers this picture of a Scythian noble as inspiration for him:

Look up Evgeny Kray’s art for more Scythian goodness. I think that this is his official page on the Russian social media site VK but I’m not sure… it’s Russian… click at your own risk. This Twitter thread of Evgeny’s art is probably easier and safer.

The Prince of Sartar as a Patron

Jeff is travelling to ChaosiumCon at the moment and seems to have way too much time to post!

[…] we often overlook the role of the Prince of Sartar as a patron of letters and art. But of course that has always been one of the key roles of the Prince. Sartar’s friend Wilms was an artist and architect of genius, and Sartar was famed as a patron of the Lhankor Mhy cult, founding and endowing libraries in all of his cities. All of the Princes were known to be literate, and several even wrote works.

The fact that Sartar became criss-crossed with trade routes when the Inhuman Occupation ended and Dragon Pass was open to humans again probably played a part in this too. If all those caravans were only crossing hillbilly country, they wouldn’t want to trade with the locals, let alone stop and spend their money. Taxing the roads is fine, but having all these people talk about how fine your culture is wherever they go is even better, and brings even more business.

The Prince is not only a patron of arts and letters, but a judge of quality and merit, and his approval contributes to the acceptance of new ideas and art forms. Sartar, Saronil, Tarkalor, and Terasarin were all good examples of this – perhaps Temertain’s desire to be recognized as a Philosopher King was not as outlandish as we often imagine.

This is not just a Sartarite thing – Belintar, Moirades, and Fazzur Wideread were all famed for their patronage of arts and letters, and the Red Emperor often claims to be a scholar of unparalleled breadth. But we often forget how much the Sartar Dynasty were active and enthusiastic patrons of the arts and letters.

So remember that Kallyr and Argrath both are likely to be receptive towards scholars and artists seeking patronage. That’s part of their role and responsibility.

Fear not, players of scholars and artists! You can take part in the Hero Wars! Besides, you know what they say about history: it’s written by the victor’s scribes. If you’re one, you better make sure you’re already in their entourage…

But like in other displays of gift exchange, this is a way to tie scholars and artists to the dynasty. Give that Lhankor Mhy scholar support and a stipend, and watch them come up with ways to help and promote the Prince!

Modern Lunar apologists sometimes try to justify their conquests as if they were 19th century European imperialists – civilization over illiterate tribes. But that’s not really the case.

As far as I can tell, this misconception about Lunars “bringing civilization” to Sartarites is partly coming from using the wrong sources (like King of Dragon Pass’ pre-Sartar setting) and self-reinforcing fan-talk (referencing Life of Brian is too attractive to pass on even if Sartar already had roads and sewers before the Lunars). But it might also come from the more Celtic/Viking vibe of the HeroQuest material, where a good chunk of the art depicts wooden longhouses and palissades — a far cry from the colourful and sophisticated Greek/Mediterranean feel of RuneQuest Glorantha. A decent art budget can totally change (or ruin?) people’s mental picture of the setting, so I’m happy that I started with Glorantha being depicted in glorious full-colour detail.

Friendship and Gift-giving

Jeff writes about Orlanthi friendship:

Despite (or perhaps because of) the importance of kinship ties, friendship is greatly valued in Orlanthi culture, and many stories place greater importance on friendship than kinship. One has no choice in kinship, but friends are chosen – to be rich in friends (as Sartar was) matters more than the strength of one’s kin. “Friendship” for the Orlanthi is not casual acquaintanceship. It is a personal, reciprocal bond of loyalty between two or more individuals of roughly equal status who share roughly the same interest or goals. Friends are committed to each other by mutual obligations, and can rely on each other help. One’s loyalty to one’s friends is a key part of the Orlanthi concept of honor – violation of friendship is considered highly dishonorable, even impious!

This is why it’s possibly a good idea to have a “Friendship (Other Adventurers)” Passion for the player characters in your game after a while. You can mix it up a bit, too, with some adventurers having a Loyalty Passion to another adventurer, such as one adventurer being a personal bodyguard or scribe to another player’s Thane of Apple Lane character. This not only adds to the roleplaying bits, it also greatly helps the gamemaster justify why the same group of people keeps on going on adventures every season… otherwise “an Orlanthi warrior, a Yelmalion hoplite, a Yinkini hunter, and a Lhankor Mhy scribe enter an inn” sounds like the beginning of a bad joke.

Honor dictates that an Orlanthi remain loyal to their friends, even against their own kin. Obviously, this can be the source of tragedy – but it is also a great source of strength.

We put a lot of emphasis on kinship ties with the Orlanthi – as we should – but it is also important to note that many of the greatest Orlanthi were mightier in friends than kin, starting with Orlanth himself.

But Orlanthi friendship – like so many Orlanthi customs – is a two-edged sword. One must remain loyal to friends, even when they are wrong. So pick your friends carefully!

Rolling two Passions against each other is a good way for players to figure out what their character should do. Of course, don’t let Passion mechanics get in the way: if you know what you want your character to do, do that, and adjust the Passions as needed! Passions never force players to do anything, unlike what some people seem to think. However, Passions should go up and down based on what the players do end up doing. Doing something dishonourable to support a friend should lower the character’s Honor and increase their Loyalty to that friend… or vice versa.

As an aside, to be accounted the “friend” of a Prince or king is a very weighty position in Orlanthi society.

This is also known as “reaching the top quest-giver in the game”.

Now, on to gift-giving:

The exchange of gifts and favors among the Orlanthi is a reciprocal and highly ritualised process. Gift-exchange is often a key part of friendship. It is subject to three rules: the obligation to give, to receive, and to reciprocate. Reciprocity is not balanced – the person with the highest status is obligated to offer the most valuable gifts or favors.

When someone seeks to ask for a gift or favor, one must first make an initial gift. This could be a gift, or also a pledge of service or support.

So think about this next time your Orlanthi character “gives” someone a weapon or pledges their support. This is the sort of thing that the Honor and Loyalty passions are all over!

Gift-exchange is deeply tied to Orlanthi concepts of honor. Violating the rules of gift-exchange is considered as dishonorable as cowardice or breaking one’s word.

And one way of tying player characters to a powerful figure (like a tribal leader, warlord, priest, or even the Prince) is to give them gifts they can’t repay. Give them horses, weapons, herds, community support, even magic items! As gifts. And when they say they cannot possibly repay this, just smile.

Jeff then further expands on gift-giving:

With Sartar, Tarsh, Esrolia, etc. we can see the role that friends and gift- exchanges have in rule. But for our two god-kings things are a bit different. They rule as living gods and they have a cult, not friends. After all who would be presumptuous enough to proclaim themself a rough peer of the Red Emperor?

The Red Emperor has children and worshippers, not peers. Maybe the occasional outsider gets to be a favorite- a way of breaking out the bubble of 20 generations of children!

Belintar has children as well, but his friends are the gods and heroes of the Holy Country.

And then a short digression on hunting:

One more random Orlanthi thread – much large game hunting in Orlanthi lands is not by full time hunters of the Odayla or Yinkin cults (although such people might be present). Kings and princes and others are expected to hunt to show courage, patients, skill with weapons and mounts, and ability to take life.

I like this, because as far as I can tell, Kings going on hunts are a big thing in real-world history. Yet another scenario idea!

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.

Sandy’s Collaborations with Greg Stafford

© 2022 Petersen Games

Over at the Petersen Games blog, Sandy talks about “how to be a game designer“, and in particular talks about the different types of designers. He illustrates this point with some anecdotes from his collaboration with Greg Stafford.

Greg originally invented Glorantha to write fantasy books about, but instead this universe was used for games, comic books, art, etc. Greg was a virtual fount of creation., spewing out interesting concepts almost every day.

Sandy Petersen is of course a big name in Chaosium’s history, being the author of the Call of Cthulhu RPG. But he’s also worked on many parts of Glorantha, and you’ll find his name on things ranging from Trollpak to the Guide to Glorantha to his giant “Glorantha: The Gods War” board game.

I worked closely with Greg, but I am not his kind of creative. Instead, I am a syncretive designer. I pick and take ideas from others, matching these together to make a coherent new whole. In our collaboration, first Greg would come up with some crazy idea. Then I would listen to him, remember some idea he had a year ago on a related topic, and figure out how these both worked together. I also carried things to a logical conclusion, which he often hadn’t considered.

As an example, Greg said the Red Moon in Glorantha has phases, just like earth’s moon. But the Red Moon doesn’t move – it always sits in the same place overhead. So, I pondered, “Why would this moon have phases?” In Glorantha, the sun orbits the world in Ptolemaic fashion. There is no outside cosmos. So, what makes the Red Moon change appearance? I conjectured, “perhaps the moon is dying and being reborn. That’s what causes the phases.” Later, I suggested, “perhaps an unknown dark object orbits the moon, casting a shadow on it”. Well, Greg used both those ideas at different times, apparently forgetting which he liked better. Perhaps that ideas could be combined? I wondered – maybe an unknown dark object orbits the moon whose shadow kills the moon as it passes over it, only to revive when it passes.

Greg invented wacky cults and religions all the time. Then I had to transform them into something playable for a game. I was always focused on what is FUN for players. Greg just liked creating new material – in his mind, simply knowing about his world’s depth and features was enjoyable all on its own, and I’m not saying he was wrong. In the end, the combining of his fount of energy and my focus on playability led to some terrific game ideas.

This shows that two extremely different designers could be creative in different ways, and yet forge a coherent and great game universe which lives on. Similarly, you can be creative in more than one way.

Drawings by Lee O’Connor

Here are some very nice Orlanthi deities by Lee O’Connor:

From left to right and top to bottom, these are Vinga, Storm Bull, Eurmal, Humakt, Maran Gor, and Ernalda.

Glorantha’s Lozenge and Skydome

This illustration by Bernard Bittler Arias appeared in the landmark French magazine Casus Belli back in 2000, when it came back with the first issue of its short-lived “volume 2″… (you have to know that Casus Belli has had a complicated publishing history that started in the early 1980s, but it is still published to this day).

Anyway, Bernard is selling the original painting. Contact info here.

Clan Map of the Grazelands

French archivist extraordinaire 7Tigers has found this very nice map of the Grazelands on the Internet Archive:

Of note, it features the names of all the Grazelander clans, which is super useful because coming up with names is the hardest thing with world-building (at least for me). Give me a name, and I can write pages about it!

7Tigers credits the cartography to David Dunham, based on a map by Greg Stafford. I haven’t been able to double-check this but hey, 7Tigers knows.

Holy Country Ships

Some Holy Country triremes by Martin Helsdon, possibly from his upcoming Jonstown Compendium book on sailing around the Holy Country:

An Alatan hemiolia and three types of Holy Country trireme.

Thank you Martin for my new word of the day: “hemiolia“.

Right Hand of the Devil

Jim Mozley shared this nice painted miniature of the Right Hand Claw, from Infinity Engine. The other pictures include one of the Devil’s severed fingers bleeding a gorp out, and a gorp reaching for something (probably an adventurer).

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.

Dragon’s Eye Stone Mine

Photo by Evrthangel

Simon Phipp reminded me of this cool thing that definitely has its place here: the Dragon’s Eye Stone Mine in Lancashire (UK).

Not to be the fun-ruiner, but sadly some more research indicates that the surface of the “eye” is actually flat, and forms a roof over the cave. It appears curved and inclined down because most photos of it are taken with a fish-eye lens.

Thank you for reading

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