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.
A Year of RuneQuest Fun
I wrote a short (sort of) summary of my RuneQuest campaign so far. It starts with a tragedy, features many illegal shenanigans, much heroquesting, and some unexpected turns.
We started in 1611 with 10-year old characters being in-over-their-heads at Gamla’s Leap. The world comes crashing down around them and they join or return to the Bachad Tribe, in flames. Using some half-assed rules for playing a “kids on bisons” campaign, we went through some year-by-year adventuring, with quite a few vignettes and short scenes in between to punctuate daily Orlanthi life in the Far Place.
Give it a read and tell me what you think!
Here are this week’s Chaosium news!
The White Bull Campaign
Episode 2 of the new season is out! I haven’t watched this yet, I’m still catching up on James’ “A New Hero” game….
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!
Pirates of the East Isles Update
Scott Crowder’s “Pirates of the East Isles” has been updated with a better layout, a whole bunch of new artwork by Simon Bray, some NPC portrait tokens, and more!
Note that I did some of the art in this book! I don’t know if that makes you want to buy it more or less but hey, at least you know!
Duckpac’s SoloQuest is Coming
Book 3 of the Duckpac series, which will contain a duck-tastic SoloQuest, is apparently almost ready to go out!
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.
Skyfall Lake is a large lake located north of Sartar. You can see it on this Argan Argar Atlas map below next to the major troll settlement of Crabtown:
Jeff’s note on Skyfall Lake, and his choice of references, gives a good idea of the place:
Skyfall Lake is remarkable place. The lake itself is at 1150 meters elevation and is about 17 km long and 10 km wide, nestled beneath 2200 meter high Black Dragon Mountain. To the west of the lake is an 8 km wide belt of marshlands.
Above the lake is a perpetual rainstorm, a waterfall from the Sky River. Monsters, treasures, and other entities from the Celestial Realm are known to fall down occasionally into the lake, where trolls try to fish or dredge them out.
Here’s Jeff’s video reference — imagine this rainfall, but stuck in one place, forever.
Note that this rainfall, and the lake underneath, are the main source for the “River” part of the Creek-Stream-River that flows through Sartar, all the way to Nochet. This is also the main holy place for Engizi, the Skyriver Titan, one of the few notable water deities of Sartarite Orlanthi, along with Heler, which is somewhat related too.
Within the lake are monsters – water wyrms, sea serpents, whales, etc., far too massive and many to be supported by the lake’s ecology. Many speculate that they enter the lake from the Gods Realm.
I figure that these monsters “too massive and many to be supported by the lake’s ecology” not only enter the lake from the Gods Realm but also exit it — otherwise they would accumulate over time and that would lead to obvious problems. But more importantly, it means that, assuming you’re crazy enough and can hold your breath for a long time, you might be able to ride one of those monsters and physically end up in the Gods Realm! For bonus points, you can get swallowed by a monsters and spat out once there!
The lake is incredibly deep. Far deeper than our Lake Baikal, and in places bottomless. There is widely rumored to be a city of Chaos below, kept at bay by the water and the endless rain.
Underwater city of Chaos! That sounds like an awesome place to visit! But more seriously, this is thematically appropriate since one of the big things about water deities is that one of their main shtick is to fight Chaos by trying to drown it or wash it away. That’s what the Good Canal is trying to do at the Block in Prax (wash away the Devil’s body underneath), and what Magasta’s whirlpool is trying to do at the centre of the world (fill up the hole left behind when the Spike shattered, and prevent Chaos from creeping back in). The sad thing is that it never seems to work.
I often imagine it as being kind of comparable to Lake Tahoe, although Tahoe is about twice the size of Skyfall Lake. Still Tahoe is a good reference for ideas:
In winter, all that rain coming down results in vast snow falls throughout the eastern Far Place and the Stinking Forest.
Besides some generic (but useful!) information on the city layout, its surroundings, and its history, there’s this interesting bit:
The Lunars tried to deal with Orlanth worship in a lot of ways in Tarsh. The big thing was the Seven Mothers – think like the Spanish missions. The Seven Mothers is THE key institution to stabilizing the Lunar Provinces. So you get a nice temple built, a bunch of priestesses assigned there, soldiers to protect it, and the local rulers are told to cooperate with them. Some of the locals embraced the Seven Mothers, others retreated into Earth worship.
Jeff then shares the cult distribution in the overall Lunar Tarsh. The takeaway is that Ernalda and The Seven Mothers both have ~25% of the adult population, while Orlanth only has ~15%. Hon-eel is at ~10%, so that’s 25% of the population actively initiated into Lunar cults! And it’s very possible that, although half of the Ernalda cultists might be married to Orlanth cultists, the other half is probably married to Lunar cultists…
I suppose that the Orlanth cult is a major cult but far from having much power anymore. I picture a big chunk of these Orlanth cultists as being Orlanth Thunderous/Barntar farmers who stay out in the fields (Jeff specifies that “Orlanth worship is largely subsumed into Barntar cult in Lunar dominated areas“) The power centres, such as cities and tribal towns, probably have a bias towards Lunar, pro-Lunar, or neutral cults. After all The Seven Mothers is “hostile” towards the Orlanth cult, so there’s bound to be a lot of bias and discrimination. It took generations and a couple of civil wars, but the Lunars eventually Lunarized Tarsh, right?
By the way, Jeff added a nice short description of each Tarshite city:
Each Tarshite city has a very different vibe – unlike in Sartar (who built all the cities but Alda-Chur and Alone), the Tarshite cities developed separately.
– Bagnot – the old religious/political center of the Tarsh tribe, and home of the Twins Dynasty.
– Dunstop – agricultural center, tied in with the Earth Religion.
– Talfort – fortified border town. Goldedge – a Sun Dome temple.
– Slavewall – fortified border town and trading center
– Bjorni’s Landing – main river crossing and trading center
– Furthest – planned imperial city
The Fall of the Great Empires
Jeff reminds us that all the great fallen empires of Glorantha weren’t originally bad:
The Broken Council, God Learners, Empire of the Wyrms Friends, and the Lunar Empire all shared the same progression of endless new possibilities and optimistic enthusiasm that later becomes overtaken by ambitious power-seeking, cynical opportunism, and angry resentment. This progression is never quick, and often takes many generations. But there is something in mortal existence that subjects even the brightest of movements to the entropy of Time.
So when we complain about decadence of the God Learners or the EWF, remember that they too were once bright and filled with endless possibilities!
Jeff adds a bit more to this, including what brings these empires to ruins, from a conceptual point of view. But ultimately I don’t think any of this is really useful for games set in the Third Age, except when it comes to designing some incredible-looking EWF ruin full of wonderful and scary things, or encountering echoes of the God Learners’ research while heroquesting or digging through old tablets. As far as the Third Age factions go, none of them have this facet of “bright, endless possibilities”. The Lunar Empire arguably has the latter, but not the former.
The First Council
Speaking of Fallen Empires, the First Council gets a detailed write-up. I’m all confused though… I think this council also gets called “Unity Council” and “World Council of Friends” in various material.
As far as I can tell, this is the council that was created in the God Time just after the Sun was brought back from the Underworld. This is important because this is all in the short era between the Great Darkness and the Dawn, before Time began… so the gods were still around. And indeed, Jeff lists the following six members, from the various races and factions that survived the Great Darkness: Aram Ya-Udram (human Orlanthi boar-riding hero), The Only Old One (troll-ish darkness dude), Kyger Litor (ancestress and main deity of the trolls), The Speaking Wheel (possibly the last surviving member of the strange people known as the Gold Wheel Dancers), the Inhuman King (dragonewt demi-god), and Orlanth (storm god).
This list differs from the one in the Glorantha Sourcebook. It’s probably because the Sourcebook describes the council after the Dawn, when Time has begun and the gods are bound away from the mundane world. So Aram Ya-Udram, The Only Old One, and Speaking Wheel are still there, but the gods Kyger Litor and Orlanth are replaced by the elf Fwalfa Oakheart and the dwarf Martaler The Blazing Forge. The Inhuman King may or may not still be there: the Sourcebook lists a dragonewt named Heart of Weakness in its place, but given the reincarnation tricks and mental transference shenanigans of the dragonewts, who’s to say…
The Second Council
After the First Council came… the Second Council. I know, shocking. It looks like this one also gets called “High Council of Genertela” in some material. Because of course we need more names!
There is a lot of stuff to digest in this note and I ran out of time to annotate it. Honestly, I don’t find some of these old histories necessarily useful for my games anyway. But what I like are maps! And over on BRP Central, Jeff expands a bit on the High Council with this political map around 410 ST:
[…] Greg and I played around with that era a LOT. It was a time of limitless opportunities, and Illumination opened wildly fantastic new vistas. New revelations and insights nearly overwhelmed the old, and seemingly impossible contradictions were laughed at. At least that is how those around Nysalor saw it. Further afield, the ambitious saw Nysalor as a vehicle to power and personal gratification. And beyond that, were those who “never got any spells, magic, insight, or especially good wages.” […]
One of the more interesting early maps is this political map of Central Genertela circa 410 ST. Note that Heortland (aka Dragon Pass and Esrolia), Saird, Delela, Slontos, and Saird are all marked as subjects. The Harandings and the Dwarfs are allies, as are Tandoor and Korion. Arolanit, the Enjorelli Tribes, Lankst, and Seshnela are all outside of the the High Council’s domination, as are the Trolls.
Here’s a short note on Seseine, the Chaotic Goddess of Temptation. I can’t say I’m a big fan of what looks like a very Christian view on desire, passion, good, and evil… but hey, it’s here, and it will be in the upcoming Prosopaedia. Do what you will with it!
On Evil and Chaos
Most creatures tainted by Chaos are simply evil. They tend to worship the gods of Chaos – the enemies of Creation – because no one else will take them. These entities are opposed by the gods, who uphold the cosmos as part of the Great Compromise. This isn’t just a Theyalan thing – no God Time deity untainted by Chaos is better than neutral towards Chaos; most are hostile or enemies. They have their stories as to why they are what they are, but in the end this is not a “misunderstanding” by the gods – beings such as Krarsht, Thanatar, Thed, Vivamort, etc. are evil..
The very life-cycles of many Chaotic creatures are corrupted in ways that most sentient beings find far more terrifying than mere man-eating trolls or alien dragonewts.
Jeff then gives a bunch of examples, briefly stating what makes the classic Chaos races tick.
And yet, there are those that claim that it need not always be like that. Nysalor taught that through Illumination our inherent fear of Chaos can be overcome – and also that the inherent hatred Chaotic beings have for existence can also be overcome. This is at the very core of the Red Goddess cult and is integral to the Lunar Way.
There are also stories of Chaotic creatures rejecting the Lords of Terror and seeking peaceful coexistence with the rest of the world. The fabled Cleansed Broo of the Rockwood Mountains, who devoted itself to Chalana Arroy is perhaps the best known, but there are of course others.
And thus even those tainted by Chaos have a possible depth, motivation, and the chance to be more than they are.
If you want more stuff on the topic, including a treatise on Chaos, ways to be consumed by it or be overcome by it, and some hopefully entertaining moral conundrum on Chaos, see my adventure “A Short Detour” on the Jonstown Compendium! It’s got several pages of my view on Chaos, way more than I could put here in this annotations.
Rural and Urban Kinship Ties
Jeff puts into context how tribes are spread between the rural hillbilly folk, the people in the tribal centre, and the people in cities such as the Confederation capital and Boldhome.
Let’s think about it this way. There are about 9600 people in the Cinsina tribe. 600 of them live in Jonstown, where they make up more than a quarter of the city’s population. Another 500 live in Boldhome. The rest are rural. Those who live in the cities are just as much members of their kinship groups as their rural cousins, but they also have ties to their guilds, their cults, and their cities that are often just as important or even more.
There’s also a mention about people travelling to big cities for important religious festivals and duties. With Lunar-occupied cities, people might have stayed in their village and refrained from travelling to urban centres, but this is changing after the Dragonrise:
Remember the scale of things in Sartar. A city is rarely going to be more than a long day’s trek away from any associated tribal settlement (and often just a few hours away). These are not Medieval English peasants, tied to the land, but free people used to moving around and traveling. The Lunar Occupation interfered with this, but it was the aberration, and besides it is over now.
Humakt and Yanafal Tarnils
As a good demonstration of varying Gloranthas, here are two different takes about whether a Humakti can easily convert to Yanafal Tarnils or not. If you need a refresher on Yanafal Tarnils, it’s the main Lunar soldier cult, and one of the figures of the Seven Mothers cult. As with most Lunar figures, he was a mortal who ascended to godhood. In life, he was… a Humakti who somehow “defeated” his god in battle.
To join the Yanafal Tarnils cult, a Humakt initiate MUST LEAVE the Humakt cult (you cannot become the initiate of a Neutral cult – only Friendly and Associated). That triggers the Spirit of Reprisal. Their geases remain, and they cannot use a straight bladed sword (broadsword, etc.). Of course if one is Illuminated, then the Spirit of Reprisal cannot act…..
Regardless, the new initiate must create a new Rune Pool – Yanafal Tarnils is not Humakt but a different god. Same thing with worship skills.
This bit is generally interesting for world-building around the Lunar Provinces:
There is a reason after all that the Humakt cult has remained strong in the West Reaches and the Lunar Provinces. The cult is a useful source of soldiers, and since you can’t just hop from Humakt to the 7 Mothers or Yanafal Tarnils, the Lunar Empire tolerates it (like it does with so many other cults).
On the other hand, Michael “MOB” O’Brien, Vice-President of Chaosium, “MGF-guy”, and all-around “funniest Chaosium person” in my book, has a different take:
IMG Humakti who switch over to Yanafarl Tarnils get to keep all their gifts (as long as they don’t break their geases) and can continue to replenish their rune points at Humakti temples. And I’m just going to take off my tinfoil helmet to note that Humakti can replenish their rune points in YT temples too, though they do tend to get a bit self-conscious during the liturgy, what with all the tambourines, guitars, and group hugs. YGMV.
When it comes to Yanafal Tarnils initiates replenishing their Rune Points at Humakti temples, here’s my take:
Revising Gloranthan Lore
I’m always happy when I get a glimpse of the creative process behind Gloranthan lore, especially material revisions. In this BRP Central thread about the various version of the Gold Gotti (a Wolf Pirate buddy of Harrek), Jeff shares this:
That Sourcebook section [on Gold Gotti] was written by me around 2014, maybe even earlier. It didn’t quite sit right with me but Greg was fine with it, although he thought it didn’t mesh with his original idea of the character – which he had written up around 1978 or so. Sadly that material, like so much of his late 1970s and early 1980s material, was presumed lost forever. So I ran with it, even though it didn’t feel right.
Flash forward a few years. A kindly benefactor found and returned Greg’s lost notes. In there were detailed descriptions of every unit for WBRM, and Greg’s descriptions of many minor figures, as well as troves of Gloranthan gold. Greg and I talked, and agreed Goldgotti should be what he was intended to be – a very successful Wolf Pirate (it also gave the game a unit of Wolf Pirates in addition to Harrek and Gunda). And so there it is.
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 Kraken Was Released
Last week, immediately after GenCon, was the much smaller Kraken convention in Germany! This is the successor of the Tentacles Convention which has many ties to Chaosium games in general and Glorantha in particular.
Judging from social media, there was some mask-wearing game of Lunar ritual disruption, a seminar on How to Make Glorantha Fun, and Doc Cowie (who was our guest once!) GMing a game where he got the date wrong (asking what year it is in Glorantha is a long standing joke among certain parts…)
Take note of Doc Cowie’s t-shirt though!
For more pictures of the convention, see the Kraken’s Twitter feed!
Grognardia on RuneQuest Marketing
I have always been fascinated with this weirdly boasting ad for RuneQuest way back from 1980. It appeared in Dragon Magazine but it probably also appeared elsewhere — I don’t remember where I saw it first. Anyway, if you have never seen it, take the time to read it, it’s… something.
James Maliszewski gives his thoughts on the ad on his excellent blog GROGNARDIA.
I want to take a look at each paragraph of the ad, because I think each one includes some fascinating boasts about RQ. Before doing that, though, I simply want to draw attention to the ad’s title, which plays off a very common concern in the hobby during the early to mid-1980s – realism.
Attack on Tin Inn
Mark Austin is taking “miniature combat” to a whole new level!
Thank you for reading
That’s it for this week! Please contact us with any feedback, question, or news item we’ve missed!