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

God Learner Sorcery

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

Episode 16: Ernaldan Adventuresses: Blood, Sex, and Rock’n’Roll

Episode 16 is about playing Ernaldan cultists and other Earth pantheon initiates! We have Katrin Dirim and Claudia Loroff with us, who summarizes Ernaldan priestesses as “blood, sex, and rock’n’roll”. We discuss Ernalda’s role in Glorantha and in our games, how to play non-combative characters, what the best Earth magic is, orgies and pregnancies, and more! Plus: Gloranthan cooking!

Chaosium News

Here are this week’s Chaosium news!

Anniversary of Gene Day’s Passing

Chaosium shared a few words on their social media accounts for the 40th anniversary of Gene Day’s passing:

Vale Gene Day, whose untimely passing was 40 years ago last week—in addition to being a rising star in comics, his art also left an indelible legacy upon many of Chaosium’s earliest board game and TTRPG releases (Nomad Gods, Call of Cthulhu, RuneQuest, Stormbringer and more).

© 2022 Chaosium Inc.

Gene’s most iconic art pieces for Chaosium are probably for Call of Cthulhu:

The cover painting was commissioned for Call of Cthulhu in 1981, but the Cthulhu image on the right originally comes from Gene’s 1979 limited ed art book ‘All Things Dark and Dangerous’ (Shadow Press, Canada).

But for Gloranthaphiles, he also did a few timeless depictions of Prax, in Nomad Gods for instance. We talk a bit about Gene’s art, and other Praxian matters, in our two episodes (part 1 and part 2) on this venerable board game.

© 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!

Teasing the Hero Wars in the East Isles

Neil Gibson is teasing some East Isles action!

Coming VERY soon, not one but TWO source books for the Hero Wars in the East Isles from Hannu Rytövuori, David Cake and Nils Weinander.
Vol 1. Korolan Islands: History, Geography, Player Background, Occupations, Mysticism, Martial Arts, Islands Details and more! (~87 pages)
Vol 2. Fires of Mingai: A starter campaign set in the East Isles with four, fully detailed scenarios. (~127 pages)

I love those covers!

Previewing the Pavis & Big Rubble Companion Remake

© 2022 Ian Thomson & Chaosium Inc.

Ian Thomson has a PDF preview for us while he’s doing some finishing touches to his upcoming Jonstown Compendium book. For those who don’t know, this is the relaunch of some of his old Pavis & Big Rubble Companion materials.

Jeff’s Notes

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

The Wetlands of Lowland Peloria

Jeff shares some notes about the wetlands of lowland Peloria, which are located basically between Glamour and Alkoth. You can see the wetlands on this Argan Argar map in brown:

Unlike the Upland Marsh in Dragon Pass, these marshlands are densely populated. Other Pelorians refer to the inhabitants of these marshlands as Weeders. They build boats, huts, lodges, nets, and even clothing out of the reeds and rushes. They live off fishing, growing rice, and raising fowl and some other livestock.

Jeff uses a picture of the Arab marshes of Iraq for this. This is located in the wetlands near where the Tigris and Euphrates rivers meet — what used to be Mesopotamia in the Bronze Age. This is the suburbs of Uruk and other famous ancient cities, although I haven’t checked if there used to be wetlands back then too (climate and shorelines changed a lot in 4000 years!)

Photo by Nik Wheeler

The Weeders largely worship their Heron Goddesses, the Oslira River, and their local Boat Boy, along with some other minor deities and spirits. Shargash is often worshiped as an associated deity. They have proven stubbornly resistant to Seven Mothers missionaries.

If you want a reference for Weeders, you could simply look at the people who live there today:

This, for example, is a Mashoof, the traditional long canoe used to navigate these waters. Here’s a video if you want more references. It’s got everything, from the boats to the reed huts and the herons!

Oslira

Since we’re on the shores of the Oslir river, Jeff writes about Oslira’s magic:

So I was recently pondering why Oslira does not provide Strongnet, unlike Engizi and Zola Fel. And I realized the answer is quite easy – the Oslira cult is not the cult of Weeders, who net fish.

[…]

Oslira’s cult is about keeping the river goddess happy (and within her embankments). It is far more agriculturally oriented than Zola Fel or Engizi. Fishing is often with spear by the River Priests, while with net by the Weeders.

I want to make an ironic quip here about RuneQuest and “sim-Glorantha” but I will refrain… oh, wait, I just did. Sorry. Anyway, the cool thing here is that Jeff points us to a 1950s photo of people spear-fishing in Iraq, and the spears are… not what you’d expect. Or not what I expected, at least. Here’s another picture with (as far as I can tell) more permissible licensing for sharing:

The spears look like long pitchforks with short spikes or something. Cool, eh?

By the way, if you want to know exactly what magic Oslira has, David Scott has you covered. And I like some of the discussion that followed, for instance about how Orlanth Thunderous is an associate cult of Oslira because its rains are the river’s source. David says:

Orlanth Thunderous is likely an associate of Oslira in the Grazelands, and Old Tarsh (where the rains fall at the headwaters), but as soon as it hits Tarsh, that’s likely it.

Some people asked why Heler isn’t the associate cult here, given that Heler is the actual rain god. Both David and Jeff replied, including this:

Heler is atmospheric water – Rain. He’s not the Cloud God – that’s Orlanth Thunderous. It is worth noting that Heler does not have Cloud Call (he gets that from Orlanth Thunderous). So he’s usually treated as an accoutrement of Orlanth, like Lightning, or the Sandals of Darkness, or the Mist Cloud. Orlanth is often depicted with a small blue god or goddess around him – the embodiment of Rain.

So you can consider that rain is one of Orlanth’s “cool stuff”, or you can personify this cool stuff into a separate deity. I vaguely remember a bunch of precedent for this, especially in Aztec and Mayan mythology, but I can’t find references at the moment. Anyway, if Orlanth’s rain can be turned into a spirit cult or even divine cult (depending on the place), Orlanth’s other cool stuff could also get the same treatment. Imagine the cult of the “dark sandals”, in which the main ceremonial activity is to relax in the shade? I’d sign up for lay membership.

The Drivers of the Hero Wars

Now we have another series of notes on everybody’s favourite Gloranthan meta-plot, the Hero Wars! (we had a similar series of notes a few months ago if I recall correctly). The four notes look at the first appearance of the “Gloranthan super-heroes” in the original board game White Bear & Red Moon.

Part 1 is about Glorantha’s Alexander, Argrath. Jeff mentions how Greg Stafford originally created a Second Age hero named Argat, which he later split in two by writing Arkat and Argrath into the setting:

Now it leaves everyone plenty of room to interpret – was Argrath a cynical but charismatic manipulator, was he a religious fanatic, was he a footloose adventuring rogue who found himself with great responsibilities, or was he seeking to redeem his ancestors and his people? Or maybe a bit of all of this? Your Argrath will vary, of course.

Regardless of our interpretation of Argrath the mundane individual, we know that he very much embodies Greg’s Hero Archetype for Glorantha, as Greg took his hero Argat (who defeated Gbaji and his empire in a Great War) and placed him in Dragon Pass to fight Gbaji-become-Red Goddess and her empire (Arkat and Gbaji get their own story a few years later with Cults of Terror).

There’s a bit more on Argrath here, which is very interesting: Greg designed the Orlanthi myths and customs around Argrath.

Let me just answer the underlying proposition – of course Argrath is a “good or at least acceptable Orlanthi hero”. He pretty much defines what an Orlanthi hero is. Remember, from a writer’s perspective, Greg created the Orlanthi around Argrath, not vice versa. Now we are all playing RQ in the Third Age as the Hero Wars are underway, so we don’t see things from that perspective, but that is how the Orlanthi were created as part of the setting – as the people Argrath comes out of and leads.

Greg created plenty of Orlanth’s myths to echo Argrath’s deeds – Orlanth and the Strange Gods, that parallels Argrath and his Praxian, Wolf Pirate, and draconic allies. The EWF was created as backstory behind the Hero Wars and the Dragontooth Runners. And the list goes on.

So with that in mind, it should not be surprising that Argrath manages to unify his people and lead them against the Lunar Empire, and was able to survive setbacks. He literally was created by Greg to be that hero for them! Now of course, there are people who distrust him, have rivalries with him, dispute his qualifications or competence – the same existed with Alexander of the Romances, Arthur, Achilles, and every other hero Greg was inspired by.

The other “drivers” of the Hero Wars are also presented as multi-faceted, with lots of room to interpretation in various games and game materials. Part 2 if about Harrek the Berserk:

Again, we have plenty of latitude for interpreting Harrek. Was he a murderous madman? A Conan-figure whose adventures bring him to the very heart of Glorantha’s mythology? Was he more of a Rustam figure who brought destruction often despite his best efforts?

I don’t think I have to explain who Conan is anymore than I need to explain Alexander, but Jeff gives other reference I didn’t know:

  • Rostam, a legendary hero from pre-Islamic Persian mythology. A quick search yields classic hero stuff: a holy warrior riding a fancy horse, going into dangerous and possibly inter-dimensional places inhabited by powerful demons, fighting his nemesis, killing his son without knowing who it was, and so on.
  • Bhima, one of the main figures in the famous Hindu epic family drama The Mahabharata. The story is roughly about the war between two groups of demi-god cousins, and he’s one of those. The Wikipedia page has a bunch of cool images that you could use to tweak your mental image of Harrek in unexpected ways.

In Part 3, the Red Emperor gets a bit of coverage — but a lot less than the previous two, probably because, I mean, it’s the Red Fucking Emperor, so being mysterious and distant is part of the vibe. Apart from his immediate entourage, I’m pretty sure nobody knows who he really is or even possibly what he looks like.

There are rumors that Moonson is little more than a figurehead, a walking icon that is the locus of Lunar worship, but actually all decisions and deeds are done by others. Other rumors suggest that each Moonson is an ambitious and remarkable figure capable of beating off rivals to gain and hold on the title. As with Argrath and Harrek, there is room for plenty of interpretations.

The last is of course the only lady in the superhero club, everyone’s favourite Gloranthan red-head, Jar-eel the Razoress:

And again, there is plenty of room for interpretation here. Jar-eel could be cheerfully amoral and ruthless, with a veneer of wry wit and smiles. She could be effortlessly awesome, a moral and artistic paragon, destined to combat savagery. She could be all of that, while doubts gnaw within her about her role, and whether she does in fact serve Gbaji.

Sheng Seleris Through a Pentan Lens

Jeff attempts to go over Sheng Seleris’ history through a Pentan point of view, rather than the usual Lunar one. In the Lunar version, he’s the ruthless horse nomad that brought the empire to its knees. In the Pentan version, he’s the ruthless horse nomad that brought the empire to its knees and that’s a good thing.

Now I present this not to whitewash Sheng Seleris but to remind folk that even his tale is not so straightforward. Sheng Seleris represented all that which had been usurped by the Red Goddess and her dynasty – the Imperial Light of Yelm, the Golden Empire. It is easy to see that if Orlanth needed to resurrect Dead Yelm to restore the cosmos, then Argrath needed to resurrect dead Sheng Seleris to restore the world.

The God Learners’ Trickster Studies

If you look at the Guide to Glorantha, you might blink and miss the write-up for Thanor:

Thanor (ruin): In the Second Age, this city was the capital of Slontos. The notorious “Trickster College” was here, an important school of the God Learners. The ruins are now half-submerged and home to schools of fish and Ludoch.

This is one of the reasons I love the Guide. I skim over cool stuff all the time, and then when I skim the same pages a different way, I pick up different cool stuff. Anyway, Jeff spells it out more:

The God Learners were fascinated by the Trickster Archetype. They believed (quite correctly) that this archetype was powerful and a key driver of the events of the Godtime. Eurmal was the most fully-fleshed out Trickster cult, but there were so many others. Raven, Rakenveg, Firebringer, Bolongo, Ratslaff, and more. Members of one cult could use magic from another, and so on. Another theory was that Arkat-Nysalor might be somehow connected to this.

And so the God Learners gathered everything they could and made a veritable Clown College in Thanor. Great insights and discoveries were made – and at its height, the seas came in and Thanor was submerged. Everything figures that was just another one of Eurmal’s jokes – a thank you for bringing all of his parts together in one place.  

Given that I have an Eurmali player in my game, I suddenly have various crazy ideas for western travels…

Miscellaneous Notes

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.

Newt’s Awesome Broo

Newt Newport (of D101 Games and OpenQuest fame) is going through a Gloranthan relapse over at his Arkat’s Playground blog. This article on “Why I Keep Coming Back to Glorantha” is a nice love letter to the setting… but also I love that giant Broo miniature!

Photo by Newt Newport

All Hail the Red Emperor!

Art by Katrin Dirim

Katrin Dirim (who was one of our guests in this month’s episode) did this wonderful portrait of the Red Emperor!

Some RuneQuest Actual Plays

I came across a couple of rare RuneQuest actual plays that some of you might be interested in. I haven’t listened to or watched them yet so I can’t vouch for them.

The first one is a podcast from Just Barbarian Things, and it runs through most of the Starter Set (except the Rainbow Mounds) in almost a dozen episodes.

The other one is from the Esoteric Order of Roleplayers (who feature in the above podcast). They have one series called Prophecies of Doom that goes through The Broken Tower, some Apple Lane action, and Snakepipe Hollow. And then there’s another unnamed series that is a bit more eclectic in its adventure choices, with a mix of The Rattling Wind, Gaumata’s Vision, and more.

Going Solo: RuneQuest SoloQuest

TrooperSJP has a Twitch stream about playing the RuneQuest Starter Set’s solo adventure.

Beat-Pot Meme

Here’s a stupid Beat-Pot meme! No notes.

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.

There isn’t much this week (especially in the way of annotation) because I was away or otherwise busy all week-end. Don’t forget however that you can send “guest segments” to us and we’ll be happy to run them in the newsletter!

Chaosium News

Here are this week’s Chaosium news!

30% Off Chaosium Merch

By the time this newsletter is released, you’ll have only about two days left to enjoy 30% off from Chaosium’s Redbubble store. Time to get that William Church map dress, or that apron with the Walktapus cooking recipe! And if that’s not your style, don’t worry, there’s a lot of other less silly things, like cult affiliation t-shirts and Rune mugs.

White Bull Campaign S03E08

Jeff’s campaign continues, and he doesn’t lead his players to the nicest places in Glorantha…

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!

There’s nothing new on the Jonstown Compendium this week, but I’d like to highlight how nice it is that Chaosium supports its community creators by releasing regular blog posts promoting recent community releases. You can read the latest one here.

Jeff’s Notes

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

As mentioned in the introduction, there’s only a few links this week since I had no time last week to do any research or writing on this:

  • Tides Around the Choralinthor Bay: This note on the tides of Choralinthor Bay revealed something I wasn’t aware of until now: if you have a knowledgeable local guide, you can sail through the Left or Right Arms of the Holy Country (depending on the tides indeed). Otherwise you have to go through the Troll Straights.
  • Mesopotamia and Gloranthan Worldbuilding: Jeff is reading some history books and sharing some worldbuilding notes. This is followed by another note about the Lunar Empire’s economy, and a third one about Sartar’s cities and towns. I like how Sartar (the guy, not the country) was a cultural and societal reformist, whereas Argrath is a military and magical reformist.
  • Issaries, Lhankor Mhy, and Chalana Arroy: Here’s a look at some of the Lightbringers’ deities. First is Issaries, who is most known as the trade god. There are a few clarifications about why merchants use mules, what Issaries magic is good for, and where Argan Argar fits in the picture. Second is Lhankor Mhy, the “Knowing God” of scribes and other intellectuals. Last is Chalana Arroy, the “Goddess of Mercy”. Both of these deities also get some helpful tips and summaries about what their magic is good for.
  • Oakfed: For something different, there’s also a note on Oakfed, the Praxian spirit cult for wildfires.
  • Plaines of Prax: Jeff has some photographic references for Prax!

Community Roundup

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

A Story About Steve Perrin

Author Seanan McGuire (who also uses a couple other noms-de-plume for her books in non-fantasy genres) has shared this story about Steve Perrin:

The reason I still game today really comes down to a man named Steve Perrin, who sadly passed away recently, who welcomed a weird teenage girl to his table, and let me be silly, and loud, and comfortable.

I found his table because my then-boyfriend, Tom, was one of his players, and Tom’s parents were there too, and so no one thought it was weird that this adult man had a teenage girl in his garage three times a week.

Steve gave me dice. Steve taught me about consent and sharing space and telling a story with my friends. Steve taught me that gaming wasn’t just essential for my mental health, it could be FUN and non-toxic.

Steve is the reason I hold, to this day, that it’s not strange for adults to hold space for teens at their tables. It’s ESSENTIAL. It’s delicate, and you’ll have to be careful with some things–I’m not saying “all games must”–but Steve domesticated me.

Good job, Steve.

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 Cities and Armies

I already knew that the curiously organized Digital Maps of the Ancient World had some interactive maps of Roman Cities, which you can use as inspiration for Lunar settlements. But I just found out that they also have a page on the Roman Legion, with some useful basics and, more importantly, some cool terms and legion names you can throw around in your games.

The Goddess Kali

The British Museum has commissioned an icon of the Goddess Kali for their “Feminine Power” exhibition. There’s some interesting bits in the short testimony written by the people involved in the work:

Maa (Mother) Kali, is the name that brings back memories of my childhood from the town of Jalpaiguri in India. In my father’s ancestral house, we used to hold Kali-pujo (a worship ritual celebrating the Goddess Kali) with our huge extended family and it was a jubilant and joyous occasion. I saw my grandmother, pious and devoted to the pujo, fasting for two days before offering prayers to Maa Kali. My mother and aunts used to help with the khichuri bhog (food offering). To me, Kali-pujo was an amalgamation of incense, lights and homecoming.

Photo from the British Museum

Our Kali, unlike the new one at the British Museum, was blue. I once asked my mother why is Maa Kali black in some places and blue in others? My mother replied, “It is how the creator of the statue wants to portray her that defines her body colour. For some she is the epitome of matri-shakti (maternal strength) – strong but calm like the sky and a kind protector, like a mother who protects her children… for others, her image signifies the destroyer of evils, wild and intense like the ocean. Maa Kali is the power of divine over demon. She is our mother”.

See, even Gloranthans probably ask their elders why Orlanth is sometimes painted blue and sometimes not…

Hun Hunahpu

The Smithsonian blog has an article about the discovery of parts of a 1300 years old Mayan stucco depicting Hun Hunahpu, the Mayan maize god.

“The discovery of the deposit allows us to understand how the ancient Maya of Palenque constantly revived the mythical passage on the birth, death and resurrection of the maize god,” Arnoldo González Cruz, an archaeologist who was part of the find, says in a statement.

Photo by the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH)

The nine-inch-tall head had an east-west orientation that archaeologists believe represents the emergence of the maize plant at dawn, per INAH. They say Palenque’s Maya residents likely placed the large stone sculpture over a pond to symbolize the entrance to the underworld. The sculpture was intended to depict a beheaded figure, echoing other Maya art depicting various headless gods.

I think Ernalda and the grain goddesses have it easy compared to the Mayan gods:

As such, the Maya worshipped Hun Hunahpu, whom they believed was decapitated every fall around harvest time, then reborn the following spring at the start of the new growing season

Maize was not only important as a source of food, it also played a role in the Mayan creation myths, in which humans were created out of corn. There’s more on that here, including the following video:

Thank you for reading

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

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

God Learner Sorcery

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

Initiation Series Episode 11: Juan, and the Most Unlikely Glorantha Book to Start With

In episode 11 of our Initiation Series, we chat with Juan Ochoa, an illustrator that fell in love with Glorantha with the most unlikely book you could ever start with! We also talk about gaming shops in Columbia, alternative systems for Glorantha, avoiding the metaplot, linguisitcs, and more!

Chaosium News

Here are this week’s Chaosium news!

White Bull Campaign, A New Hero, and other RuneQuest Actual Plays

I just started catching up with the White Bull campaign after finishing the New Hero series which, by the way, James said would come back after GenCon but hasn’t yet… which makes me sad because it was quite good. They only ran two adventures but I found that they were both very Gloranthan and quite interesting.

As an aside, watching James, Bridgett, and David struggle at times with the rules lets me bang some more on that dead horse of mine that is the RuneQuest system. For instance, James mixes up the augment rules a few times, but that’s totally not his fault: it’s the system’s fault! It’s baffling to me that skill, Rune, and Passion augments don’t work the same, and that gamemasters and players need to memorize different modifier scales and mechanics for what should be, in my opinion, one simple unified mechanic. And then there are the success levels or the attack/parry results — I also don’t blame James here, because after running RuneQuest for a year and a half I still have to look them up on the gamemaster screen myself! But why? This could also be a much simpler unified mechanic…

Ultimately, I think this is why there’s virtually no RuneQuest actual plays out there apart from those that Chaosium directly sponsors. People who do actual plays want to provide compelling narrative entertainment, and that generally means using a system that “gets out of the way”. My theory is that the streamlining that went into Call of Cthulhu 7th edition played a big part in achieving that, which led to a lot of actual plays picking up the game, which in turn led to increased visibility and adoption. Crunchy systems don’t get a lot of air time, and RuneQuest is factually crunchy, I don’t care what the grognards say.

Miniatures VS Theatre of the Mind

Jeff’s latest interview on the Chaosium channel deals with “minitatures” vs “theatre of the mind”. Of the many discussion topics in TTRPG spaces, I think this is one where almost everybody agrees that “it depends” — it depends on the players and the group, it depends on the game, and so on. For instance, a game of Savage Worlds is more likely to have miniature combat compared to a game of Call of Cthulhu.

Personally, I find the dichotomy to be rather false. There are a few levels in between. For instance, I might most of the time start with theatre of the mind, but if players ask many questions about the environment, I might start to draw some crude map on a portable whiteboard or sheet of paper. These are (on purpose) too small to be used as any kind of battlemat so they are more akin to handouts. But then we might start drawing markers and arrows on there. And then sometimes we bust out the battlemat and use figurines.

Another thing that Jeff mentioned and that I’ve thought a lot about is how online play and VTTs are possibly skewing the new generation of gamers towards the “wargame end” of the spectrum. In my opinion, VTTs get RPGs wrong by reserving 90% of the screen to the map. When running online, I have the video feed of my players on my main screen. The VTT and everything else goes on the second screen. The people is the main thing.

TTRPG Writing Styles

Here is an interesting interview with Jason Durall (line editor for RuneQuest, but also a prolific author and editor with other publishers besides Chaosium). It deals with the various tones and writing styles found in RPGs, and how they fit different games. This is potentially insightful for Jonstown Compendium authors, for instance.

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!

Somewhere in Glorantha

Somewhere in Glorantha” is a book by Mark Prier that contains a whole bunch of tables for picking a place at random in Glorantha, with references for what book(s) you can find information about it.

Map of Melib

The island of Melib gets the Mikael Mansen treatment. This is a good opportunity for you to check out the write-up for Melib in the Guide to Glorantha, and decide that maybe you should give a boat to your players!

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.

Arkat’s Heirs

Arkat is one of those big chunks of Gloranthan lore that I know little about, so this note about his two alleged sons was a good opportunity for me to go read up on him. Here are some extra notes for your pleasure.

The first son mentioned here is Gerlant Flamesword, who is known to have helped Arkat when he devastated Dorastor. He went on to be a Seshnelan King in the second half of the 5th century. His flaming sword has been part of the royal Seshnelan regalia ever since, even though it has been lost and recovered a few times. Imagine how awkward it would be if one of your players found a “cool flaming sword” in a dungeon, only to have westerners come knocking on his door in Apple Lane soon after…

The other son is more interesting: Talor the Laughing Warrior is the one that cursed the Telmori! Here’s how it went: the Telmori were originally a Hsunshen tribe like the others, with the wolf as their totem animal. But they sided with Nysalor, who gave them the pretty cool blessing of super-duper magical armour. That’s how the Telmori are immune to most weapons while fully or partially in wolf shape. Talor fought the Telmori in the war between Arkat and Nysalor (known as the Gbaji Wars) and managed to curse them with the lycantropy we now know. I’m not sure how much of a curse it is to give your enemies free shape-shifting one day per week but hey, I’m sure it seemed like a good idea at the time.

Talor’s got a bunch of other cool things about him, from being brought back from the dead by Harmast, to being part of some Hero Wars prophecy. Jeff gives some editorial info on it, actually:

Harmast doing the full LBQ twice has been around since Cults of Terror, although I think the Guide was the first publication it was made explicit. Early on, Greg wrote that the first Lightbringers Quest was viewed as a failure when Arkat turned to the darkness, and that Harmast went on a second quest to find proper help. He returned with Talor the Laughing Warrior, who later became the first King of Loskalm.

Talor and Gerlant are now considered “ascendent masters” in some Malkioni sects.

The Divine Fortune of the Empire of Land and Sea

Here is another note on some stuff I know little about: the Middle Sea Empire.

The Empire of Land and Sea, aka The Middle Sea Empire, is the empire of the God Learners. It lasted only a couple centuries, from 789 to 990, but during this time it conquered most of the coastal lands of Genertela and Pamaltela.

For two hundred years the Jrusteli dynasty ruled as the Emperor of the Land and Sea. This was a new title, created in 789 with the acclamation of the Jrusteli Alliance, the Umathelan Coalition, and the Kingdom of Seshnela-Tanisor. At the time, the people acknowledging the Emperor of the Land and Sea as suzerain likely numbered 15-20 million or more, making it easily the largest empire in Gloranthan history.

There’s a bunch more information on the imperial fleet, but what’s interesting to me is the cult of the Emperor himself:

The Emperor of the Land and Sea was the subject of cult, associated with the Runes of Man, Luck, and Mastery. He was often associated with Water as well, as the Emperor had no fixed capital until the oceans were Closed off in 930.

[…]

Across the world, people offered cult to the Divine Fortune of the Emperor, a manifestation of the luck and fortune that made and preserved the Middle Sea Empire. This fortune was lost by Emperor Ilotos around 910 or so, and by 990 the Middle Sea Empire was no more.

There isn’t much about Ilotos unless you go into the wildly non-canonical Mongoose RuneQuest material focused on Glorantha’s Second Age (although some of it is written by Robin Laws, so it might contain a fair amount of Greg-approved material).

I’m not sure if Ilotos is to blame for the fall of Middle Sea Empire, though, as Jeff’s phrasing may or may not imply. As far as I can tell, the last decades of the empire are mostly a series of bad luck and hubris. All the shit the God Learners have been up to for more than a century catches up to them in an apocalyptic way. That’s just life, man.

This was the high point of Malkionism. A world-emperor, subject only to the Invisible God, who was perfectly fine with having Wachaza-worshipping marines and bodyguards, tamed gods and goddesses, and whose sorcerers could summon and command other gods to aid him.

Wachaza is a war god of the water pantheon, worshipped by merfolk and sea-faring fighters alike. You can look up its Rune magic in the Red Book of Magic: Drown (fill up someone’s lungs with water!), Seastrength (double your STR as long as there’s sea-water nearby!), and Fang of Wachaza (a whooping 5-point spell that makes pointy things pretty much as deadly as a Sever Spirit!)

Remember that, unlike what you might hear elsewhere, the Malkioni are not atheists. They very much know that the gods exist… the Malkioni just think they’re way too good to worship them. The gods are, instead, tools, just like spirits. People are tools too, and if letting them worship gods makes them more effective tools, that’s cool.

After the Middle Sea Empire

So we were just talking about the end of the Middle Sea Empire. What comes next?

Malkionism in the Third Age is a pathetic shade of its Second Age glory. The Middle Sea Empire ended in 990 and about a half-century later, Seshnela was shattered by the Luathelans. The great citadels of Malkionism – Frowal, Laurmal, Damolsket, Neleoswal, Orphalsket, and Old Pasos – all destroyed.

The Luathelans are quasi-divine violet-skinned beings that come from the Luathan Islands, at the western edge of Glorantha. There isn’t much known about them because we’re almost in the Gods World at this point: the Luatha Islands are believed to be (among other things) where the Gate of Dusk resides: that’s the giant well in which the sun goes when it sets in the evening. Of course, it leads to the Underworld, and there’s a Gate of Dawn at the eastern edge of the world for when the sun rises in the morning.

When the Closing of the Seas came, the Luathelans showed up in big ships, shoved a large iron pillar into the ground in Seshnela, and triggered some massive quake that shook the whole peninsula and shattered it to bits. About a million people died in one day, and vast amounts of knowledge were lost.

Weep at how much learning was lost in the West and how backwards modern Malkioni would look in the Second Age.

Of note, much later when Dormal re-opened the Seas in 1580, he travelled around Glorantha until, two years later, he disappeared going westward to find Luathela. But anyway, back to the early 1000s:

For three and a half centuries, Seshnela and Tanisor were an anarchy of petty robber baron clans of armored horsemen, who extracted tribute and support from the peasantry. Sorcerous learning survived in a few strongholds, in particular Leplain, the City of Wizards.

Leplain is where the home of the Rokari School of Magic is located, headed by the “Watcher Supreme” (which sounds like a Marvel character, right?) There are a few other schools, too, which makes Leplain one of the most important places for Malkioni sorcery. And with this comes enough political power to backup a Duke of Rindland called Bailifes when he decides to unify the area. This comes with benefits:

[Bailifes] would protect the sorcerers of the Rokari school and grant them oversight over matters of magic and learning. In exchange, they would support Bailifes and his family, and acknowledge them as the rulers.

In 1414, after his cavalry smashed the southern nobles at two battles, the Rokari proclaimed Bailifes King of Seshnela. This alliance between the Bailifids and the Rokari has been extremely successful for both groups, and the Bailifids have suzerainty over all the other “baronial clans”.

The note then describes how this political alliance allowed the Rokari wizard to enforce a few additional rules upon the population: the formalization of the caste system that the Malkioni are so found of (dividing people between rulers, sorcerers, workers, and soldiers), the Rokari having approval/veto power over which gods and spirits are worshipped by the population, and Bailifes becoming “deputy” of the Invisible God. This effectively provides the support system that the wizards need to be full time wizards.

Creative Commons picture

It’s interesting to see Jeff provide an Islamic-Indian picture to give us the vibe of this new Seshnelan nation. That’s a welcome change from the old classic European medieval takes on the Genertelan West, with Merlin-looking alchemists and sorcerers… the picture depicts the Ibadat Khana, a building designed by Mughal Emperor Akbar I in 16th century India as a place where intellectuals and spiritual leads could exchange ideas and teachings. Jeff’s Gloranthan take on the picture is “King Ulianus IV meeting with ranking zzaburi, Safelstran priests, and visiting Brithini“, dating this scene to around 1500 in Glorantha. Funny, it’s close to the real-world date, too!

The Rokari are rightfully called the “realists”. They recognized that they needed to work with the Bailifides, and made a pragmatic bargain that has withheld the test of time. I could imagine a Rokari Machiavelli writing about the need to look at effectual truths rather than “imagined republics and principalities.”

In truth, I imagine that the Secret Secretorum is a common literary conceit where wizards write advice to the king in the form of letters from Malkion to Talor.

The Secretum Secretorum is a series of letters that were supposedly written by Aristotle to his student Alexander The Great, even though it’s almost certainly a book written much later and without much to do with either of these historical figures. Plato and other philosophers used similar techniques in their texts. So I figure that whenever your Lhankor Mhy player character is told to find an “ancient text written by Malkion himself” or whatever, there’s actually a good chance it was simply written by an old philosopher using whatever narrative device was popular at the time… still, that doesn’t mean the text isn’t very valuable!

The Sygian Heresy

There isn’t much about the Stygian Heresy in the main published materials, but from what I understand it describes the various different sects of Arkatists — the people who follow the teachings of Arkat, the First Age anti-hero who embraced Death and Darkness to destroy Nysalor’s Empire of Light. Don’t mix it up with “Stygianism”, a branch of Arkati Malkionism that holds that everything came from Darkness, and to Darkness they shall go back.

Anyway, Jeff looks at Arkat’s teachings, which seem to boil down to “you can’t know what you haven’t experienced“. So you can’t know divinity unless you’ve been a god, and that kind of stuff.

“To destroy a monster, I became a monster. To wield Death, I became Death.”

This sort of talk disturbed our poor rationalists to the very marrow of their bones!

Jeff then explains how, when Arkat’s Dark Empire was destroyed, it was scattered into many small hidden sects that took Arkatism in various directions. When they came back to the open several centuries later, they were so different and disagreeing that they fought each other, over stuff like:

– A group claims to be in contact with the Hidden Arkat (or at least with the hidden heir of Paslac)
– A group claims to know when Arkat will return and is preparing for his return.
– A group claims to know THE secret of Arkat, the one he whispered to his truest companion (whose biological or spiritual descendant founded the sect) and survived the God Learners.

In a follow up note, Jeff goes over what these various sects have in common (knowing secret Arkati stuff, fighting whatever they decide is an incarnation of Gbaji The Deceiver, etc.)

Some sects openly display themselves. However, most hide and pretend to be orthodox Malkioni (especially Rokari) or are initiates of other local cults. […]

The term “Stygian Heresy” is of course not what they call themselves, but it connotes not only Arkat’s associations with Darkness, but the sects’ claims to have secret wisdom and esoteric lineages that they keep hidden “in the Stygian dark.” It does not necessarily mean that the sect worships the Gods of Darkness, although many do (but others worship Lightbringers, in particular Orlanth and Humakt, and still others claim to be Hrestoli).

Malkionism as a Cult

Here’s a glimpse into what it might be like to play as a Malkioni:

So one thing that should be obvious about Malkionism compared to other cults – it is primarily a philosophical system, rather than a connection with a god or spirit. The Invisible God is out of reach – that’s why it is called that. The Invisible God provides no magic in return for worship, any more than Arachne Solara or Glorantha do.

And:

Malkionism has usually co-existed with divine and spirit cults. The Talar Froalar mated with the goddess Seshna Likita and their child Yrealm the Serpent-Legged became the Sacred Lord of Seshnela. Seshna Likita, the Storm God, Magasta, Neliom, etc. all were popular cults. Throughout the First Age, Seshnela was a mix of Invisible God worshipping wizards, divine and spirit cults, Hrestoli “knights”, and rulers that treated this like an a la carte buffet.

But in game, if you are a Malkioni you are either:

1. A wizard, who uses sorcery exclusively.
2. Someone else, who uses a combination of spirit magic and Rune magic (from Ancestor worship, caste appropriate cults, hero cults, etc.), and is buffed by sorcery cast by a wizard.

My take on the west isn’t very original, as I stole it from Ars Magica. I figure that the wizards would only get involved once every few adventures, spending the rest of their time doing research and rituals. The other characters are their servants, bodyguards, and assistants who go on missions on behalf of their master. Troupe play would indeed work well here in my opinion (again, thanks to Ars Magica for that).

Jeff gives details on the Ascended Master hero worship of Xemela, but it doesn’t actually includes gameplay rules. I figure that the wizard’s sidekicks would mix classic cult membership (mostly from the Orlanthi pantheon) and specific hero cults like Xemela’s, each giving one or two Rune spells at most.

Loskalm and New Hrestolism

Loskalm is where some of the Pendragon-esque medieval tendencies of both game designers and players leaked into Glorantha’s otherwise ancient world setting. The reason for this is that most of the area has embraced “New Hrestolism”, a branch of Malkioni philosophy that embraces the caste system (workers, soldiers, wizards, rulers) but at the same time embraces social mobility, wherein most people try to actually pass through all these castes in their lifetime. Those who excel in all castes are “men-of-all”, and have been occasionally described as “knights”, which easily conjures potentially erroneous mental pictures of 8th century Western Europe.

[New Hrestolism] placed a great value on a type of elite horse-riding warrior that wandered around the countryside to right the wrongs done to the common people by the powers that be – called “men-of-all”, but you can imagine them as knight-errants, youxia, bogatyrs, etc. They followed the Code of Hrestol and were expected to be equally skilled with sword, horse, spear, poem, lore, and courtesy.

In order to mix up your mental pictures, Jeff here provides other references — although they all basically refer to “cool looking errand hero who goes back on the road after each adventure“. Besides the European knight-errant (like Lancelot) and the Chinese youxia (like the old TV-series Kung-fu!), you could also include the Japanese ronin (like in Kurosawa’s most famous movies). I didn’t know about the Eastern European bogatyr but it’s the same idea.

Jeff tries to explain that this man-of-all concept is somewhat linked to the “dualism” that exists at the core of Hrestolism:

In Loskalm, Malkionism developed a strong current of dualism, positing that the Invisible God’s awareness of itself created a lesser (and flawed) demiurge that in turn created lesser emanations – powers, elements – which in turn multiplied and combined, which resulted in the gods. The gods were flawed and self-willed and fought among themselves, bringing Chaos into the world. All of material reality is thus tainted with entropy and corruption. Ideals became associated with light and the good; matter became associated with darkness and evil.

I don’t really see the link between the two, so…. ok? Maybe the point is that they want to go back to the idealism of the single creator entity who does and is everything, so they build their society in a way that selects for exceptional people who can indeed do and be everything, from farmer to artisan to soldier to philosopher to ruler? I don’t know, I was always taught that multi-classing was inefficient…

The good thing is that Jeff also explains clearly for the first time why the hell the Syndics Ban happened. You might remember that Prince Snodal, a great Loskalmi man-of-all, killed the Fronelan God of Communication and cut off most of northwestern Genertela from the rest of world, with various regions effectively living in their own little pocket reality.

The most famous of these wandering heroes, Prince Snodal, saved Loskalm from its doom when he organised the conspiracy that slew the God of the Silver Feet and instituted the Syndics Ban. The Ban cut Loskalm off from the corrupt world and allowed Prince Snodal’s son Siglat the Wise to radically reform Loskalmi society and institutions.

I guess that’s protectionist politics taken to an extreme. I hope the UK government doesn’t read Gloranthan lore, or they might get more bright ideas…

Anyway, read the rest of the note for some details on the New Hrestoli caste system, some population numbers for Loskalm, and various other comments on Snodal, the ban, and usable references. In particular, you’ll see that the fact that caste mobility exists doesn’t mean everybody can do what they want — you still need to go through a (probably very nepotic) vetting system to upgrade from one caste to the next! But note how Loskalmi people start learning sorcery at the latest when they get to the “Guardian” (soldier) level.

The Lightbringers Belt & Old Gods

Here’s a rough look at where the big religion types are located in Genertela:

© 2022 Chaosium Inc.

You’ve got the Malkioni and the Lightbringer worshippers and the Lunars and such. But there’s also the “Barbarian ‘Old Gods'”.

These are areas that in the First Age were predominantly a combination of Hsunchen and other Beast cults, spirit cults and shamanism. Pendali, Telmori, Galanini, Tawari, etc. They got exposed to both the Lightbringers and Malkioni, and sampled both like an à la carte buffet. Along the Janube River, we have the Arrolian Territories, as well as the Sky-worshippers. In Safelster, we have Stygian heresies, Ehilm worship, city gods, and grain goddesses, as well as Lightbringers and orthodox Malkioni.

Those “Old Gods” areas are going to be some of the more heterogenous areas in Genertela. Every city might have a different ruling cult, or even no ruling cult at all.

Read the note for some example of how a given area can mix up classic Orlanthi religion with old Second Age traditions and more.

Lhankor Mhy Sorcery

The Malkioni aren’t the only ones using sorcery: as a starter RuneQuest character you can do a bit of it yourself with, say, the Lhankor Mhy cult.

But the Knowing Priests are largely self-taught amateurs when it comes to sorcery. Temples tend to know a limited subset of spells and that’s about it. Knowing Priests are of course welcome to learn more – but remember, Malkioni wizards aren’t just going to teach their secrets to some barbarian scribe!

Lots of good details in that note to put into context Lhankor Mhy’s relationship with sorcery.

World Building Glorantha

Now this is my jam: world-building spreadsheets!

Jeff shares a bit about his thought process when world-building a region. This is similar to mine actually. I built a similar spreadsheet when figuring out my Far Place campaign:

Of course, back when I built this spreadsheet I only had a couple of data points: the Colymar tribe from the gamemaster pack, the Red Cow campaign books, and so on. That’s why if you zoom in, you’ll see I’m combining old terms like “carls” and “cottars” with newer concepts. I could clean up this spreadsheet quite a lot now that we have more modern RuneQuest data points…

The Machine Ruins

Here is a note about the Clanking City, which was home to a bunch of atheistic sorcerers and crafters and smiths who literally built an artificial deity know as the Machine God. The neighbours didn’t like the noise and the smell, but probably above all they didn’t like the idea behind the whole thing.

The dwarves, trolls, humans, and dragonewts of the Shadowlands united to destroy this abomination.

© 2022 Chaosium Inc.

The ten-year siege of the Clanking CIty became one of the epic battles at the end of the Second Age. The inhabitants were aided by wizards who also lived near the isle, and by many Jrusteli refugees from other cities. The struggle is known to people from all over the region, and for a while it almost seemed that the Elder Races would forge anew the forgotten unity of the past. Through such cooperation, the city finally fell, Its inhabitants slaughtered, its stones scattered, and its metals plundered.

What’s left behind is a mix of “Da Vinci-punk” contraptions and blueprints lost in the middle of stone and metallic ruins, protected by troll spirit guardians who don’t want anybody to get any idea from looking to closely at all that crap.

There are more details in the note, along with some comments about Esvularela and the Bandori valley.

The Shadowlands

© 2022 Chaosium Inc.

Last is a note about the Shadowlands, which as far as I understand was the name of most of the Holy Country in the First Age when the trolls (and the Only Old One) ruled the entire place. They did this mostly through the Shadow Tribute, which everybody around there paid as a “thank you” to the trolls for helping them survive the Great Darkness.

Anyway, Jeff provides details about the Jrusteli and the Empire of the Wyrm’s Friends’ assets in the area, and the possible cultural exchange that happened between the two.

Community Roundup

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

A Case of Multiple Enshrinment

Over on her blog Eight Arms And The Mask, Effy is up to some deep Lunar shenanigans again.

When we came to the place under question, myself, two scribes, six others of the hazar rank, and eight peasant baggage carriers, I was immediately appalled to see the condition of the temple complex. They had removed what seemed to be half of the shrines, most especially the one to the Red Goddess of the east and to our benevolent ally her son etc. I looked about for a functionary to smite with my staff of office, or possibly even my fist. One came forth, but alas, he too was of the vizier rank and so I could do no more than perform the Vibratio Castigiationis at him. 

Since I haven’t read the Stafford library, I’ve got no idea what I’m looking at, but hey as always it’s well written and a bit funny. I’m sure Joerg will be able to say something more insightful than me, though.

Sumerian Bar Jokes

It’s hard to translate jokes written in a long-dead language:

The earliest example of a bar joke is Sumerian, on a tablet dating from the early Old Babylonian Empire (c. 1894–1800 BC), and it features a dog: “A dog, having walked into an inn, did not see anything, (and so he said): ‘Shall I open this (door)?’.” One proposed explanation of the joke is that the punchline presumes an inn would also be a brothel, and the humour suggests the dog is hoping to see what transpired out of view. Another proposed explanation is that the joke refers to the opening of the eyes, the punchline being that the dog could not see anything because its eyes were closed.

This deep dive into the Sumerian language on Twitter brings some more light onto this whole affair. I won’t blame you if you’re left thoroughly unimpressed by Sumerian humour.

Win Some PDFs by Exploring Glorantha

© 2022 Drew Baker & Chaosium Inc.

Iconic Productions, makers of Exploring Glorantha (among other things) is running a contest in which you can win Drew Baker’s “Return to the Big Rubble” PDFs! Check out their Facebook and Twitter accounts for more information.

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.

Persepolis Reimagined

Persepolis was the “ceremonial capital” of the Achaemenid Empire, dating back to around 500 BC. Its ruins are now in modern day Iran. Many reconstructions have been made of the city and its magnificent gates and temples, but not all of them can be experienced in your browser! Check out this beautifully interactive visit of the city: Persepolis Reimagined.

Make sure to run this on a good machine, and preferably with some audio. The music and 3D graphics are quite nice but got my old laptop to overheat badly. All fine on my desktop computer though.

The Dispilio Tablet

David Scott points to a recent article on the Dispilio tablet, a greek artifact discovered in 1993 that features some early forms of writing from 5200 BC. The article gets a bit sensationalist about “the Real Origins of Writing” (this is common on Ancient Origins), but in reality it’s a bit more complicated — it really depends what you consider “proper” writing and what you consider “proto-writing” (some of which goes back to the 7th millenium BC in a few different spots on the planet).

Creative Commons image

Anyway, the fun thing that David spotted is the similarity between the Dispilio glyphs (above) and some of the Gloranthan runes and symbols:

For comparison see:

Excerpt – Appendix E: Dara Happan Sacred Alphabet
Khordavan Font
Runes and Glyphs used on this site

© 2022 Chaosium Inc.

Thank you for reading

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

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

This week we enabled the ability for people to comment on our blog posts, which includes podcast episodes and Journal of Runic Studies issues. This is an experiment, and it may or may not feature some occasional comment from Joerg himself when he wants to voice a disagreement with me or finds the need to correct my superficial lore knowledge. Anyway, come say hello!

God Learner Sorcery

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

Found Document: Voralan Stories

We found some bad elf jokes in our archives… apparently written by a bored scribe. Check them out!

Chaosium News

Here are this week’s Chaosium news!

More of Rick’s RuneQuest Miniature Collection

Photo by Rick Meints

There’s another “Out of the Suitcase” article on Chaosium’s blog! And like the last one, it’s about old RuneQuest miniatures.

Chessex just happens to be based in Ft. Wayne too, and their HQ is only about 10 minutes from our hotel. My colleague Dustin and I decided to just swing by see if Don was in the office and luckily he was, and he graciously took the time to give us the 10 cent tour. 

Don’s history with Chaosium goes back to almost the beginning, back to when he worked at Games of Berkeley. That’s the company that became the importer of Citadel’s range of minis for RuneQuest in the early 1980s, which I talked about in my previous post

The article will tell you the value of keeping old product catalogues around!

Reminder About The Well of Daliath

This is a regular reminder for any newcomers that Chaosium’s Well of Daliath is an amazing source of material for RuneQuest and Glorantha, from old archived posts from bygone eras of the internet to official errata and Q&A for RuneQuest Glorantha, from a frighteningly long Prosopaedia to an incredibly useful timeline of Dragon Pass.

Recently I found myself checking back on some of the Q&A, in particular this long list of answers to common questions about the Summons of Evil, which is bound to be very confusing to any Gloranthan newcomer (as it was for me).

What is Evil?

I think I had missed this interview between James and Jeff last week. Jeff goes over the basics of “evil” in TTRPGs. I don’t think there’s anything you educated and refined folks wouldn’t know there, but you can definitely send this video to any friend who is still killing goblins without remorse in their D&D game.

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 Seven Tailed Wolf in Print

Andrew Logan Montgomery’s already best-selling third volume in the Haraborn saga is now available in print! Get it here.

Jeff’s Notes

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

Mythical Synthesis and Pantheon Equivalencies

While working on their mythical synthesis, the God Learners built up equivalencies between the pantheons they were familiar with (Theyalan, Dara Happan) and those they encountered during their travels. Jeff offers the main two of those: Pamaltelan Equivalencies and Kralorelan Equivalencies.

They’re basically lists of correspondences between central Genertelan deities and Pamaltelan/Kralorelan deities. I don’t have a clue about these other pantheons so I’m mostly looking at the lists and thinking “yeah, those are funny looking names“. So you’re not going to get any commentary from me (as Joerg for that!) But if you’re going to send your players to the south or the east, that might be a good quick way to grasp who’s doing what in these strange lands.

More interestingly (to me at least), Jeff clarified what the God Learners were really up to when they were cataloguing and identifying all these gods:

Remember their goal is pragmatic. Get it right and they can magically master the world. Get it wrong and everything sinks under the waves.

And so for the God Learners (unlike modern academics) all the incentives are to get something that works. Like being able to figure out there must be a God of Fire that Burns on Water and then summoning it to wipe out a hostile navy.

This reminds me of Dmitri Mendeleev, who created one of the early versions of the periodic table of elements. Because he found some meaning and logic between chemical elements, he was able to not only correct some previously incorrect properties about known elements, but also predict three yet-to-be-discovered elements.

So the God Learners might have been able to do the same. They might have been able to look at your local deity and tell you “actually, she’s called XYZ and she can do this other thing you didn’t know about“. And, as Jeff says, they were able to predict the existence of forgotten deities, and go in the Hero Plane to find them. That’s science, kids!

The Grand Ritual of the Third Council

This note is interesting, and not just because it has a map in it! It deals with the Third Council (during the 9th century) and the “Grand Ritual” that sunk them, like a Kickstarter campaign that blows up and destroys your company (it basically led to the end of the Second Age, but that’s another story).

This ritual was going to require massive amounts of magical energy over several generations, and by the end the Third Council members requested people to worship them directly to increase that energy. That didn’t go well. But what caught my eye is the other requirement for the ritual:

The Grand Ritual had countless components and requirements. Among them was the presence of Golden Age beings that predated the separation of Beast and Man – such things as horse-people, bull-people, fox-people, and bird-people. As such liminal creatures did not exist in Dragon Pass, they needed to be made and so the Third Council did just that. The infamous Stitched Zoo is where these unfortunates resided until it was time for them to take their place in the Grand Ritual.

Many people are reading this and going “that’s where the ducks come from!”. Frankly? We’ll never truly know. But what mostly came to my mind was how that ties nicely with what we were talking about in our latest episode on the Tusk Riders. After all, one origin story for them is some sort of cross-breeding and gene-splicing program between the boar-riding tribe of the Aramites and some unspecified group of trolls.

Anyway, we know that this Stitched Zoo is where the Beast People come from.

The infamous Stitched Zoo was outside of Voss Vairanu.

You’ll find Voss Vairanu near the centre of the map below… if you match that to present-day Dragon Pass, you’ll find that it’s smack in the middle of Beast Valley.

© 2022 Chaosium Inc.

King of Sartar’s Internal Monomyth

A BRP Central thread about the wives and children of Argrath was going into various speculations based on King of Sartar. But given the book’s narrative premise (that of a historical research into Glorantha’s Third Age based on unreliable found documents), there is quite some room for interpretation.

However, Chaosium is also working on an actual campaign book for RuneQuest that features many events alluded to in King of Sartar. This means removing the ambiguities and providing gamemasters with actual facts. As Jeff says:

And please people, Greg and I did develop an internal “monomyth” for King of Sartar, so we could determine which stories were false and which stories would be used in the RQ campaign. For “King of Sartar” as a literary device, we could keep all sorts of questions open, but to create something like the Great Argrath Campaign, certain questions needed to be answered so that this could be run as a game (as Greg did for Pendragon).  

It’s interesting that Jeff and Greg did settle all those questions ahead of time. I half expected that King of Sartar had deliberately ambiguous material even to its authors.

Questions on HeroQuesting

Another BRP Central thread on heroquesting prompted Jeff to answer a few basic questions about another thing that confuses newcomers easily.

The first notable thing is that heroquesting doesn’t necessarily include any re-enactment of myths (or “deity LARP’ing” as we sometimes call it). Jeff defines it as any activity during which the characters interact with the God Time on the Hero Plane. He adds:

As an aside, most heroquests are not about changing reality, or rewriting major myths – for what it is worth, I find such heroquests are not all that interesting. They are about discovering something new – in the mythology or in the characters themselves. Here’s a really basic one:

The Earth priestesses are all in a worry this year as the winter solstice has passed and the Grain Goddess has still not begun to awaken. If she does not return, there will be no spring planting, let alone a fall harvest. Everyone is worried. Omens and divinations are taken, and it seems she is trapped in the Underworld by a “Demon Lord with a Bone of Power”.

The Earth Priestess writes names of those in the local community on shards of pottery and puts them in a cauldron. She picks them out in a ceremony attended by all- it is your characters who are named! She says that you all must enter the Smoking Cave (located near the Cinder Pits) and descend deep within until you pass out of this world. She gives you an emerald crystal with two powers – it is a spell reinforcing crystal of 4 points, and it glows brighter when held in the direction of the Grain Goddess!

When I started playing in Glorantha around 2019-or-so I was wondering how heroquesting was different (or not) from “going to weird places” in other games. For instance, in Call of Cthulhu, most adventures happen on Earth, but every now and then there’s a scenario for which you need to go through a portal to R’lyeh, summon some weird beasts to fly to Carcosa, or take some drugs to enter the Dreamlands. It felt to me like heroquesting was a bit similar, only you go to the magical eternal land of gods instead. And so I didn’t really understand the point of the whole “re-enactment” stuff from older HeroWars/HeroQuest material… It sounds like I was on the right track.

Note that bits of these BRP Central posts have been archived on the Well of Daliath.

Who Were the “Syndics”?

Out in Western Genertela there’s this ongoing thing called “The Syndics’ Ban”, which has effectively split the land into isolated bits of reality that can’t communicate with the rest of the world. But who are the “Syndics”?

David Scott has an answer, which Jeff says “has far more truth in it than [any] previous speculation“:

The phrase appears in Wycliffe Ballads, a long piece of biographical poetry:

Quick! burn all such books and papers
As might aid the Syndic’s ban,
Which you find within my chambers :”
Thus the hurried message ran.

I never asked Greg about this, so it amuses me to think he read this and just noted it down as a cool thing to use at some point.

The Syndic’s Ban (singular, belonging to the syndic) as it appeared in Greg’s typed notes also appears later as Syndics Ban (just plural), it appears to have lost it’s apostrophe completely in the Guide.

The syndic of the poem controlled the Sorbonne and had the king’s ear, so going back to a singular Syndic, I think it was the High priest of the God of the Silver Feet, backed by what remained of the cult. (syndic as religious controller).

The God of the Silver Feet is, of course, the deity that was slain by Prince Snodal of Loskalm and his posse of heroquesters. Given that it was the Fronelan god of communication, it, well, killed all communication in the land. Good job Prince Snodal!

Miscellaneous Notes

There were a lot of notes last week so here are a bunch I don’t have time to comment much on:

  • Crimson Bat Ecology: I think I missed this last week, but this includes some numbers for how many people need to be fed to the Bat! It comes up to about 100 people a week, which means the Lunars need to move the Bat around while also keeping a bunch of prisoners and criminals on hand for sacrifice.
  • The Conquest of Teshnos and Kralori: a Second Age document that tells the conquest of Teshnos and Kralorela by the God Learners. I tend to gloss over this kind of old lore that my players and their characters won’t really care about, but hey, there’s a cool magical amulet to control dragons, and nobody knows where it is now… soooo….
  • Malkionism and Sorcery: some thoughts about Malkionism, Malkioni society, Plato’s Republic, and sorcery in Lhankor Mhy’s cult, among other things.
  • Talastar: some population and area numbers about Talastar, the Orlanthi buffer between the Lunar Heartlands and a bunch of nasty things like the Chaos-infested lands of Dorastor. When you look at the Guide’s map, you see mostly a few Lunar cities and a whole bunch of forested area, but given the numbers I would argue that there are probably a fair number of towns with similar sizes to Herongreen and Dangerford (both of which get a dot on the Guide’s maps). This should be your reminder that you can always colour between the lines of the Guide, because the Guide leaves you a fair amount of space!
  • Heler: the Rain God is quite underrated when you consider how important rain is to everybody, the fact that he’s the grand-father of all Water Elementals, and the great grand-father of Malkion! Jeff gives a few reasons why he’s “of great cosmological importance, if little cult importance“.
  • Other Campaign Settings: some ideas for RuneQuest campaigns that don’t take place in Dragon Pass or Prax.
  • Kallyr Rocks: some bit of discussion from Discord about Kallyr and how she’s an interesting character because she’s flawed and controversial in the setting.
  • Aranwyth Tribe: a small snippet of text from the upcoming Dragon Pass Gazetteer.
  • Torkani Tribe: a bigger snippet of text, this time about the Torkani tribe. This also includes a clan map!
© 2022 Chaosium Inc.

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.

Runeblogger Reviews Sandheart

© 2022 Jon Webb & Chaosium Inc.

Jon Webb’s (and friends’) wonderful Praxian police procedural campaign is getting reviewed by Runeblogger here.

It is clear a lot of love has been put into this book, with excellent art, maps, and all you need to start playing adventures in Sun County. It is no surprise it has become a Gold Best-Seller. I hope also GMs new to RuneQuest like the book enough to run a campaign in Sun County.

Disclaimer: I did a couple of illustrations and maps for these books.

Skulldixon Reviews Urvantan’s Tower

© 2022 Chaosium Inc.

Skulldixon (which we interviewed here) has written an article about Urvantan’s Tower, one of the adventures from The Smoking Ruins and Other Stories. I always appreciate Skulldixon’s reviews because he usually writes them after having actually run the adventure and therefore sprinkles the text with his personal experience, actionable advice, and cautionary anecdotes.

It became clear that I needed to change how I made notes for these game sessions because my usual note-taking method wasn’t cutting it. This one big mistake caused issues for the players and changed how the game would have played out in the end. I had to course-corrected, and everything worked out in the end. 

More here.

Shannon Appelcline’s Index

Shannon Appelcline (who was on the podcast for our episode on the Aldryami!) has updated his index of Gloranthan magazines. This is a good resource to see all the good out-of-print stuff you’re missing and will never have!

There are also other indexes for other game magazines here.

Watch Loic Muzy Draw a Bit of Zorak Zoran

Loic was having a bit of fun on Twitter, and it looks great!

Thank you for reading

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

This small collection of illustrated parchments was found stuck between the pages of a very a couple lengthy and rather soporific books on Esrolian gardening. It looks like the scholar that was meant to copy or catalogue the books instead spent his or her time writing and drawing these bad elf-related jokes. The author is unknown.

The brown elf, the green elf, the fire elf, the white elf, the blue elf, and the yellow elf all squeeze into a very small forest clearing. They wave to the black elf and say “come on in and join us!” The black elf replies: “I don’t think you have mush-room”.

Some time later, the black elf’s brother comes to the clearing and slowly squeezes himself into the midst of the other elves. A great deal of elfish giggling ensues. Green elf says “your sister didn’t want to come on in and join us. You’re much better!” The black elf’s brother replies: “Yes, I am a fungi”.

“Never let a dad into a Glorantha forum to tell dad mushroom jokes”. That’s the morel of the story.

Of course, the author is not unknown. These jokes are by Brian Duguid (author of Children of Hykim), who nicely agreed to have them re-posted here even though, he said “but they are terrible!“. The drawings are by me (Ludovic).

Anyway, I love the internet, that’s where people can post shiitakes like these.

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

God Learner Sorcery

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

Episode 15: People of Glorantha: The Tusk Riders

Episode 15 of the God Learners welcomes Dom Twist to talk about the best bad guys of Glorantha: the Tusk Riders! We discuss their publication history, what PCs and NPCs might know them, their secret origin, how to use them in your RuneQuest campaign, and more!

Chaosium News

Here are this week’s Chaosium news!

Update on Upcoming Projects

We very recently had such an update from Rick Meints, but here’s a more recent one from Jason Durall, line editor for RuneQuest (among his many other hats):

Cults of Glorantha + Prosopaedia
Rune and Spirit Magic Spell Decks
Sartar
The Guide to Dragon Pass
Gamemaster Sourcebook
Mythic Iceland – using RQ rules but not set in Glorantha
The Dragon Pass Campaign
Jonstown Adventures (title may change, this is a followup to the Starter Set)
Elder Race Adventurers
The Upland Marsh
Adventurer’s Journal
The Dreaming Ruin (another adventure anthology)
The Hunt for the Storm Calf (a one-off adventure based off Khan of Khans)
Prax
Into the Troll Realms
Sun Dome Temple sourcebook
Return to Snakepipe Hollow
The Dragon’s Eye
Big Rubble
Pavis
The Culbrea Tribe
Elfpack
Heortland & Hendrikiland
HeroQuesting
Nochet & Esrolia
Kralorela
The Siege of Whitewall
“The Great Wagon Train Campaign” (title TBD)

There are at least five other books I am either not sure I can speak about, or might need to be re-assigned, but are definitely planned. I can’t give a schedule because so many things are outside my control.

The entire post was reposted on BRP Central by David Scott (thanks David!) so you can check it out and discuss it there if you’re not on Facebook. A lot of these projects had already been mentioned before, but I think this is the first time I hear about “Jonstown Adventures”, “Adventurer’s Journal”, “The Siege of Whitewall” and “The Great Wagon Train Campaign”. It’s nice to have names for the next adventure collections, too.

RuneQuest Miniatures, Rick Meints Edition

Photo by Rick Meints

Rick Meints has another “Out of the Suitcase” article on the Chaosium blog which takes a deep look at some old RuneQuest miniatures, and the small scenario booklets that sometimes came with them… Rick even generously provides high-resolution enough photos of these booklets that you can read them and run the adventures therein… thanks Rick!

RPG Writer Workshop Adventure Bundles

The Summer 2022 RPG Writer Workshop is now finished, and a few of the participants published their work on the Miskatonic Repository and the Jonstown Compendium (for Call of Cthulhu and RuneQuest, respectively, of course).

Chaosium has made two handy bundles collecting these PDFs. The RuneQuest bundle is here, and the Call of Cthulhu bundle is here.

More info here.

The White Bull Campaign S03E05

The campaign continues… you know the drill!

Jeff’s Notes

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

A Brithini Tale

If you’re interested in immortal Malkioni sorcerers, this “Brithini tale” sort of acts as a founding myth for them.

For those who don’t know what the Brithini are, they’re basically western sorcerers who achieve immortality by clinging to super old traditions dating back to the God Time. Back then everybody was immortal and, supposedly, the One, Malkion the Creator, the Invisible God, whatever you call the original conscience of existence, was making everybody happy and logical. But, according to this tale, a mathematically dubious entity started splitting things and making things different, and things went downhill from there.

In the Gods Age all was perfect. and nothing in the world ever died. All beings were gods. Law oversaw all. Prosperity reigned in the Kingdom of Logic.

Logic demands that all beginnings have an end. What was started must be finished. From the moment of the first mathematical evolution of One into Two the end was destined to come. The division of one into Two made the Creator and Destroyer. A choice was given, and we chose the One. If alI the world had chosen One we would exist in harmony still.

Two is the Destroyer, who can make Three out of Two, Four out of Three, and Five out of Four. The Destroyer seduced half of One, and brought it to imperfection. The Destroyer inhabited half of One, and brought it to death.

Do you need to justify spending all your week-ends at home, never agreeing to parties and road trips and checking out this new brewery/pub that opened downtown? Now you can! Just say that you are honouring the ancestral traditions of the Brithini in order to achieve immortality and logical union with The One! I’m sure your friends will understand:

When Zzabur asked his father “How do we stay immortal?” the Prophet answered simply. He said. “Do not change. Do what you have done. Act within the Laws and Ways you have been given, for they are immortal. Your actions embody the One, your bodies enact the One. Anything new from this moment forward is Death.”

More here, including how the Brithini hate the Hrestoli (a Malkioni sect that favours self-care, personal journeys, and caste mobility), and how the Brithini still accept the divine monomyth as true (it’s just that they think gods are jerks, and their worshippers are suicidal fools).

Draconic Philosophy

Do you want more deep-cut Gloranthan world views? Here is a note on “Draconic Philosophy“, and is by and large the same text you’ll find in Wyrms Footnotes #14 as part of the overall “Dragon Pantheon” article, and parts of this text also ended up in the Glorantha Sourcebook’s chapter on the “Draconic Creation Myth”.

The Cosmic Egg hatched and from it came the Grand Ancestral Dragon. It sat and meditated in the Silent Void, treasuring the secrets of the universe. The halves of the eggshell were made into the servants of the Grand Ancestral Dragon and were called the Inside and the Outside.

A little bit of context: the Cosmic Egg didn’t appear from nowhere — it was somewhat hatched by the Cosmic Dragon. You may have already seen the “Ouroboros poem” which somewhat describes the creation of the universe in the draconic myths:

– : Silence, The Infinite.
0 : Zero, or an exclamation.
OU : A cry of pain; Ego.
OUR : Collectiveness, plurality.
OURO : Collective emptiness.
OUROB : Creation (Collective with an end-stop ‘b ‘).
OUROBO : Closed Infinity, or Being.
OUROBOR : Birth.
OUROBORO : Nothing, emptiness.
OUROBOROS : S = ‘Voice’ (i.e. the sound a serpent makes).

Okay so the Cosmic Dragon is often considered to be the “S” at the end of the poem. It comes out of this vague self-emergent Ouroboros thing, which is possibly just the first thought. The Cosmic Dragon then gets bored and starts doing stuff, including fighting a six-limbed no-headed monster called Orxili, which is possibly a manifestation of Chaos. Anyway, the Cosmic Dragon “set forth the Six Principles and with each recitation one of the monster’s limbs was torn off and cast into emptiness“. The Cosmic Dragon set put Orxili at the centre of the world, spun around Superman-style, and made the Cosmic Egg out of it… which, err, sort of means the Cosmic Egg was made of Chaos. Someone should tell that to the Broken Council and to Nysalor maybe?

Anyway, now you know what Jeff is talking about when he mentions the “six actions” (which are possibly acted upon based on the six principles?), or when some of Orxili’s limbs come back and fight the Great Ancestral Dragon:

The Grand Ancestral Dragon was committed to six actions which it voluntarily undertook. Each these resulted in the creation of one of the Ancestral Dragons.

[…]

Either during or shortly after this time the Grand Ancestral Dragon was assailed by powerful enemies. Some of the limbs torn from Orxili had returned. The mild waves of Disorder lapped back from the Void and the Oozing Chaos was born, returning now to thwart creation and reclaim its own to the void.

Next, the Great Ancestral Dragon performs “utuma“, the draconic ritual suicide that is still performed by Dragonewts to this day. In the case of the Great Ancestral Dragon, his blood and guts and such create a bunch of things like the ocean and the earth and so on. He has to do it because these things exists, and it’s his responsibility to create them because they are already created. Or something. It’s this whole idea of causal loops and “entanglements” that draconic mystics love so much:

This dismemberment, called utuma in dragonewt philosophy, is the result of the Grand Ancestral Dragon’s willingness to accept the duty of entanglements which his actions had brought about and resulted in his full integration into the world. By dying he re-entered the world to fulfil his duties. To have done otherwise would have resulted in a fatal weakness which would have destroyed the basis for draconic existence. This is often equated, or confused, with the dragonewt sense of “honor.”

Now the Great Ancestral Dragon’s sacrifice left a bunch of Ancestral Dragons around the world. These dragons performed mating dances, especially around Dragon Pass (which gives a whole new meaning to the term) and left behind the eggs of the True Dragons. These True Dragon you probably know well: they killed a whole bunch of people during the Dragonkill War (enough to make humans avoid Dragon Pass for several generations), and one of them just woke up in 1625 and destroyed the new Lunar temple in Sartar, ushering the new RuneQuest timeline.

Gloranthan Superheroes

Jeff has recently started showing up in the Chaosium Discord server on occasion. The following series of posts on “superheroes” in Glorantha was interesting enough to warrant inclusion here:

Think about it this way – what is Elric or Rustam? What is Cu Chulain, Arjuna, or Bhima? These are all characters that do not merely interact with the setting, but define it – the setting operates around them.

Jar-eel is the Lunar Empire. It serves her, responds to her will, glorifies her and worships her. She is the bookend of what the Red Goddess began four centuries ago. She is Civilization, Art, Sciences, and Harmony. She is the Yang of the cosmic twins. Harrek the White Bear is the response to all of that. He is the primal rage of every egg broken to make the Lunar Empire’s omelet. He is the fury of the Old Gods that she has displaced or forced to submit. He is Savagery, Brutality, Instinct, and Destruction. He is the Yin of the cosmic twins. Both are necessary in the cosmos, both are doomed to struggle with each other. Their inevitable conflict predates the gods, is tied into the Compromise, and threatens to destroy it. That’s what Gloranthan superheroes are.

Lesser heroes like Argrath, Red Emperor, Gunda, Beat-Pot, Sir Ethilrist, Cragspider, Jaldon Goldentooth or your characters – they navigate this swirling landscape, try to impose their will on it or ride it like a surfer but they are still mortals (even if they have one foot in the Hero Plane).

The Gloranthan superheroes are as deeply woven into the setting as the gods themselves. Thinking of them as mere mechanical rules constructs is always going to end up leading you astray.

The idea of the Twins is deeply woven into Glorantha. Nysalor and Arkat. Jar-eel and Harrek. Goes back to Greg’s earliest stories.

So that’s for the thematic aspect of superheroes. Here’s for the gameplay:

I might provide stats so your players interact with some manifestation of them in a particular moment, but they should not be fixed or cemented – and certainly not used to reverse engineer the setting.

So Jar-eel shows up – she attacks the players with eight attacks, which for rules purposes is 150% so I have something to roll. She has Shield 8 cast so I can ignore everything except a critical hit, and ignore most spells.

And that gives me something to mechanically interact with – but it is just a feel of the elephant. Next time it might be different.

Jeff mentions that this is his approach for several major other figures too, like the Red Emperor or the Feathered Horse Queen.

The White Moon Movement

Here is a primer on the White Moon movement which I would probably summarize as “Lunar patriot hippies”. They believe in the Red Goddess and the “Lunar way”, but they are anti-imperialists who want to spread Sedenya’s message through teaching and cultural mixing and so on.

The End of Ages

Jeff tries to put into context how each “age” in Glorantha ends in a big event, and then there’s a century or so of just picking up the pieces and rebuilding something new. Remember that Gloranthan people actually don’t know that much about events of the past unless they have the resources and time to look over a bunch of half-destroyed documents from 500 years ago or more.

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 Reviews the Weapons & Equipment Guide

RPGImaginings joins the general consensus that the Weapons & Equipment Guide (which I’m still waiting to arrive in Canada) is a lot more than what you’d think from only the title.

Roleplaying games have a long history of having weapons and equipment guides, but RuneQuest Weapons & Equipment is different […] in all the right ways.

Learn more as Michael flips through the book!

Why Heroquesting is Easier Than You Think

Andrew Logan Montgomery wrote this essay about heroquesting and everyday routines. The first part uses Vedic India mythology to illustrate the difference between the scientific or “real world” truth and the mythical, immortal truth. As often, Andrew provides us with great writing here.

Now. In the Traditional perspective, both things could be true. Here inside of Time, water condenses and rains back to Earth. But outside of Time, all this happens because Indra fought Vritra. It formed a pattern, a fact. 

And let me stop you before you utter those poisonous words “that is just a myth.” You have, as a victim of the Post-Modern world, been taught that only one thing can be true. In ancient India, they were wiser. They also told a story about Indra and rain that had nothing to do with Vritra.

I’m less convinced about the second part, about everyday routines as heroquest and so on, but hey, maybe you’ll like it. More here.

Elsewhere on Arachne Solara’s Web

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

At the Museum

Photo by David Scott

David Scott started another thread on BRP Central about potential Gloranthan references found in museums… it include shamanic maps, a couple Orlanthi gods, some spirit magic foci, and more!

Folk Collective Heilung

The Guardian has a short article on the Germanic/Nordic folk collective Heilung, who specializes in “reviving” music from old civilizations, mostly iron age and older. Their latest album, released this year, includes a cover/interpretation of the oldest known complete song:

To find the oldest known complete song, you need look back just 3,400 years. Composed of lyrics, musical notation and tuning instructions for a Babylonian lyre carved into a clay tablet, it is called Hymn to Nikkal, or Hurrian Hymn No 6. Archaeologists found it in the early 1950s – alongside almost three dozen other, incomplete, Hurrian hymns – during an excavation at the Royal Palace of Ugarit in what is now northern Syria.

The video in the article is not that song, somehow. It’s this one:

Heilung of course prioritizes a certain musical aesthetic, so don’t expect this to be a “faithful” recreation of what the song sounded like originally… if that even makes any sense when it comes to music. However, you can look around YouTube for other adaptations of the original sheet music using a different approach, such as this video from the Syrian pavilion of World Expo 2020:

Ancient Bling

Cracked has an article about cool bling from the past, including Peruvian nose ornaments, crazy intricate Greek earrings, fancy Persian drinking cups, and Maya dental jewellery. This is your reminder that you can go super crazy with Gloranthan fashion, at least when it comes to the nobles and the priests.

Thank you for reading

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

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

Chaosium News

Here are this week’s Chaosium news!

The White Bull S03E04

The third season continues, and I’m still late for watching it! Aaargh!

The Glass Cannon Demo’ing Chaosium Games

Brian Holland runs the Glass Cannon people through no less than three Chaosium games: Call of Cthulhu, RuneQuest, and 7th Sea! These demos were part of a series of sponsored events at GenCon 2022. Obviously, each one of the three scenarios are super short.

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 Sunken Dead

© 2022 Peter Harroun & Chaosium Inc.

This short adventure by Peter Harroun introduces new adventurers and players to the venerable tradition of cattle raiding in Sartar, although things might not go as planned.

Glorantha Up-Close, Gloranthan Settlements

Mikael Mansen has released three maps: the Upland Marsh, Runegate, and the Wenelian Isles.

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.

Catalogue of the Gods

Jeff talks about the slow process of cataloguing the gods… not for the upcoming Cults of Glorantha books, mind you (although that’s probably applicable!) but for the intellectuals of the First and Second Age. Here’s the main bit:

The God Learners theorized there were approximately two hundred deities of world-wide significance. Not all of these deities had cults. […] Even the enemies of the God Learners accepted this structure, although they largely accepted those limitations imposed by the Great Mystery itself.

The Lhankor Mhy cult enthusiastically embraced the Mythical Synthesis Movement, and their Knowing Priests played a key role in the later God Learner movements. In the Third Age, Lunar philosophers have added another dozen or so deities (most importantly the Red Goddess and the Seven Mothers), but they too largely adopted the conclusions of the Mythical Synthesis Movement.

So as I understand it, the Theyalans and Dara Happans spread across large parts of Genertela in the First Age and told everyone that their local gods of this and that were just particular aspects of bigger deities some of their big heroes still remembered from before the Dawn. So these previously isolated cults change the name of their deities, add a moustache here and a snake there, and boom, they’re joining a growing set of standardized religions. But were the Theyalans and Dara Happan proselytizers really “right”, or was this all just a scam lasting several centuries? Mmmmh…

[…] We tend to assume that gods are complete cultural constructs – but in Glorantha that is not true. The God Time is real and tangible – our understanding of the gods is of course viewed through the lens of culture (but of course our interaction with the gods also changes and affects our culture), but the Gloranthan gods exist outside of us mortals.

Sure, in theory, Gloranthan deities “actually exist out there”. So Orlanth and Ernalda are not some of the biggest gods in Genertela because they have the biggest number of worshippers, but rather it’s the opposite: there are more people worshipping them because they are some of the most powerful gods.

Still, I can’t help but think there is a troubling parallel between how many places the Theyalans and Dara Happans managed to get to after the Dawn, and where we find worship of the most syncretic cults. Later when the God Learners reached a bunch of islands and distant places, they didn’t figure out that this or that local god was actually part of the monomyth, did they? The East Isles still have “thousands” of deities, for instance. You might explain this by saying that these cultures clung onto their deities from the God Time in their little shard of Spike-exploded-land, but I’m sticking to my theory of the snake oil Theyalan sellers, thank you very much.

Current Tarsh Politics

This note looks over the last few generations of the Blacktooth family. For instance, there’s a bit more information about Vostor Blacktooth, who is Fazzur Wideread’s father, and all of his sons:

Vostor had four sons and one daughter by two wives. They were all loyal and brave. The brothers all became Lunar soldiers who fought often for their king. The eldest son, Farrad, died at age 28 in the Battle of Grizzley Peak (1582) which smashed the Sartar army. The second son, Goslem, died at age 23 in the Battle of Bagnot (also 1582), when he acted rashly and attacked too soon. The third son was Wassail. He was quick to rise in the priesthood and helped Phargentes arrange the difficult magic which helped kill Sartar prince Terasarin in 1600. Fazzur was the youngest son, born in 1564. He was a gifted child and a talented soldier, receiving his commission early. Vostor’s last child, a daughter, was born in 1568 and was named Harsta. She was a proud and haughty noblewoman, and wed the son of King Phargentes – Moirades.

Joerg tells me that Jeff made a few typos in here — Wassail most probably helped King Moirades of Tarsh kill Terasarin with Lunar magic, not King Phargentes (Phargentes had died two decades prior to this).

The note continues with a fairly detailed list of Fazzur Wideread’s military accomplishments, although once again Joerg notes that Fazzur did not petition his brother-in-law in 1613, because that brother-in-law, King Moirades, died 3 years prior. The new king would have been at that point his nephew, King Pharandros, son of Moirades.

The whole saga of Tarsh, from its founding to its current status as a Lunar Province, has always been interesting to me. Plus, there’s this:

For three generations, the Eel-Illaro dynasty was so closely tied with the Blacktooth (Orindori) family, that the whole thing can be seen as a family soap opera.

Noble Patronage in Tarsh & Sartar

This an interesting note. We already know that Tarshite Kings and Sartarite Princes were almost always patrons of the arts and letters. They would build Knowledge Temples and encourage vibrant art scenes just as much as they would build trade roads and armies:

In short, a noble in Dragon Pass is expected to be not only a warrior and a priest, but also literate and cultured.

But Jeff also gives us a list of Gloranthan “classics” that nobles and scribes would be familiar with: “Songs of the House of Sartar“, “Pilgrimage and Commentary“, “Saga of the New Good Land“, and “The Roads and Graves of the Makers“. In the now Lunarized Kingdom of Tarsh, there would also be “The Lives of Our Red Goddess” and “The Redline History of the Lunar Empire“. All of them get a paragraph of description, and some might sound familiar to those who skimmed through King of Sartar and the Glorantha Sourcebook.

This feeds back into the evolution of Glorantha’s world-building over the past few decades:

So unlike the presentation of the Orlanthi in some of the Issaries material (in particular Thunder Rebels) where they appeared to be completely unknowledgeable about the next valley, let alone other lands and history, the ruling class in Sartar no doubt has at least a passing familiarity with the classics. Nobles likely pay scribes to teach their children how to read and write.

When the young adults are sent out of their home to undertake cult training, they often are given poetry to memorize and recite. They also learn to fight and are are taught dances and other useful things.

Indeed, between Thunder Rebels and the rest of the HeroWars/HeroQuest line, plus the King of Dragon Pass game, I can totally see how people would think of the Sartarites that way. I think it may be true of some people from some of the tribes, but the HeroQuest version of Glorantha was most crucially missing a civilized and cosmopolitan depiction of Sartarite cities. Even just taking into account the art direction, look at this comparison between Clearwine in HeroQuest and Clearwine in the more recent RuneQuest:

And the same comparison for Jonstown:

A picture is worth a thousand words, so art direction and budget is everything. It’s great to see Chaosium putting a lot of effort in that, even though arguably that only gets you so far if the players have no visual references for the antiquity. This is probably why Jeff also keeps trying everyone to watch shows like Rome.

Anyway, you can read the rest of the note for other interesting bits of information such as the difference in culture between Furthest, Alkoth, and Mirin’s Cross, or how educated Argrath is.

Harmast’s Saga

Now this is a bit cruel. Jeff shows off Greg Stafford’s Harmast Saga:

© 2022 Chaosium Inc.

Why am I saying it’s cruel? Well because it’s practically impossible to find, yet Jeff describes it as:

Pilgrimage and Commentary: This is the most current version of the most influential text of the Orlanthi and a foundational text for Orlanthi literature (and influential far beyond).

The issue of course is that Greg’s unfinished works have a complicated history. Some of them have been published and are easily available in PDF and POD, but others were collector items sold at premium prices to hard-core fans in the 1990s (like, say, the Roots of Glorantha series). As far as I understand, this was back when Greg was in financial trouble, and some people recommended this as a way to stay afloat. Almost all of these books have nuggets of Gloranthan lore, but they aren’t meant to be taken at face value: those are almost literally Greg’s scribbles taken from his notebook. Or word editor. Basically, not much of it is necessarily “canon”.

Nonetheless, there’s a lot of people (myself included) who would like to peek inside these books. I understand that Chaosium doesn’t want to sell for $9.95 what was previously sold for $200, especially since Greg himself didn’t want to upset those who got them at those prices… but the issue of pricing and the issue of availability are two different issues. Selling these special items at $200 a piece is obviously for a very niche audience, but it’s possible. I think that the only obstacles to this are Chaosium having more important things to do, and Jeff not wanting to repeatedly say stuff like “no, what it says on page 23 of The Encyclopedia of Seshnela was just something Greg was thinking about, and he changed his mind 7 years later“. Either way, Jeff is very clear that these old books are not going to be published. Oh well.

Anyway, Jeff’s note goes over what you might find in the “in-world” version of this book… and maybe in the real-world version too! Who knows, except the lucky few who have it! My guess is that Jeff is playing with words to that effect, here. Anyway, this being a book about Harmast, there’s some early heroquesting discoveries, like:

Other commentaries explain some of the novel ideas which Harmast and his companions undertook at this time. Many of these practices, such as “dropping down” into the heroic landscape to travel overland became a well-known, though always risky, heroquesting practice.

The value of this text was tremendous, since Harmast was the first person to re-enact the Lightbringer’s Quest in its entirety, and this narrative describes his journey. We only wish it was more complete.

There is also a second note here with more about Harmast’s Saga, including quotes, controversies about Harmast, and Harmast’s main two foes.

Glorantha Literature

Jeff continues writing about Gloranthan classics — that is, the literature classics that exist in the world of Glorantha.

Of course the Harmast’s Narrative is not the only classic work of literature in circulation. In Nochet, the Draconic Secrets, a Second Age manuscript from the Shadowlands, is widely known and read. Except for inconsistently referring to gods and goddesses as Kings and Queens, Sorcerers or Demons, it is a mishmash of the mythologies of the Only Old One’s many subject peoples.

Another foundational text of learning is the Stela Corpora, a long parchment of extensive Celestiology notes, whose information is most certainly of Dara Happan origin (possibly even the Glorious Reascent of Yelm).

And more, including a comment on the percentage of literacy in Glorantha.

Between this note and the previous ones, your sages and noble characters should have plenty of book titles to quote from!

The Battle of Queens

If you play in the new RuneQuest timeline, starting in 1625, and if you follow the usual Gloranthan meta-plot, you’ll soon end up mentioning, or even featuring, the Battle of Queens, which happens in 1626.

King Pharandros took command of the remaining imperial troops in the provinces, and led them with the Tarsh army to conquer the disheartened Sartarites. Near where the Creek enters the Upland Marsh, some 5,000 Lunar soldiers faced off against less than 4,000 Sartarites led by Kallyr Starbrow. The Sartarites held a good defensive position at the base of Old Top Hill.

Jeff’s latest note gives an overview of this battle, but if you want more details, including a preview of the “Dragon Pass Campaign” and its battle mechanics, there’s this old post from Jeff on BRP Central (scroll down a bit).

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.

Uz! Uz! Uz!

The Kraken videos keep pouring in. This new one has Sandy Petersen going deep about the Uz, which is a topic he is most qualified for: he literally (co-)wrote the book on it!

Bud on the Red Goddess

Bud’s RPG Review takes a look at the Red Goddess, the Seven Mothers, and the Lunar Empire in general. At less than 9 minutes long, this is probably the best, most concise crash course on the topic, from someone who knows his Gloranthan stuff!

Exploring Glorantha Visits Prax

You know the drill! JM and Evan are travelling through the plains of Prax while giving us some nice shout outs!

ENWorld Reviews Pirates of the East Isles

© 2022 Scott Crowder & Chaosium Inc.

Well-known RPG news website ENWorld has a review of Pirates of the East Isles, by Scott Crowder!

This laser focused small scale is my favorite kind of supplement. A GM can pick this up and get going quickly without having to learn about the entire setting of Glorantha. PCs will have homelands, family history, rune affinities, cultural skill bonuses, occupations, cults, and family heirlooms tied directly to the islands.

Read more here, and don’t forget to pick up the PDF!

Andrew Logan Montgomery Reviews Duckpac

© 2022 LEGION Games & Chaosium Inc.

Andrew Logan Montgomery, author of some of the best sellers on the Jonstown Compendium, reviews Legion Games’ Duckpac series, which provide background info, character creation rules, and a solo adventure for duck adventurers (with some gamemaster scenarios to come).

I’ve been saying in several of these reviews that it is really getting harder to tell what is a Chaosium product and what is a Jonstown Compendium product these days. DuckPac exemplifies this.

High praise. And deserved praise. In case you’re still not sure:

While the Ducks have had a sourcebook before (Mongoose published a Duck book for their version of the game), this is the first time we have ever seen anything worthy of the classic TrollPak. DuckPac is brilliant, a cohesive, sensitive, and sometimes tongue-in-cheek examination of what arguably is Glorantha’s most iconic species. It’s a “must have.” 

Read the whole review here.

Baboon Miniature and More

On Twitter, Jeremy posted these pictures of painted Fenris Games miniatures!

Thank you for reading

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

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

God Learner Sorcery

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

Initiation Episode 10: Chris, the Weird Magic, and the Importance of References

Episode 10 of the Glorantha Initiation Series is with Chris Webb, who gave up on Glorantha in the early 1980s after saving Gringle’s pawnshop without using any magic! Plus: the importance of having references, good friends, the best spell in RuneQuest, and Runes on your roof!

Chaosium News

Here are this week’s Chaosium news!

ChaosiumCon 2023

Tickets are now available for ChaosiumCon 2023! Head over to the official announcement and follow the link to Tabletop Events. You may have to create an account there before you can buy the tickets.

Updates on Upcoming Projects

Chaosium president Rick Meints updated the largely community-maintained “upcoming publications” post on BRP Central. I’ve reproduced below the latest version of that list (as of August 2022). It contains projects far enough along to have a good chance of seeing publication in the next couple years:

  • Cults of Glorantha (multi-volume) – layout underway
  • Spell Cards – manuscript complete, art commissioning and editing underway
  • Dragon Pass Atlas/Gazetteer – manuscript complete, art commissioning and editing underway
  • Prax – manuscript complete, art commissioning and editing underway
  • Prosopaedia (systemless, overview of the deities, 128 pages) Done, off to print this year.
  • Gamemaster Book (including heroquesting rules) – being written
  • Pavis and the Big Rubble – by Robin Laws – manuscript complete, art commissioning and editing underway
  • Sartar – manuscript complete, art commissioning and editing underway
  • Chaosium Classics Volume I : The Stafford House Campaign – Done, debut printing sold at Chaosium Con, Gen Con and Origins. Available soon as a POD title on chaosium.com
  • MIG III (The Meints Index to Glorantha) – About to go to the printer. PDF for sale soon

There are notable changes from what we previously heard.

First is the fact that the exact form-factor of the Cults of Glorantha is being reconsidered. I thought it was a done deal that it would be a two-volume-plus-prosopaedia slipcase set, but marketing issues, practical considerations, and cardboard shortages are on the table.

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

We doubt it will be a slipcase set. 

This isn’t the only item on the list whose format is undecided. The Pavis and Big Rubble sourcebook might be one or two books. Some at Chaosium wanted the Sartar Homeland sourcebook to be a boxed set, but that’s probably not going to happen. The Prosopaedia may be a separate product, or may be sold only with the Cults of Glorantha. There is a lot of stuff that isn’t finalized as far as I can tell, so take all of this with a grain of salt… especially when shipping rates and paper availability are still volatile enough to force publishers to think twice before releasing something one way or another.

The “spell cards” have been, I believe, briefly mentioned in an Impromptu Con. This might be new to some. The Dragon Pass Gazetteer was also mentioned recently, but some people might have missed that it has been separated from the Sartar Homeland sourcebook. Note how the Prax Homeland sourcebook is separate from the Pavis and Big Rubble books.

As for the Chaosium Classics Volume 1 and the Meints Index to Glorantha 3rd edition, I’ve seen them at ChaosiumCon so I can attest that they exist!

If you look at the “coming later on” section in the original post, you’ll spot other things we’ve heard about. The RuneQuest Campaign is a Pendragon Campaign-like treatment for the first few years of the Hero Wars, up until Argrath re-conquers Dragon Pass. The Heroquesting Sourcebook is supposed to contain more in-depth heroquesting rules (compared to the shorter version found in the Gamemaster Book) plus, I will theorize, a detailed hexcrawl treatment of the Hero Plane, including descriptions of mythical places, and stats for encounters therein. The Dragon’s Eye by Jonathan Tweet is still there even though it was announced two years ago — I’m going to speculate that Jonathan is super busy and that he focused on higher priority projects during the pandemic. Everything you need to know about Elfpack is in our Aldryami episode with Shannon Appelcline. The Culbrea sourcebook is by Beer With Teeth, so they have all the info. The Kralorela sourcebook has been in the writing and playtesting phase for a long time, I think. I played in one of its scenario a couple years ago, and it featured an iteration of the Draconic Mysticism rules.

Anyway, enough theorizing! Go read the post and tell us what you think!

The Adventure of the Sword Tournament

© 2022 Chaosium Inc.

There’s a new Pendragon 6th edition Quickstart Adventure out! This one was being handed out during GenCon 2022, and is now made available in PDF to everyone. Now I guess you have two questions: wasn’t there already a Quickstart Adventure for Pendragon 6th edition, and what does that have to do with Glorantha?

The first answer is yes, indeed. There was previously a Quickstart Adventure called The Wild Hunt. I’m not sure how one relates to the other… I guess Pendragon gets two Quickstarts?

The second answer is “nothing, except for the author of the adventure”. But I want to point out that the blog post announcing the adventure also talks about the upcoming Pendragon Starter Set. This in particular caught my eye:

There are three books included in the Pendragon Starter Set: Book I is a tutorial solo adventure, similar to what you find in the RuneQuest Starter Set and Call of Cthulhu Starter Set boxes, for those of you familiar with those products. Book II is a condensed version of the core rulebook. Book III is The Sword Campaign, an introductory set of adventures developed from the most complete portion of Greg’s manuscript.

Note what the outlier is, here. Both the Call of Cthulhu and Pendragon Starter Sets have their “solo tutorial adventure” as the first book in the starter set. Only the RuneQuest Starter Set has it as the third book. What’s the big deal? To me it seems like a big deal.

In my review of the RuneQuest Starter Set (here, and a return to it here), I had to main bits of criticism: the unexciting write-up for the city of Jonstown, and how the RuneQuest rules are too complicated to let the solo adventure be the first book, despite attempts to simplify them.

If you’ve been reading this newsletter long enough, you know that one of my recurring crusades is the (in my opinion) critical need for a big streamlining of the RuneQuest rules, similar to how Call of Cthulhu was streamlined for its 7th edition (not similar in implementation, but similar in spirit, of course). Well I think that one goal for this hypothetical streamlining would be to make RuneQuest simple and consistent enough that the next Starter Set can begin with the solo adventure. I truly believe that if this was successfully achieved, RuneQuest would be improved not just for the slightly annoyed players like me, but also for reaching new audiences and making it more viable for actual plays.

Anyway, it’s my two cents. Let me know what you think!

The White Bull S03E03

Jeff Richard’s (and friends’) campaign continues! I still haven’t found the time to catch up with the new season but it’s in the watch queue! You know, the one that keeps getting longer and longer. Everybody has one of those, right?

What is Fantasy?

In this new interview with Jeff Richard, James Coquillat talks about fantasy in general. This isn’t directly related to Glorantha, but I’m adding it to the newsletter anyway given the interviewee. I can’t say I agree with Jeff’s super-broad definition of “fantasy” here (if everything that isn’t factual is fantasy, the term loses its meaning), but there are some interesting points being made regarding literature in general.

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!

Duckpac Book 3: Redfeather Dreaming

© 2022 LEGION Games & Chaosium Inc.

The soloquest for Duckpac is finally out! Grab it and explore the dangers of the Upland Marsh!

Remember that this is the 3rd book in the overall Duckpac series that provide material for playing duck characters in RuneQuest.

Holiday Dorastor: Woods of Terror

© 2022 Stormspearia & Chaosium Inc.

If the Upland Marsh is too nice for you, how about going to Dorastor? Stormspearia continue their trek around one of the most dangerous places in Glorantha. As always with their series on Dorastor, there are scenarios, spells, magical items, and a ton of other stuff!

A Darker Shade of Night

© 2022 Jeremiah Evans, Scott Cox, and Chaosium Inc.

Here’s a new sandbox-style adventure located in and around New Pavis. A powerful artifact is left in the care of the adventurers who find that, of course, it brings trouble.

Skyreach Mountains Map

© 2022 Mikael Mansen & Chaosium Inc.

Mikael Mansen has released another map, this time focused on the Skyreach Mountains area. As always, there’s one map with labels, and one map without.

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.

About King of Sartar

© 2022 Chaosium Inc.

King of Sartar is an unusual book: it’s written by an unreliable narrator from the Fourth Age of Glorantha who collected and annotated various sources from “the past”, generally the Third Age. It takes what real-world historians have to deal with in their jobs, and uses that as a narrative device for a fantasy world. To some people it’s deep and fascinating, and to some others inscrutable or boring. If you haven’t checked it out yet, the second edition is available in PDF and eBook here.

On BRP Central, Jeff posted a bit about the creative process behind both editions of the book:

The whole idea of the 4th Age in [King of Sartar] was a framing device so that Greg could present many old notes and Glorantha stories in a single book without having to edit them for consistency. It also let us look at Glorantha “as through a glass darkly”, from a vantage where the “author” was uncertain what really happened.

A step back – most of King of Sartar was written around 1981 or so, for what was going to be RQ books. The Comprehensive History of Dragon Pass was part of the Encyclopaedia Glorantha, the Report on the Orlanthi was going to be in the Sartar Campaign book, etc. But with Avalon Hill deal, Greg lost money any time he wrote anything for RQ3 and so Greg’s Glorantha contributions largely went into his unfinished Arkat and then Harmast novels and projects like the Yuthuppa Book. I think it was David Hall who talked Greg into releasing a lot of this material as a book, so Greg cobbled together essays from many places, wrote a few additional bits and created King of Sartar. The 4th Age was a framing device that meant that contradictory material could be presented without concern. Also that’s how much of actual history reads – surviving primary sources are often contradictory, later traditions add new material that changes the history, and the past becomes a collection of later tales mixed with often contradictory primary sources.

One big complaint about the book was that Greg deliberately hid the ball even further, putting in dates drawn from stories from the late 1970s (originally Argrath’s hero wars were going to take place over a century or so, but then that became Ark’s Gbaji Wars) I then went through and very carefully edited the book to make it possible to discover the story we wanted to tell (which was a ton of work, because as I said above, the original book was edited to increase inconsistency). So the 2nd Edition is far more internally consistent. We kept the 4th Age framing device, even if by then we were tired of people treating the 4th Age as a defined setting.  

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.

Kraken Seminar Videos

As we mentioned last week, the Kraken convention happened and, as usual, it was full of interesting seminars… or so I’m told, I wasn’t there. But thanks to the magic of technology, these seminars are now available online for everyone to watch! So far four of them have been posted, including the above “How to Make Glorantha Fun” by Sandy Petersen.

You can also lurk around the archive of older videos for lots of other Gloranthan goodness.

Bud’s Hands Are All Over Six Seasons in Sartar

Bud, from Bud’s RPG Review, is telling you all about Andrew Logan Montgomery’s “Six Seasons in Sartar” in this video. Well, not all about it, since that’s only part 1, but you get the idea.

Thank you for reading

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

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

God Learner Sorcery

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

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!

Chaosium News

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….

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!

Pirates of the East Isles Update

© 2022 Scott Crowder & Chaosium Inc.

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

© 2022 LEGION Games & Chaosium Inc.

Book 3 of the Duckpac series, which will contain a duck-tastic SoloQuest, is apparently almost ready to go out!

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.

Skyfall Lake

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:

© 2022 Chaosium Inc.

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.

Dunstop

Jeff expanded on his previous note on Dunstop with this one, featuring more information and sketches:

© 2022 Chaosium Inc.

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?

© 2022 Chaosium Inc.

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:

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[…] 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.

Seseine

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

Speaking of 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.

Anyway, the “official” answer comes from Jeff:

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. 

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 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!

My Thursday group has been playing RuneQuest weekly for a bit more than a year now and hopefully my players have had as much fun as me! I figured I would share and celebrate our game achievements here.

(this article was originally posted on Facebook, and is reposted here with minor edits and extra pictures)

Kids on Bisons

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.

While the kids navigated the social web of teenager cliques in the Alone confederation, they got involved in increasingly dangerous and outlandish shenanigans. They formed a wildly illegal spirit society and got hold of equally illegal underage magic. They threw some rocks at Tusk Riders and kicked them repeatedly while they were down. They stumbled into an old Mostali settlement, talked to a rusty robot, escaped in mine carts, and destroyed a Chaos shrine. They got discorporated by mistake and ran away from Broo shamans. They accepted a dare to stay by the Woods of the Dead by night. They participated in various games and challenges during tribal festivals. They went up against a scary local rural legend, narrowly avoided becoming mushroom fertilizer, became friends with the elves their parents told them to stay away from, shocked the entire confederation by going heroquesting, saved hundreds of children, greatly upset the trolls by making the Deadwood start regrowing, and indirectly caused the dissolution and exile of one of the Bachad clans… and then they became adults.

Needless to say, they are absolutely infamous around the Far Place for having done all this as teenagers, although they’re not the only ones (I have a couple of NPCs who also did some crazy stuff… with the implication that the PCs inspired stupid heroics from many kids in the confederation!)

We had, of course, some other half-assed heroquesting rules for adulthood initiation, with one character coming back with a glimpse of Illumination!

Apprenticeship and Initiation

Next was the apprenticeship years. The kids, now young adults, said goodbye to each other as they all went to different universities and community colleges, so to speak, but they found each other for big tribal festivals.

During Sacred Time they helped smuggle a Sartarite rebel from under the Lunars’ noses, and stole an important magical item from a bunch of Yelmalion bounty hunters.

In their second year they went cattle raiding, drank Amad blood beer, and otherwise made some questionable choice of party friends. Shortly before their cult initiations they found puberty going sideways and realized they got a Chaotic taint somewhere along the line. That’s what you get when you don’t use protection… Nothing that a bit of dangerous heroquesting can’t fix, mind you, but in doing so they found some ugly tribal secret that has maybe put a target on their back. Woopsies.

We recently finished the cult initiations, and you won’t be surprised to know that yes we did have some half-assed rules for that. They all pushed beyond the normal ritual paths and into experimental heroquesting, because they are all reckless would-be heroes. Sure, some of them came back with banes, including curses that will soon befall their community and will have to be dealt with. But hey, they also learned ancient languages, came back with magical God Time objects, and discovered ancient cult entities that will now act as patron spirits.

One character however died during Orlanthi initiation. Our trickster player opened his big mouth (yes we have a trickster player… and he plays a trickster, so that works out well) and lo and behold the character was stopped by Humakt just before entering the Underworld. “You work for me now.” He came back as a Humakt initiate (once again, shocking the community!) with a big black mark on his left arm, where the Death God grabbed him and turned him around. He can’t put any armour on that arm.

Adulthood

Now the players are off to troll lands around the Indigo Mountains to find some missing family member, and after that they’ll go travelling in a caravan led by the Issaries character (mostly because, based on the aforementioned tribal secret, it’s a good idea for them to leave the tula for a while) And yes, before you ask, I’m currently working on some trading rules. They’re totally half-assed.

Thanks for reading! I hope this will either give you ideas for your game, or give you ideas for our game you can share back to me 😉