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.

You get a lot more guest entries by Jörg this week since I was away on a ski trip in a little lodge in northern Fronela. Family time is important even with the Malkioni, you know! Although I have to say, it seem that kids learn to Tap magic points from an early age, judging by how much I’m tired these days. Oh well. On to Gloranthan news! I may have missed a few things this week, and as someone famous once said, I didn’t have time to make it shorter.

Don’t forget, you can contact us if you want to submit guest entries or otherwise help with the newsletter.

God Learner Sorcery

We are now occupying a nice little tower with a long history of previous occupants who have left behind documents, tablets, artifacts, and other kinds of junk. As we clean up and archive these things, we share the most interesting ones with you.

Episode 7: Adventures in Jonstown

Art by Andrey Fetisov, used with permission from Chaosium Inc.

Episode 7 of our podcast is finally out! We’re looking after the people who got the RuneQuest Starter Set during the holidays! With guest Diana Probst of Beer With Teeth, we discuss ideas for more adventures in Jonstown after the 3 scenarios found in the box. Plus: some exclusive news about what Beer With Teeth and Chaosium are up to together!

Chaosium News

Here are this week’s Chaosium news!

Cults of Glorantha Interview

Jeff talks about his big RuneQuest project for 2022, the much awaited Cults of Glorantha slipcase set, which should include two big cults books, and one smaller (although still about 128 pages long) Prosopaedia.

  • The Prosopaedia is a reference list of all gods, goddesses, notable spirits, and heroes of the setting. It’s illustrated entirely by the unfatiguable Katrim Dirim.
  • The Cults books seem to be organized by pantheons: Darkness, Water, Earth, Fire/Sky, Lightbringers, Lunar, Horned God and animist religions, and Chaos. Note that “regional gods” like Pavis won’t be present: they will be in their relevant regional sourcebooks (such as the Pavis book, duh). Then there’s some mythology overview, monomyth, RuneQuest rules, essays, cult distribution and compatibility charts. It’s “lavishly” illustrated by Loic Muzy and Agathe Pithie (you should have seen sneak peeks of some of these art pieces by now), plus a few others, including some new maps, which I assume includes new mythic/God Learner maps.

The books are currently in layout and graphic design. Jeff hopes to have the PDFs out “by the end of the first quarter”.

Jeff is visibly excited about many aspects of this project, so watch to video to hear what he’s most excited about!

New Gamemaster Month Is Starting

Guest entry by Jörg.

© 2021 Chaosium Inc.

Chaosium is one of six publishers participating in the New Gamemaster Month initiative by Monte Cook Games, this year featuring RuneQuest (among others) with the material from the Starter Set.

New content is published on the website twice a week, with an introductory post and two “lessons” already available. There is also a Discord server and a Facebook Group for the course, and an introduction to using Roll20 parallel to the game-specific courses, although unfortunately not (yet) for the RQG rules.

Welcome And Let’s Get Started covers the practical aspects of getting players, getting the game material, and familiarizing yourself with the rules. For RuneQuest, that means the Starter Set, which you can order from Chaosium’s website with a 10% rebate all of January. The tutorial assumes that you have the physical set in your hands already, but you can use the PDF version as soon as your order gets processed. If you got your set from your friendly local game store, good for you because you don’t have to wait for your copy and can start right away. In that case, you might try and use that code for the core rules book.

The course material doesn’t say so, but you can also familiarize yourself with the the most relevant rules on the RuneQuest-Wiki.

Initial Planning For Your Game Session talks about prep-work for your game, and gives an estimate of the amount of time a gamemaster may have to put in beyond actually running the game. The RuneQuest section offers advice for player recruitment, asks you once more to skim a look at the rules, and then already points you to have some fun – you are supposedly ready to try the solo adventure now.

If you are still undecided whether to invest in the RuneQuest Starter Set, take a look at the Wiki, then the online SoloQuest, or even our own thorough review of the product. If you have experience with D100 games of the Basic Roleplaying family, you should be able to get by with that information.

Sneak Peek at the Non-Human Pre-gen Adventurers

Entry co-written with Jörg.

Artwork by Lionel Marty © 2021 Chaosium Inc.

Chaosium has posted a sneak peek at two upcoming pre-generated adventurers for RuneQuest’s Starter Set: a Telmori Wolfsister and an Issaries Duck.

Showing a Telmori girl as an example of a non-human strikes me as a little odd, but she is looking gorgeous and pretty untamable. And the duck looks mean, too. Release date is “later this year”.

Jason Durall started a thread of comments with extra information:

Pretty much every nonhuman race has a sample pregen. I drew the line at Windchildren and Dragonewts, because the first were just too weirdly unbalanced, and the second were too complex to get across in a pregen folio description.

The [Windchildren’s] flying is great – maybe even scenario-breaking – but they’re so restricted in what they can carry, what armor they can wear, and their intense claustrophobia limits them considerably for adventuring.

Grab Your Updated PDFs

Guest entry by Jörg.

In related news, the known errors in the RuneQuest Starter Set, like the alynx with bison stats, are supposed to be eliminated when corrected PDFs get uploaded soon, and there already are updated PDFs of the Weapons and Equipment Guide available on the Chaosium or Drivethrurpg shop/order pages if you bought them there.

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!

More Glorantha Maps

Mikael Mansen is churning out more maps, with three more “generic settlement” maps (a port town, a scattered shoreline village, an island settlement, and a river town), and a map of the region around the Hellcrack, a magical chasm up in the steppes of Pent where you can fall down to the Underworld.

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.

What is Magic

Sometimes fairly foundational bits of lore can be overlooked, which is why Jeff points us to the RuneQuest rulebook’s Magic chapter introduction (on p243). I agree that this is the kind of rulebook material I tend to skim, or read but not commit to memory. Which is why whenever I re-read the rulebook or the bestiary I often pick up little gems I missed or forgot.

I’m not going to quote the whole thing (you have the rulebook after all, don’t you?), but it boils down to this:

The dualistic worlds of eternal God Time and mortal Time are the basic polarities of Glorantha. From these opposing poles comes all known reality. Magic is the result of the interaction of these two worlds; drawing upon the timeless and eternal God Time to affect the mortal world of Time.

I figure that this mostly applies to Rune Magic, where indeed a mortal uses their connection to a deity that “resides” in the God Time, and channels something they “did” to make it happen again right now. This is how an Orlanth worshipper can, say, summon a thunderbolt, which is effectively “magic”.

Compare that to spirit magic which calls upon the denizens of the Spirit World who exist in a sort of parallel universe to the world of mortals and Time. These entities have various abilities that can have an effect in the mortal world, such as closing wounds or sharpening a blade. Or consider sorcery, which is about using and affecting the Runes that are the underlying building blocks of the Gloranthan universe.

In fact, I’ve seen references to the “Three Worlds” or “Four Worlds” of Glorantha in past material, and where interaction with each of these worlds provides a different type of magic. In this model, you can generalize the quote above, with the God Time specifically providing only divine magic (also known as Rune Magic in the latest RuneQuest game). I’m not sure whether this “multiple worlds” model is still valid as far the game desigers are concerned, but you can bet that there are NPCs in-game who have that world view.

Arguably, both the Spirit World and the Runes are related to the God Time anyway: in another model of Glorantha, the Spirit World was separated from the mortal world at the Dawn, and the abstract world of Runes is sort of the precursor to the God Time, before entities awakened and became the Celestial Court that embodied these Runes.

Cryptic One-Liners in Gloranthan Canon

Some things are intentionally left unexplained, as was mentioned on BRP Central, and later reposted on Facebook:

Rick Meints: I had the pleasure of occasionally cornering Greg and getting the chance to ask him about these sorts of things. In general, Glorantha is full of a lot of “one-liner” references that never really got fleshed out. By “one-liners” I mean that they are mentioned only once or twice and often with just a single sentence. Another such example of a one-liner would be Falangian Wine in King of Sartar. When I asked about that Greg just said, “That’s up to the reader to decide what it is”.

Jeff: Yep. And a lot of these one-liners should not and will not get defined outside of the individual reader.

The effort to answer all questions, to resolve all mysteries – well, that is what destroyed the Second Age. Ponder that carefully and get a bonus to your Illumination role next Sacred Time!


Jeff posts about Zzabur, our good ol’ buddy here at the God Learners:

[Zzabur is] the son of Malkion in most stories, and the First Wizard. Supposedly he’s been around for more than five thousand years and is the master of the Brithini sorcerer caste, and his sorcery is said to have destroyed entire nations, closed off the seas, and twice nearly changed the very nature of the world.

Wonderful dude, isn’t he? The Brithini caste are a bunch of amoral sorcerers who maintain immortality by adhering to strict life rules, which aren’t necessarily great for those around them. Wonderful bunch too.

A word of caution: this whole section of Gloranthan lore seems to be a giant minefield. It’s complicated, been revised multiple times, and is composed of lots of moving parts found in unofficial or unfinished works… plus, I’m still a big newbie. So as usual I’m just trying to figure this out, same as you, but I figured I would add a more explicit disclaimer this time.

Malkion was the child of some minor Air deity (Aerlit, a follower of Vadrus) and of a Triolini (Warera, the shoreline mother, which probably looked like some kind of siren, but who knows, it’s the God Time, things were weird back then). Looking this up I only now realize why the Malkioni are so tied to “water themes”: not only is Malkioni half-Triolini (merfolk), he’s also the father of Waertag and, therefore, the Waertagi, a race of sea-faring humanoids with webbed hands and feet and blue or green skin. This special relationship explains how the Malkioni’s Middle Sea Empire got so much help and achieved their naval supremacy.

An interesting aside on Malkion as Zzabur’s father is this:

Good old Zzabur is usually claimed as Malkion’s first or second son with the goddess Britha. Zzabur was given the Great Gift of sorcery from his father, who was a mortal beings, not a god.

It’s hard to figure out who is a mortal and who isn’t when things happen in the God Time, but my guess is that you’re a mortal if (1) you refuse to be part of the Compromise and enter the world of Time at the Dawn or (2) you got killed in the Gods War. Malkion belongs to that second category.

Anyway, back to Zzabur:

He’s kind of a Pandelume figure from Vance’s Dying Earth. Like Pandelume, Zzabur possesses knowledge of many things which are otherwise lost or unknown to mortals, “including the method of creating artificial life, of all the spells which have ever been invented, and of mundane sciences such as mathematics.” But like Pandelume, Zzabur is a mortal (if ageless). He is not perfect nor infallible, although he never admits an error. And like Pandelume, Zzabur no longer exists in this world, as he and his island of Brithos have vanished from the mundane world, to no one’s regret.

The island of Brithos disappeared around the time of the Closing of the Seas, which is why some people think that the Closing was a side-effect of Zzabur’s spell to move the island out of the Mortal World. It’s not clear where the island went, but note that you can have your adventurers visit the place: there’s a port city in western Genertela where sailors from Brithos sometimes show up and lead you there! How intriguing…

Zzabur is interesting because of his contradictions, and the fine line he’s walking. As far as I can tell, being a big intellectual wizard, he rejects the Gods of Glorantha as nothing more than a bunch of selfish bullies and narcissistic divas, imperfect emanation of the “pure” Runic concepts that make up reality. At best they’re peers, who achieved as much as him. But on the other hand Zzabur can’t really become an immortal in the sense of “existing in the God Time” because that would make him a deity himself. So my guess is that he found an alternative, and that’s where him and his little island currently are.

I imagine Zzabur is incredibly alone, removed from even his fellow Brithini. He remembers interacting with the gods, views them as beings like himself – but he is not a god. He was a first hand witness to many of his father’s pronouncements, at least to begin with. But Zzaburi rejected his father’s second revelation – that of Solace and he did not accompany his father when he departed Brithos. Some claim Zzabur was a parricide and was even responsible for Malkion’s death, but most say he turned his back on his father and made his own arrangements to survive the end of the world.

“Solace” in Malkioni philosophy seems to be the somewhat intellectually abstract state of bliss that awaits you after death if you live your life correctly — for a certain definition of “correctly”. I haven’t found a good explanation of this falling out between Zzabur and Malkion (feel free to contact us and point me to it!), but from what I can see, Zzabur might not have really appreciated Malkion coming out of the Tower of Reason. Malkion might have done that to go educate the masses, so to speak, and indeed bring them the revelation of Solace. Maybe that’s what Jeff is referring to here?

Of course Zzabur is pure ego – he is the great objectifier. He is the intellect that stands between Us and Things. He seeks to survive at whatever cost, knowing that as a mortal his ego is all there is to him – the soul is sentimental drivel and spirit is merely an animating energy. Egoism is his drive – a very personal egoism. “I AM that I AM.”

He is also a very very very old mortal who lives alone in a tower and knows lots of things.

If Brithos is now in some kind of “Ego Plane”, I wonder what that looks like… my first thought is: Zzabur zzabur? Zzabur zzabur zzabur. Zzabur!

Jeff adds one last comment:

Greg never liked Zzabur and what he stood for (and thus in all of Greg’s stories, Zzabur comes over as an unmitigated arrogant prick), but he was an important part of Glorantha and one of its earliest characters.

The Way of Hrestol

Let’s continue with the Malkioni theme, here:

The Way of Hrestol began in the land of Seshnela in the year 2 ST, but its importance stems from the culture from which it separated, the Brithini. This prehistoric culture began long before the Darkness and it’s the root of the Western culture of Glorantha.

The ancient race of Brithos was called the Malkioni after its father and founder, or sometimes Brithini after the island goddess who was the mother of that people.

Talar was eldest, and he received the Crown of Malkion as his share of his father’s realm; Zzabur the Sorcerer Supreme was second, and was master of the spiritual world; Horal Swordson was third, and was a soldier who carried a sword from Humakt the war god; and Dronar Plow was last, who had so many children who worked merrily for the support of the older brothers.

Here we can see how the basic separation of roles in Malkioni society is based on Malkion’s own family. In Western culture, Talars (after Talar) are the nobles and political leaders, Zzaburi (after Zzabur) are the wizards and philosophers and intellectuals, Horali (after Horal) are the soldiers, and Dronars (after Dronar) are the farmers.

Jörg says: The simplistic version has all Brithini and all Malkioni descend from this union. There are other genealogies and stories about the Six Tribes of the Logicians, of which we still know the Waertagi. The God Learner Maps in the Guide name the tribes and their suffering and terminal fates in the Gods War.

The Malkioni fared well during the War of the Gods, especially with the skills of Zzabur, who was as powerful as many of the gods of the time. Once, they even forestalled a dire internal dispute which could have torn them apart and made them easy pretty for Chaos, as happened to so many others.

This event led to the departure of Talar’s eldest son, Froalar, Prince and heir to the throne, from Brithos to avoid a civil war with his brothers. Many others went with him, and they started the first Malkioni colony called Froalarwal (later shortened to Frowal) in Seshnela.

Seshnela was destroyed at the end of the Second Age when the God Learners ran out of excuses with the cosmos, and it snapped back at them… so now Frowal is just a bunch of ruins.

Argan Argar Atlas map © 2021 Chaosium Inc.

Froalar led his people, called the Seshnegi, through the Great Darkness, and even aided the hostile beast worshipers of the wild who were his enemies.

His wife, Xemela, performed a heroic self-sacrifice and saved her people from darkness demons and Chaos. When the Dawn came, the peoples of Frowal found themselves well off in comparison to the rest of the world.

From what I can tell, these “hostile beast worshipers” might have been the Pendali lion people, who were created by Seshna Likita, the local earth goddess (more on her shortly). The Pendali tribe belongs to the broader Hsunchen Basmoli lion people, who all are some kind of were-lion shapeshifters.

The story of Froalar’s settlements is pretty vague in the Guide or the Sourcebook, which is part of the fun of Glorantha for me: you get a few evocative statements, and you get to make up everything in between!

However, the wild hill barbarians showed no gratitude or friendship, and quickly returned to harassment and war. Froalar and his court zzaburi were distressed as to the proper course of action. The goddess Ifttala, a daughter of Seshna Likita the Earth Goddess, was the mother of the hill barbarians and as long as she aided them, the Dawn Age would be ruled by war and conflict.

And so, in the spring of the second year of Time, Prince Hrestol, the son of King Froalar, swore to slay Ifttala and bring peace to the land. When Hrestol asked his father’s zzaburi how this could be done, they said: “You must be as a god and know what they know. You must be a leader, as you are now. But it is not enough. You must be a warrior, and know how to wield a sword as well as any man bred to it. You must know prayers, like your cousins who study under me. And you must know the secrets of the earth, like the plowmen who feed us. Only thusly by combining the four tasks which Malkion gave to his sons will you be as a god to perform a god’s task.”

The court feared this was blasphemy, and Hrestol purified himself and went to the temple of Malkion the Founder to ask the ancestor. Malkion revealed himself to Hrestol and presented the hero with a helm and shield, armor and a sword, and a book. And as he did so he spoke saying, “Let the old ways be changed in Seshneg, for you are set upon by a mighty foe. Let those who would lead do so. Let those who would fight do so. Let those who would reap and sow do so. Let those who would study and learn sorcery do so. Go forth, and do as you wish, for my blessings go with you. And may all the gods look upon you with favor.”

So there you have Hrestol basically saying that he will forego the ancestral “caste” system, where you’re either a noble, wizard, soldier, or farmer, and you don’t do anything else in your life. Instead, Hrestol is aiming to be all four, because each will give him the abilities he needs to defeat the lion people.

This is the kind of thing I have yet to be better with in my Gloranthan games: if my players are fighting beast people who have local land magic supremacy, their adventurers might just get military allies, some kind of magical McGuffin weapon, or something similarly boring. To get that epic feel I’d need to give them some convoluted omen or quest! I guess this is where cracking open an ancient myths book can give some ridiculous but highly resonating ideas…

Anyway, I’m sort of surprised to the see the zzaburi themselves recommend this course of action: I would have thought they were the most conservative of the bunch, clinging to their secret scrolls and comfy lifestyle. It sounds like it’s the nobles who thought this was blasphemy, although it’s possible that a majority of wizards also thought so, if you imagine that only Froalar’s close zzaburi entourage was behind the idea.

I also love how Hrestol goes on a “quest” to get validation from Malkion. For all we know, he just went around the house, waited 10 minutes, and came back saying “yep, the Founder is all OK with it, don’t worry everyone!” More seriously, I guess this is one of those “magical contests” Jeff mentioned previously, where Hrestol actually comes back with some kind of proof from a heroquest.

And thus it was that Prince Hrestol became the first of the Men-of-All, the champions of the Malkioni. Hrestol became the best swordsman in the land. He learned the earth secrets of the farmers and spells of battle that blunt enemy’s blades and staunch the flow of blood from a wound. He studied the sacred book which Malkion gave him and was the basis of the Code of Hrestol. He tamed the wild horse and learned how to fight from horseback. When he was ready, Hrestol went into the earth and with Malkion’s sword he slew Ifttala.

Although successful in his quest, Hrestol was slain, not by the barbarians but by Seshna Likita, Ifttala’s mother and goddess of the land. However, the Prince managed to retain some memory, skills and identity in the Land of the Dead and continued his quest.

How bad-ass is that? Even Death cannot stop Hrestol’s quest!

When King Froalar learned of Hrestol’s death, Froalar set off himself to beg for the return of his son’s life. Froalar met with the goddess Seshna Likita and successfully bargained with her for Hrestol’s return. Froalar could not return Ifttala in return, and so Hrestol was exiled forever from Seshnela. Hrestol went on to commit other great deeds, but none were ever as far reaching or important as his Godslaying. Hrestol taught others the way of the Men-of-All (sometimes translated as “chivalry” or “knights”) and they rose to greatness and carried on as a shining example for humanity for generations.

I heard that terms like “chivalry” and “knights” is what led to a time where Western Genertela included iron age and medieval tropes — as Chaosium is trying to step away from terminology that gives the wrong idea, I don’t know if we’ll see these terms much anymore.

Besides, for me, the medieval knight doesn’t really convey this image of a very versatile hero who knows just as much horse-riding and swordfighting as he knows about animal husbandry and tool repair, herbology and hunting, public speech and intrigue, philosophy and mathematics. The term “Men-of-All” gives a better picture of this in my opinion, and if I had to pick a real-world equivalent I would lean towards Batman or James Bond, who seem to know everything, and can do everything… which of course raises the question: did Hrestol have any belt full of gadgets? An amphibian horse? A crossbow sword?

Third Age Malkioni Movements

Guest entry by Jörg.

This is a very western week for Jeff’s posts:

So let’s talk a little about some of the Third Age Malkioni movements. The Second Age broke Malkionism. Let’s say that again – the Second Age broke Malkionism. Most of the intellectual centers of Malkionism – Jrustela, Seshnela, and Brithos – were sunk, broken, or disappeared. The Oceans – long the highways of the Malkioni were closed to humanity.

Hrestolism – the mainstream of Malkionism since the early Dawn – had been delivered a catastrophic blow. Not just in numbers, but in self-confidence. The Invisible God had struck against the God Learners and the Middle Sea Empire.

That is not the rallying cries of the enemies of Hrestolism – that is what mainstream establishment Hrestoli agreed. Something had gone terribly wrong in Malkionism – and mainstream Hrestolism was to blame.

Protest already led to Genertelan parts of the Middle Sea Empire breaking away from Seshnela shortly after the Closing had struck, with the sorcerer Halwal taking the lead in pointing out those mistakes and leading or aiding liberation movements in Fronela and Ralios.

Halwal perished in an epic magical battle against the main proponent of Makanist Hrestolism orthodoxy, Yomili. With both intellectual leaders gone, the remnants of the Empire as well as the heirs of Arkat became disorganized and unable to do anything about the coming cataclysms.

And so the Third Age opened with Malkioni intellectuals – especially among the zzaburi and talars – trying to figure out how things went wrong. In Loskalm, the Irensavalists said it was because the so-called Hrestoli worshiped Makan the Demiurge instead of the Invisible God. They deeply inspected Hrestoli’s life and deeds and the New Idealists came up with a radical form of Hrestolism that Hrestol himself would not have recognized.

In the ruins of Seshnela and Tanisor came another answer – the problem was Hrestol himself. He twisted Malkionism so that he could murder the daughter of Seshna Likita and conquer the Pendali (who happened to be claimed as ancestors of the Tanisor talars). Hrestol betrayed Malkionism and if the Malkioni were to survive they were to try to figure out how to adapt Malkionism to the world of Time without going down Hrestol’s path. This is the origin of Rokarism.

This is an important point – the rulers of Tanisor aren’t descended from Froalar or his companions, or at least only by admixture. The Bailifides and their allies owe their legitimacy to a combination of barbarian roots with the land goddess and approval by the Rokari school, rather than from kinship with Malkion and/or Hrestol.

In Ralios, many concluded that Arkat was likely not the villain the God Learners claimed he was, and a myriad of sects claiming to know the secrets of the Dark Empire sprouted up.

We have the name of three heroes of the liberation war against Seshnela, which ended in a draw after the battle between Halwal and Yomili – a magical catastrophe on par with the Nights of Horror in the Lunar struggle with the Pentans, for both sides.

In fact, Ralios recovered from the disunity before what was left of Seshnela and Tanisor did, but the Kingdom of Jorstland was held together mainly by its charismatic leader.

This is the context in which Malkionism developed in the Third Age. In Tanisor (which now claims the ancient Serpent Crown of Seshnela), the Rokari movement is backed by the talars and nearly all Zzaburi publicly ascribe to it. They have excised the errors and corruption of Hrestol, Arkat, and the God Learners from Malkionism – the proof has been a strong and powerful kingdom, the Opening, and the defeat of their foes.

Note the phrasing “publicly ascribe to it.” The Rokari school may not be quite as monolithic as its leaders present it.

The only remnant of old school Hrestolism I can think of offhand is the Castle Coast. Which we often romanticise, but let’s think about what it is – the dwarf made fortress of Rhis, and the ruins of Frowal and Laurmal, plus a few heavily fortified strongholds. I kind of imagine it like the later Crusader states, after the loss of Jerusalem.

By and large, I don’t think the Castle Coast Hrestoli are filled with optimistic self-confidence. They are at best like the inhabitants of Gormenghast, performing rituals they no longer know the purpose of. At worst, they are the Vadhagh, hiding away in castles, wilfully oblivious to the changes over the last six hundred years.

There also just are not all that many folk in the Castle Coast – maybe 50,000, which is about the population of The Far Place (the area around Alda-Chur plus Alone).

In short, the Castle Coast is a melancholic place, dreaming about a past it no longer believes in, but rejecting a future it cannot be a part of.

Other comments led to the Carmanians of western Peloria, one of the few Malkioni groups that had stayed free of the God Learner philosophies:

Carmania was part of the umma, at least in the late Second Age and early Third Age. It is not now – embracing the Red Goddess was a bridge too far.

Imagine Carmania like the Mughals. So far removed from the core that there is not a lot of pressure to maintain anything resembling orthodoxy. And with the majority of the population not caring at all as long as they can worship their traditional gods.

And when the Bull Shahs take power – not even the rulers particularly care about Malkionism.

And the southern shores:

Slontos, once the gem of the Middle Sea Empire, was also sunk. The rulers of Ramalia are wracked with fear – and the cruel lords grasp onto power with the aid of amoral sorcerers, who Tap all who oppose the rulers. It is a police state of lords and sorcerers, backed by sadistic soldiers.

Groups like the Manirian Merchant Princes or the Aeolians are not particularly influential on the development of mainstream Malkionism. They are too far removed, too influenced by the Orlanthi (heck, many consider them to be just Orlanthi with some sorcerers – which is not entirely wrong).

Manirian Merchant Princes

Jeff continues his train of thought, which led him to Maniria:

So as part of our Third Age Malkioni discussion, lets get to the Manirian Road and the Trader Princes. Remember what this is – it is a trade route between Safelster and Esrolia, dating back some 400 years. During the Closing this was the only way to get goods and people between Ralios (and from there to Seshnela) and the Holy Country.

I imagine this trade route a bit like the Silk Road, which connected the mainly Greek cities of the Mediterranean to Central Asia by way of the Achaemenid Empire’s roads. This must have been not only a great business and adventuring opportunity, but also a catalyst for the exchange of ideas and cultures. Jeff actually confirms a bit later that the Silk Road is an inspiration for this bit of Glorantha.

The route was founded around 1170 by a talar named Castelain, who was descended from the god Issaries and worshipped by his kinship group as an ancestor (which is permitted by talars even under orthodox Malkionism). This was common among those talar clans that handled long-distance trade under the Silver Empire and later under the Middle Sea Empire, and many lesser talar families traced their descent to Issaries. This would have been around the time when the Kingdom of Jorstland dominated Ralios.

In some comment, Jeff sort of implies that Castelain might be related in some way to Garzeen, the son of Issaries who vowed to piece the god Genert back together in order to marry Fenela, a daughter of Froala and therefore sister of Hrestol. I don’t know if Castelain might be a descendant of Garzeen, or a Garzeen worshipper who somehow made great progress with this quest, or something else… but it’s an interesting link to explore between the god of trade and the Malkioni dynasty.

Castelain got spectacularly wealthy – imagine the markup of kafl, spices, iron, and other Western goods in an Esrolia cut off from trade. Of course he got his kin – his immediate family, cousins, and other clan members – in on the act. They made pacts with the local Orlanthi tribes, established settlements and caravanserai, and as talars, quickly fit into the role of judges in disputes between the tribes. They took Orlanthi and Esrolian wives and became part of the local network of alliances and kinship, but preserved their ancient role as talars, and invited zzaburi to aid them. Peace was maintained so that goods and people could be traded between Ralios and Kethaela – and when Belintar unified Kethaela into the Holy Country, that trade boomed!

The Holy Country became a thing in the early 1300s, so this business boom happened roughly half-way through the Manirian Road’s lifespan. Before then, most of the big events of the Third Age are happening in Peloria and further east, so the relative quiet of the western continent is maybe what lets Castelain setup this trade route. Plus, after the Dragonkill War, most of the people in the southern Dragon Pass region couldn’t really get their stuff from the north (it was closed to humans) or the east (there lies Prax who probably doesn’t export much), so it was only a matter of time before someone decided to heavily trade with the west.

They brought the Invisible God with them as well, although the locals continued to worship the Lightbringers. Eventually there was a degree of syncretism, although it was mostly one-sided. The Invisible God became a distant creator, and the Lightbringers were worshiped by everyone. Issaries was the favorite of the Trader Princes – their ancestor and patron. Some smatterings of Arkat stuff from Safelster likely got passed along as well, and zzaburi from Safelster or Tanisor could get good money working for a Trader Prince family.

If this sounds familiar, it is basically the Silk Road story.

I figure that if a local culture along the way was still clinging to some old pre-God Learner local deity worship, that’s when they would have “upgraded” to the monomyth version, especially if their local deity naturally maps to a Lightbringer. But more interestingly (at least to me), I wonder if that’s when the Lhankor Mhy cults of central Genertela started dabbling in sorcery… they would have accompanied traders as accountants or advisors or even just tourists, they are naturally curious about any kind of knowledge, and they would have definitely been interested in the peculiar magic that they see in the hands of Malkioni people… Do we know when Lhankhor Mhy initiates gained sorcerous powers?

But the Malkionism of the Trader Princes is pretty much worship of Issaries (as an ancestor, so it is ok!). With imported zzaburi to give respectability (not enough locals to keep the numbers up – besides the imported sorcerers are better trained). This manages to keep the Trader Princes from going completely native. Although I expect the zzaburi are well paid for this gig.

And so the Trader Princes have a curious “dominion”- the local tribes work with them because 1. they are good neutral judges, and 2. they give the local tribes a cut of their profits. The local Storm Voices get gifts, the Earth Priestesses are consulted (and the Trader Princes do not claim the land), and warriors get hired as mercenaries and guards. Win win for everyone!

To understand this bit, it’s important to note that Trader Princes actually rule the cities that dot the Manirian Road. The cities are not very big, and their Trader Prince leaders are often squabbling against each other, but it mostly works…

At least it is until the Opening. And suddenly it becomes cheaper to send a ship laden with goods to Handra than to send it overland across Maniria.

And if this sounds familiar, it is basically Barry Cunliffe’s theory on the collapse of the Hallstatt Fürstensitze and the rise of the La Tene warrior migrations.

The Hallstatt culture is the late bronze age culture that was predominant in Western and Central Europe, and which was gradually replaced by the La Tene culture around the 5th century BCE. A short research indicates that the La Tene warriors mostly invaded the Hallstatt settlements by crossing the Alps, so I’m not sure what theory Jeff is pointing at here that might relate to the collapse of trading roads in favour of sea trade… has anyone here read a book by Barry Cunliffe? Maybe Jeff was actually referring to the earlier conquest of the Manirian tribes by the Trader Princes?

Malkioni Likes and Dislikes

A sneak peek at the Malkioni write-up from the upcoming Cults of Glorantha:


The Malkioni distrust gods in general. There is a strong current of ancestor worship in Malkionism, and at times the Malkioni have made their ancestors surpass the gods in power, or else reduced the gods into mere superhuman heroes or multinational ancestors. Some sects reject all worship of the gods, others make exceptions for specific deities. For example, in the Second Age, the God Learners spread the Lightbringer cults of Chalana Arroy, Issaries, and Lhankor Mhy throughout the Middle Sea Empire. Even those sects that do not worship the gods rarely oppress worship of the gods by non-Malkioni.

Possibly answering my own previous question, it’s maybe during that time that the naturally curious Lhankor Mhy initiates peered into sorcery?

Most cults of other gods despise and fear members of the zzaburi caste. The zzaburi consider the gods to be individuals who mastered themselves, as the zzaburi strives to do. They consider the gods to be peers. Those who worship the gods are lesser men, those who couldn’t make it. Naturally, these attitudes cause considerable friction between the worshipers of the gods and zzaburi. The Malkioni distrust and dislike the Elder Races in general, although again exceptions are often made by specific sects. The Malkioni lump all the Elder Races together with the Orlanthi hill barbarians and even Chaos monsters until [sic] the category of “krjalk.”

With Krjalk being listed as the Chaos Lord of Monsters in the Guide, father of broos, dragonewts, elves, trolls, dwarves, Hsunchen and “other barbarians, that… does give a good idea about how much the Malkioni don’t like all those people.

The Malkioni recognize the force of evil and call it the Devil. The Devil is the god of Chaos. The Devil is the worst of all the beings who forgot the Invisible God, for he turned the wondrous forces of life against himself and tried to destroy the world in the process.

The talars are directly descended from the first-born son of Malkion, They venerate their ancestors – kings, heroes, and even gods – as a means of connection to the supreme power of the Invisible God. The earliest ancestors were the children of gods, and can intercede with the Elemental gods and the Powers on behalf of their descendants. As a result, Talars must carefully learn their lineage, and act as links between past generations of leaders and the present time.

Hah, interesting, I didn’t know that Malkioni nobles had to do this much ancestor worship, but I guess it actually fits with the old “chivalry” theme, where noble families must know the heraldry of all related families, their lineages and notable ancestral feats, and so on. I wonder if they could get a cool game mechanic where they need to roll on Lineage Lore to locate an ancestor that can temporarily grant them some magic spell.

Upon death, the remains of a talar are buried beneath the earth. Mounds, shrines, or other structures are typically built atop the grave. Cults to specific ancestors are common among their descendants. In the First Age, the royal burial mounds of the Seshnegi Serpent Kings were sacred complexes and the center of much religious activity. Other such cults, such as those of Xemela, Hrestol, Gerlant, and Talor, are now worshiped by members of all Malkioni castes.

Woooo…. “sacred complexes”? My tomb raiding sense is tingling.

Under Malkioni humanism, mortals can and should wield the creative power of gods and without needing to worship beings other than themselves. The world can be explained, understood, and mastered through human reason and logic alone.

Now that is a radical statement in Glorantha. The Theyalans, Lunars, and Praxians view it as insane hubris. The Elder Races view it as a not-so veiled threat.

If you want the Orlanthi and Lunars, Trolls and Elves and Dwarves, and everybody else to make peace, you could have a campaign where the Malkioni somehow manage to rise up and become a massive power, like they were in the Second Age! Then everybody would rally against them!

Of course, if you’re a massive Watchmen fan like me, that threat doesn’t even have to be real…

Anyway, when the Malkioni say that you only have to worship yourselves, they actually mean it in a sort of ancestor worship kind way I guess? All their past heroes who achieved great things and uncovered great insights of the Invisible God are often called “Ascended Masters”, and you can worship them:

Most Ascended Masters are hero cults. One offers a point of POW to them, regularly venerate them, and gain whatever blessings they offer. It might mechanically look just like a minor Rune cult, but Malkioni would say you are wrong.

Although the mechanics are similar, I wonder if there could be a few tweaks here, such as the ability to gather all these little Rune Points pools into one big one that can power any spell from that lineage of heroes… but anyway, it’s only for a subset of the Malkioni anyway. As far as I understand, depending on which school of thought you belong to, you might actually reject the Ascended Masters.

Jeff concludes by saying that this upcoming write-up contains “a lot that moves the Malkioni away from being crude analogies to medieval Christians or Muslims into something purely Gloranthan“.

Let’s Talk About Sorcery

Since we’re really into Malkioni stuff this week, sure, let’s!

First thing is obvious – it is very different from other magic systems.

Ok, let’s stop here. When I first read RuneQuest Glorantha, I skimmed past the Sorcery rules thinking that it’s pretty cool (in a “Ars Magica vibes” kind of way) but that I’ll get back to them later. Then, I realized that these rules were a big deal to some people, with many arguments and complaints in online forums about the nerfing compared to RQ3 or something.

It’s so weird to me because the arguments I’ve seen boil down to Sorcery not being able to produce the amount of power of Spirit or Rune Magic in a similar amount of time… but that’s not the point! The point is indeed that it’s supposed to be different!

In fact, Spirit Magic is quite underpowered and slow compared to Rune Magic — but when the difference is a few points or a few Strike Ranks, it doesn’t register as strongly as with Sorcery, which is more underpowered and slower by another order of magnitude. But it can do so much more with enough time and resources!

I’ve got absolutely zero interest in having yet another magic system that can accomplish the same things as the other two, but with different dice rolls and point pools. Two magic systems for “doing cool stuff in short notice” is more than enough. It’s even twice as much as most games. There’s no need for a third one…

Anyway, I’ll stop ranting and get back to Jeff’s words:

With spirit magic, you have a spirit that you know how to concentrate on (with your foci!) and it does whatever effect it can do. Makes your blade sharp, makes you strong, heals people. whatever.

Advantages: you have a fair amount of magical fuel for it (especially when you add POW crystals), this fuel recharges pretty quick (a few hours to a day), and you can get little helpers to further expand your catalogue of spells (bound and allied spirits).

Disadvantages: it takes part or most of a combat round to cast, you need to have your foci with you (otherwise you need to take an extra round), and spells have a somewhat low upper limit.

For instance in my Glorantha I would say that it becomes hard to find spells past level 4 or 5, like Heal 5 or Bladesharp 4, unless you have cult support and the finances or standing to get a 6 level spell (a healer might get Heal 6 from their Chalana Arroy temple, but someone else might have trouble getting access to it). Above level 6, I’d say it’s virtually impossible to find (again, in my own Glorantha) without a big adventure in the Spirit World.

With Rune magic, you wield a fraction of the power of the god. You are your god’s conduit to act in the mundane world. For that brief moment, you are the manifestation of your god in the mundane world. The limitations of this is you MUST maintain that connection to the god, which limits your actions and forces you to give time and resources (both material and spiritual) to that god!

Advantages: it’s fast (SR 1!) and it’s powerful (especially all the spells that come with MP boosts like Sword Trance!).

Disadvantages: you can’t cast these spells as much as you want compared to Spirit Magic (Rune Point pools are usually small until you approach Runemaster level), and recharging your magical fuel takes a long time, at least if you have a gamemaster that follows the Gloranthan calendar for Rune Point replenishing.

Note that for both Spirit and Rune Magic, you’re also limited to what is available out there: Spirit Magic has a relatively small list of spells, and Rune Magic is limited to what deities did during the God Time. Sure, you can collaborate with your gamemaster to make an occasional new Spirit or Rune spell, but you (as in “you the adventurer“) can’t come up with something new.

Sorcery isn’t any of that. Sorcery is something that must be learned, and is arduous to learn. You must learn to construct vast memory palaces, and create mental connections with points in the God Time. A lot of that is just rote learning and takes years.

Then you learn spells. These are careful paths through these “memory palaces” and mental connections that enable you to create an effect in the mundane world. The limitations of this is obvious – you are slow, learning spells is difficult, only a tiny percentage of people have the time to learn how to do this (and must be supported by the rest of society). But the advantages? You don’t need gods or spirits. You can cast any spell you are capable of learning (or creating).

And this is the great thing about Sorcery. It plays into the trope of the wizard alchemist who researches and studies obscure things in an old dusty tower, something that neither Spirit or Rune Magic push you to do, except maybe for Lhankor Mhy initiates who, guess what, have access to Sorcery. It also lets you make up virtually anything.

It’s hard to justify a Spirit or Rune spell that would make all bronze weapons in your enemy’s hands suddenly dissolve, or fly vertically in the air. Or a spell that sets fire to their clothes, or boils the water in their bodies. You can do it with Sorcery.

Similarly, you can’t really go big with Spirit and Rune magic. You can make a Shield spell last for a year, sure, but you can’t Create a Fissure in the ground that’s 10 kilometres long and twice as deeper. It’s only with Sorcery that you can sink entire islands and break the world.

So if only a tiny minority of specialists can learn sorcery, how do most Malkioni do magic?

Easy. Most people – talars, soldiers, and workers – use a combination of spirit magic and Rune magic. They also get some magic by upholding their caste duties and restrictions.

For example, the talars have the ability to give commands to Malkioni from other castes. They can also worship their ancestors and gain magic from them. And they have limited access to spirit magic. The horali can learn spirit magic from their regiments or war societies, and can belong to some cults of war gods. And the dronari can join whatever cults approved by their talars.

But of course, if you are Malkioni, your options are limited by the talars (and not directly the zzaburi). If your talar says you shall not worship Orlanth, that’s going to put a damper on things. This is a bigger limitation for horali than for dronari (mainly because as long as the dronari feed everyone and do the work, it is rare to ask them questions).

Jeff then addresses everybody’s favourite thing to complain about: Free INT:

Wait, I sometimes hear, but sorcery requires me to empty my mind of other thoughts so that I can use my INT to manipulate the size the spell. That means I need to “forget” my other spells (put them somewhere in a memory palace) and then spend an hour meditating on a new spell when I need to cast it. But what if I am on an adventure somewhere and need to do lots of things?

My answer is simple – you are a zzaburi. You are a magical specialist – the equivalent of a university research professor. You ought to have horali and talars there to take care of your mundane needs – including your protection!

This again goes back to Ars Magica: there’s a reason it defaults to troupe play, where only one wizard goes out adventuring at a time, surrounded by a bunch of companions! I imagine Zzaburi would do the same, and I would use a similar campaign framework if I played in the Gloranthan West.

I imagine these wizards come out prepared: they would have inscribed spells on jewelry and tablets worn around their neck, effectively carrying as much bling as a Praxian shaman. And since they don’t come out very often, I would also make downtime activities an important part of this campaign framework, with Zzaburi characters able to spend that time doing these kinds of preparations.

There’s also the much possibility of the Zzaburi being an NPC patron of the party, with the PCs going out on more or less obscure missions for him. And maybe they can take him out of his tower once every few adventures as a shared resource they need to protect, but which also provides lots of power once or twice… mmmh. So many campaign ideas, so little time…

At the end of the day, playing a sorcerer should be difficult:

Dabbling in sorcery works fine for player characters, but playing a full-fledged sorcerer is hard. It can be done, of course, just like it is possible to play a Mistress Race Troll or a dryad.

Heroquesting the Proximate Holy Realm

Here’s something I totally didn’t know about:

So when we think about heroquesting, the Empire of the Wyrms Friends, and Belintar’s Holy Country, one common thread is the idea of the “Proximate Holy Realm”.

The mundane world and the divine realm are distinct. Many philosophers and priests claim that the divine realm (which exists eternally in the God Time) underlies and defines our mundane world. We all know that they overlap during worship ceremonies and at some specific places where the divine realm erupts through the mundane world.

Heroquesters interact with both realms. They are mortals, born in Time, but their heroquests have them interacting with archetypes and powers tied to the divine realm These interactions follow prehistoric patterns eternally present in the cosmos. Life is always producing Life, Death is always Separating the Living from the Dead, Air overcomes Fire/Sky, Fire/Sky overcomes Darkness, etc. This overlap of the divine realm and the mundane world that the heroquester interacts is usually called the Hero Plane.

Oh nice, that’s the first time I see a definition that makes sense for the Hero Plane. I wonder if that means there’s no real difference between the Hero Plane and the God Plane — experiencing the God Plane means you’re in the Hero Plane?

After the wild heroquests that ended the First Age – Arkat and Harmast are best known, but there were far more than those two – priests in Dragon Pass came up with the idea of the Proximate Holy Realm. Through widespread use of magic and adoption of the “holy customs”, the divine realm could be brought closer to people. These holy customs encroached on clan and tribal organization by requiring that leaders meet certain magical criteria that were in the hands of the organized religion of Orlanth and Ernalda. Within a generation or two, the priests became a centralized heirarchy ruled by a Sacred Ring that in turned ruled all of Dragon Pass.

Oh so I guess this is similar to the idea of the “This World” heroquest? These kinds of heroquests are celebrations like Sacred Time, with the divine world manifesting down on the mortal world where the entire tribe is engaged in worship. Only I get the impression that the Proximate Holy Realm was semi-permanent, as opposed to only available during a big ceremony.

That would not only bring visions of the divine to everybody (including lay members), thus reinforcing the general population’s commitments to the main big cults, but it would also bring access to yearly boons such as better harvests and good pregnancies.

The Proximate Holy Realm brought widespread prosperity and peace to Dragon Pass. But maintaining this required an increasing amount of magic energies and resources. As the Orlanthi learned to communicate with the dragons, eventually the Sacred Ring learned to do so around 725 and become the Empire of the Wyrms Friends, which gave far greater magical resources to the Sacred Ring which meant that the Sacred Ring – restyled the Third Council in 826 – had vast surpluses, at least at first. As the EWF expanded it gained more resources, and in 889 the Third Council accelerated the process, and demanded to be worshiped directly as gods.

The costs of maintaining this grew, but the EWF no longer expanded. With rebellions, it began to contract and lost resources as the requirements to maintain the Proximate Holy Realm continued grew. The people were forced to offer more and more to the Third Council, and received less and less for it. The Third Council was visibly decadent and exploitive, and the tottering edifice collapsed in 1042.

Jörg says: A visiting Middle Sea Empire explorer’s travelogue in Middle Sea Empire describes the Glorious Cities of the Dragons. Among the wonders of the EWF under the influence of the Proximate Holy Realm there are two new kinds of cereal called velt and kreet described as tasty, hearty and sublime that turned into putrid slime after having secreted away in their packet. In the Holy Country, there used to be a few items of similar magic – Belintar’s rainbow bridges, the Fish Roads, and the entire nature of the City of Wonders where gods would visit as if it was in Godtime.

Belintar had a different solution. His deeds uniting the lands of Kethaela brought his Holy Country close to the Proximate Holy Realm. But he maintained this through his Tournament of the Masters of Luck and Death, which summoned heroquesters from far and wide. The Tournament resulted in a new Belintar and magically reunited the Holy Country, as described elsewhere. It was easy to cross over into the divine realm and vice versa, especially during the Tournament. The Holy Country enjoyed centuries of peace and prosperity, but Belintar was slain by Jar-eel in 1616 and the Tournament failed to produce a successor.

But many philosophers believe that Dragon Pass remains close to a Proximate Holy Realm, especially during the Hero Wars. Some claim this is because of the Lunar efforts to change the divine realm itself, others think it is a result of the True Dragons that have been awakened in Dragon Pass, starting with the Dragonrise. Whatever the reason, wild heroquesting was increasingly common among all participants in the Hero Wars, arguably even more so than in the Gbaji Wars.


Looks like Jeff has similar meteorological problems as we do here in British Columbia:

Given that we have a good foot or more of snow on the ground, now is a good time to talk about Valind within the context of Orlanthi society.

Valind is the God of Winter, and his cult is associated with Orlanth Adventurous, providing Snow. The cults of Valind and Orlanth are friendly and associated, even if the gods often brawled. There are often shrines to Valind in Orlanth’s mountain temples in Dragon Pass.

Valind is not socially useful or powerful – but he does serve as a minor war god and his cult can propitiate the forces of winter. His few initiates in Dragon Pass live on mountains where it is winter all year long.

And in the comments:

Valind’s cult is Friendly towards the Lighbringers, Mastakos, Odayla, Rathor, Uleria, Xentha, Xiola Umbar, and Zorak Zoran and associated with Orlanth, Inora, Himile, Storm Bull, and Ygg. Everyone else is Neutral or worse.

And he really hates the Red Goddess.

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.

Lionel Marty’s Artwork

Since Lionel Marty was highlighted previously for the upcoming non-human pre-gens, I took a look at his portfolio and found some great Glorantha-related art and cartography:

A map of Saug in Ralios, and one of the city of Kilwin (also in Ralios), two paintings of Harrek, a walktapus, and a quick warm-up painting of a troll.

Two new blog posts by Andrew Logan Montgomery

Guest entry by Jörg…. those are very long articles so I haven’t read them yet!

Andrew discusses how the Proto-Indoeuropean Koryos myth shapes Orlanth’s myths, and the rest of the sons of Umath as well.

A while ago, Jeff Richard shared The Apprenticeship of Vasana, and how that contrasts with her sister Yanioth’s Ernaldan apprenticeship.

Bud’s RuneQuest Starter Set Review

I said I would stop linking to any more Starter Set reviews but I’m making an exception for Bud’s, because he’s a friend of the God Learners. Yes, we are a totally nepotic bunch.

Playing the SoloQuest (Part 2)

Speaking of the Starter Set and nepotism, RPGImaginings has part 2 of the SoloQuest up on the channel!

Personal Horror in Glorantha

The Back To Balazar blog has a new article on “personal horror in Glorantha“, with suggestions on how to bring some horror elements in your Gloranthan games. Since horror gaming is my all-time favourite type of gaming, I’m whole-heartedly agreeing with this mix!

More Previews for Martin Helsdon’s Upcoming Book

Guest entry by Jörg

Identifying the various deities and myths depicted in Katrin’s illustrations has become pretty much a game of itself, and more often than not zooming in on a detail will let you appreciate the amount of information in these pictures. So guess away!

Detail from the Nochet Grace Temple murals, from Martin Helsdon's Periplus of Southern Genertela, art by Katrin Dirim
Detail from the Nochet Grace Temple murals
Detail from the Nochet Grace Temple murals, from Martin Helsdon's Periplus of Southern Genertela, art by Katrin Dirim
Detail from the Nochet Grace Temple murals
Detail from Nochet Harbor, from Martin Helsdon's Periplus of Southern Genertela, art by Katrin Dirim
Detail from Nochet Harbor
Harbor scene detail from Martin Helsdon's Periplus to Southern Genertela, art by Katrin Dirim
Harbor scene detail
The Invisible God as envisioned by the Aeolian Henotheists, from Periplus of Southern Genertela by Martin Helsdon, art by Katrin Dirim
The Invisible God as envisioned by the Aeolian Henotheists

Click on the links to the Facebook sources after you have made your guesses about who and what is depicted to confirm or discuss your conclusions.

Converting Gamemasters to RuneQuest With the Starter Set

Guest entry by Jörg

On Facebook, Sven Lugar told about his seasonal gifting spree, targeting 14 GMs of other systems with a gift-wrapped Starter Set. Of that sample, 10 are willing to try it out, one still needs to get his players on board, and three haven’t reported back yet. And all of the non-GM friends who received one were wanting to try it out, too.

Kitbashing the Starter Set Pre-gens

Zagmuk posted pictures of their “kitbashed miniatures” on BRP Central, and they’re great! I only put four of them above, so follow the link for more character minis.

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.

Hidetaka Mizayaki’s Inspirations

ScreenRant has a story about EDGE Magazine’s interview with Hidetaka Mizayaki, creator of the Souls video game series (Dark Souls is the probably most famous of the lot) and the upcoming Elden Ring, among others. He cites RuneQuest as one of the inspirations for his next game, but don’t hold your breath for more information than that.

In the meantime, this is as good an opportunity as any to remind you that RuneQuest had a fairly complete product line in Japan in the 90s, although they had a completely wild array of custom artwork.

You can see more at this collector’s list, or on Runeblogger’s blog.

A Video on the Terramare Culture

Guest section by Jörg.

Dan Davis, the creator of these videos has published several novels set in Bronze Age Europe and provides some of his research in these quite accessible videos.

The Terramare culture offers a few visuals too good not to be robbed for Glorantha, like their stilt houses which could be used in regularly flooded terrain. Their position in the European trade network with the presence of standardized weights for both the Mycenaean and the Central European trade networks makes their role as a mediator between those environments quite plausible.

Thank you for reading

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

Art by Andrey Fetisov, used with permission from Chaosium Inc.

Ludo and Jörg are joined by Diana Probst, aka Berra from Beer With Teeth, bravely entering a realm of unreal time before sunrise.


Episode 2 of our Initiation to Glorantha series was released, and teasing upcoming interviews, including Diana’s

Ludo is chuffed about his review of the starter set making it onto the Chaosium blog.

The PDF of the Weapons and Equipment Guide is out, and it’s up to the listener whether to believe Diana’s tale of how her name appeared on the cover (There is no take-over of Chaosium’s Glorantha line by Beer With Teeth, according to Diana: “Too much work”).

The concept of providing your standard RPG lists of sharp and otherwise deadly items in context with the culture is what makes this a Gloranthan product,. Saying that it has been a dive into a Gloranthan midden might be mis-interpreting Ludo’s experience.

We discuss Chaosium’s naming sense for their Gloranthan products. Gamemaster Screen Pack for a scenario book with a sandbox was underselling the product, and the Weapons and Equipment Guide is really an introduction to the material culture of the world.

The New Gamemasters Month starts this January, a guided seminar teaching new game masters how to actually run a roleplaying game. Chaosium contributes with the RuneQuest Starter Set.

New on Jonstown Compendium we find To Hunt A God, the final volume of Austin Conrad’s Myth of the Month.

Diana is teasing that Beer With Teeth are about to deliver a manuscript to Chaosium supporting the Starter Set.

We mention Dario Corallo’s cardboard minis for the Rainbow Maps scenario, the Holyday Dorastor products The Seven Hills (containing eight scenarios) and two short christmas-themed ones, Krampuslauf and Joulupukki.

The Gloranthan West gets some attention, too, with the first in a series of map PDFs of Gloranthan regions starting with Kanthor’s Isles, and then there is Nick Brooke’s art-book illustrated by Katrin Dirim explaining The History of Malkionism.

(As always, you will find the complete listings of Jonstown Compendium new releases in our weekly Newsletter/Blogpost Journal of Runic Studies)

Main Topic

Adventures in Jonstown

In our main topic we aim to explore how to take the RuneQuest Starter Set and get more scenarios out of it.

Jörg praises the resources the city has to offer to adventurers (player characters), like the library.

Diana points out that by having played through the scenario the adventurers will have built up a reputation in the city,

We discuss how rather lengthy training efforts can tie an adventuring party down (e.g. ability training, which takes two seasons), and that the city of Jonstown can offer scenarios to do on the side without lengthy travel that would interrupt such training.

Ludo points out that the background information in the Glorantha Book (book 2 in the box) is designed to be given to both gamemasters and players, which means that all the information in that book contains hardly any narrative spoilers.

We discuss the motivation and background of the City Rex of Jonstown, Orngerin Holdfast, and his possible future.

Diana describes her modus operandi for preparing a gaming session. “At first I panic because it is only half an hour until the game.” and how she gets inspiration out of the headings of the book, and considers what would happen if one of those things have a problem, one that the adventurer party can be pointed at.

Jörg suggests to use the efforts to get the tribes to work together and form a cohesive military as the backdrop for inter-personal conflicts or even inter-tribal politics, using any of the NPCs in the book as a catalyst for the adventure. That could be top-down, as Ludo points out, or there could be minor street level events escalating.

Diana wants to involve the adventurers in the preparation for such an assembly and joint training.

Ludo suggests to look into the factions of the city and explore their agendas for scenario hooks and a web off intrigue.

Ludo mentions the Cherry Ridge groves with its medicinal jerret cherries tended by the Chalana Arroy cult (p.57), and how anything happening to the cherries may involved the local clans. He also reminds us why your characters will want to stay on the good side of the Chalana Arroy temple.

We talk about Birne’s Squeeze, already mentioned in the Colymar Adventure Book, as a place where you can expect bandits. How do these bandits become your problem? Your players might hire out as caravan guards in the region. Traders with unusually valuable goods may hire more guards than usual, but then there may be a risk that there might be bandits among those new hires. Might even the player characters, or they might join up to investigate what that caravan really is transporting.

A Life of Crime vs. Heroic Adventuring

Ludo talks about sorting his scenario hooks into “Below” hooks dealing with criminal or lawless agendas, and “Above” hooks with possibly more heroic stuff or politics out in the public.

There might be spies or spying for the Lunars going on.

Diana confesses that she often lets herself be surprised when it comes to criminal or covert activities in her games.

Ludo brings up the good old player suspicion of perfectly non-descript throw-away or “soup” characters that may derail your entire prepared plotline, and advocates to confirm the players’ story instincts. Diana suggests using a roll on the player characters’ POW to decide how right they are.

Jörg suggests using NPC record sheets as discussed in the Passions episode to develop such characters more or less on the fly.

Ludo maligns the Hornos brothers as the ultimate crime bosses, and how they might be the crime lords behind all underworld activities in Jonstown. Diana proposes a more political dark secret tied to their collaboration with the Lunar occupation forces and administration, and of course their massive profits from trading Lunar war booty.

Ludo brings up the problems plot possibilities that might result from having acquired somebody else’s heirlooms through some of those deals.

Diana points at Lyserian Goodspeech, the former City Rex under the Lunar occupation, and how he avoided being sent into exile because his tribe threw their full support behind him.

For the grognards, Jörg points out that all the traders in Jonstown would have been associates of Gringle, the pawn shop owner from Apple Lane who had gone missing following the demise of the former Thane of that hamlet.

At the very least, the connections to the Gamemasters Screen Package with its description including the hamlet of Apple Lane are a good tie in if you prefer to run published scenarios.

The circumstances of Gringle’s disappearance are described in the old HeroQuest/Questworlds demo PDF Return to Apple Lane.

You All Meet in a Pub, or in a Bathhouse?

Gaining a connection with regular residents of Jonstown, putting names and faces to the generic stats provided in the book.

Socializing can happen in the pub, in public baths, in the Chalana Arroy hospital, joining the militia.

Ludo expounds how relatively harmless militia duty may lead to favors that residents of the city may owe your adventurers.

Jörg points to the police procedurals on TV where militiamen (well, cops) come to interfere with plots of some of the high and mighty, possibly putting them in their bad books.

Diana talks about how crafters (and really all economic activities) come under the scrutiny of the guilds, and that suitably skilled adventurers may be offered (or demanded) a guild membership, which opens up another social circle of interactions and vested interests. Ludo mentions how the guilds (or the sages, or other temples) may act more easily as quest-givers if one of the adventurers is already a member of that organization.

Jörg points out that all the provided adventurers fail to mention any spouse or permanent love interest, and how providing some may connect the party to the place and give family or in-laws as another possible source of quest-givers or plot hook anchors.

Diana describes how she brings up marriage, childbirths etc. in the Sacred Time review of the year meta-session where the regular income and spendings of the characters are determined. She also uses marriages as rewards for adventures. (Keep in mind that temporary marriages are a big thing in Orlanthi society! Having a spouse for a year will not tie you down interminately!)

Ludo suggests that sufficiently notable characters might be pushed by their superiors towards political marriages to further some agenda. Even if it is over by next sacred time, that extra connection can be valuable.

We digress on discovering possibly unsavory skin care habits of new spouses, and being walled up upon discovery of those…

Ludo brings up the Noir Detective story genre, or the old chestnut of getting your clothes stolen in a bath, possibly mistaking them for somebody else’s ones suspected to contain plot hooks.

Diana rejects any and all accusations of planning forward her adventures. Instead, she uses NPCs the characters have a relation with and who they judge to be politically astute. Whether correctly so remains to be discovered. Between Jorjera Latish and Orngerin Holdfast, Diana reckons one is politically astute and the other may or may not take her their leads.

Introducing Plot Hooks

Ludo lists patrons and quest givers (potentially any of the important people mentioned in the book).

Diana suggests to look at the player characters’ passions, starting with Love Family or Loyalty Clan or Tribe which everybody gets. You can introduce plot-carrying NPCs as belonging to one of these target groups, or map the role of plot-carrying NPCs to an existing NPC contact in your game.

Diana offers “Miraculously, whatever the character is good at is exactly what the tribe wants of them.” Ludo counters with “These people are disposable.”

People from the place you stay at may serve as quest givers.

Amid pronunciation debates Ludo points to the opening in Wulfsland created by the majority of Jomes Wulf’s followers abandoning the former Maboder lands, and all the neighbors and kin of the previous owners may vie for.

Ludo suggests a plot line where the adventurers escort a group of people intent on re-settling those lands, only to find squatters or rivals with a similar claim having arrived before them, or about the same time.

Jörg points towards plots in the city that were formerly owned by the Maboder, starting with their tribal manor. We discuss things that may be found in their abandoned manor (or that of the Cinsina who left the Jonstown confederations a few years later), and that their portion of city plots may have gone to the Lunars, who aren’t here any more. (Many of their tenants still are, though, and may be looking at an insecure future.) Diana brings up buried hoards in some of the houses, left by people having to leave in a hurry.

Ludo suggests to have characters with “Hate Lunar Empire” protect and escort people still loyal to the Lunars moving out.

We discuss the ongoing trade volume with the Lunar Empire and the travel opportunities joining a trading caravan to Tarsh or just the still Lunar-occupied Far Place.

We discuss spying done by people in these caravans, and whether or how often traders of the Etyries cult will travel to and through Jonstown, bringing their Lunar goodwill habits to an audience that may be unwilling to accept that. Scribes and sages are information gatherers anyway, and might be used by opposing powers. And then there is Eurmal.

Diana suggests that if you play a spy game, create a bunch of eligible candidates and randomly determine who dunnit. Jörg brings up the Paranoia RPG’s concept of everybody following two secret agendas, and we riff on potential secrets within secrets plots.

Diana tells about a murder mystery where all player characters thought they had killed the victim (which actually had not been killed at all, but disappeared).

The Darkness Within Jonstown

Ludo suggests to use another common passion, Hate Trolls, and the fact that the Torkani tribal mansion houses trollkin for an involved crime investigation to hand to the militia, where the head librarian and known glutton with a sweet tooth Garangian Bronze-Guts gets a nightly visit by trollkin which doesn’t go undetected, while at the same time somebody else filched a scroll with possibly dangerous information, but definitely one a senior member of the temple cares about. Now the trollkin who did break into the library get identified and falsely accused for the scroll theft, and it is up to the militia how to deal with this.

(What is it about the sweet stuff, Ludo? Even the tale of a visit to the Block made you talk about sugar cubes…)

Ludo explains his prep work for something like this, giving the real theft maybe a paragraph or two in preparation, and improvising from there. Diana points out that this is fine for your personal game if you are an experienced gamemaster, but if you want a scenario you can hand over to a GM inexperienced with the setting or the rules, you will need to note down some alternatives for possible courses of action.

Ludo talks about keeping the pacing, so if your player adventurers interrogate the trollkin, they ought to learn more than just that they did steal the sweets. Possibly they saw a robed (or prominently bearded) person sneaking away during their escape.

Jörg suggests an alternative where the real culprits, or some other party desiring the stolen object, assumes that the player characters have the lead, asking enough leading questions during an uncomfortable interrogation that the players can pick up a lost trail.

Diana talks about NPC defenders of the story arc, and to place them as companions and plot-drivers with a group of inexperienced player investigators.

Diana outlines how she manages her NPCs in a fairly simple spread sheet, and how to find stuff in that.

We return to the trope of the players ignoring all the plot hooks and following the harmless NPC they feel is suspicious, and the resignating gamemaster yielding to the collected wisdom of the table and making that NPC a bearer of the plot.

But in the end, keep it small and as simple as you can get away with.

Ludo talks about the Schrödinger’s Reward, where a job well done as much as a job catastrophically failed at will lead to the same follow-up adventure, either to atone for the failure or because of the show of competence.

Jörg suggests to give the adventurers low-level contacts in all the institutions that might come up in their upcoming shenanigans to have at least one boot inside the door, and Diana suggests to have the adventurers bask in their fame for a job reasonably well done, getting offered free drinks as well as free plot hooks when they visit their pub or bathhouse.

Diana tells a tale about infant ducks (durulz) coming to take a look at the famous people (the adventurers) who might be able to heroically help them out.

Diana talks about taking inspiration from looking at the maps.

Ludo elaborates how reading about the system of food distribution among citizens inspired him to look for ways how people could abuse that system for their own advantage, whether through fraud, forgery, manipulated weights… and then goes into the dangers of having too many opinionated intellectuals in a small place.

“The dog ate my homework” and what kind of ideas just mentioning that can trigger.

Joh Mith is a valuable NPC because of his wide-ranging connections outside of Jonstown, and some of those may be enemies with a hostile agenda.

Creating characters from Jonstown using the RuneQuest Wiki simplified character creation rules offers a way to bring in replacement characters.

We discuss a few possible follow-up scenarios on the Jonstown Compendium, and talk about some of the smaller Beer With Teeth scenarios that have ties to some of the adventures in book 4 of the starter set.

  • Rocks Fall might tie in with the third scenario of the Starter Set
  • Stone and Bone as a possible follow-up to the second scenario of the Starter Set, or near Birne’s Squeeze
  • Vinga’s Ford is suggested for the Apple Lane region, but that’s just west of Jonstown
  • A Tale of Woodcraft could be set near Tarndisi’s grove just south of Birne’s Squeeze

Other community content scenarios or sand boxes set in the region:

  • Monster of the Month Petty Spirits 2 has the Bookwyrm, a monster certainly attracted to the library of Jonstown
  • The Red Deer Saga exploring the Namolding clan living between Jonstown and Apple Lane, whether as a bundle or as single products that will give you a discount when you buy the bundle
  • In a Merry Green Vale explores the Lysang clan, another Tree Triaty clan severed from the Colymar on the road from Jonstown to Apple Lane
  • The Duel of Dangerford describes a battle of Dangerford different from what happens in the solo scenario, a year later. It might cause a few continuity kinks, but is another exciting opportunity to encounter Lunar forces in full panoply while giving the player adventurers agency.

Apologies if we missed any other pertinent Jonstown Compendium content – we advise our listeners to visit there and discover things for themselves anyway.


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

Diana’s Post Credits Bonus

In a last minute recording, Diana reveals what project Beer With Teeth is working on for Chaosium. Their manuscript is ready to hand out, but the book is likely a long ways away.

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

This is another holiday week, and the heart of ski season… I may not have too much time to collect these Journals as exhaustively as usual, especially since I have the episode 7 of the podcast to finish editing. It should be out in a few days.

By the way, if you want to help by writing a specific section, provide commentary on a specific note from Jeff, or other contribution, please reach out to us! It would help a lot to have more hands and brains on this!

Chaosium News

Here are this week’s Chaosium news!

How Mythology Underpins Glorantha

James continues his interview series with Jeff Richard, and this time we have a short chat about mythology: in Glorantha, in books, in the real-world, in games.

Starter Set Pre-gen Miniatures

© 2021 Infinity Engine & Chaosium Inc.

Richard Helliwell of Infinity Engine shared this work-in-progress version of Makarios, one of the pre-gen characters from the Starter Set. The plan is that all those pre-gens are available in miniature form eventually! Infinity Engine already had the miniatures for the Quickstart adventure, along with several other cool things.

Glorantha Skirmish War Updates

Speaking of official licensees for miniatures, Andrew Taylor of Mad Knight Castings shared a few updates about the Gloranthan skirmish game that he was working towards with his many Kickstarted miniature lines. The project had taken a hit, between the global COVID pandemic and Andrew’s personal health problems, but it sounds like he’s getting back on track. Here’s some preview and design notes on unit cards:

The richness of Glorantha is both a beauty and a nightmare. Whilst many excellent skirmish rule sets exist none easily lend themselves to a Glorantha setting. I started with an A5 size UNIT card containing UNIT stats, Leader stats, pictures and magical abilities. It worked ok up to a point, but coupling the leaders to the UNITS and to the Magic became inflexible. So I split leaders and non unit specific magic off into separate cards. The card size shrunk from A5 to poker size. This, for UNITs, generated a new problem- how to fit pictures of the figures and all the info onto a 63*88 card ?

We tried many different layouts but to no avail. The pictures had to go off the cards and into the armies book.

Here is the front and back of a Troll Unit. On the front is the UNIT Magical Highlight, on the back the UNIT stats, the UNIT runes, and the UNIT special tactics.

Recent Well of Daliath Additions

The Well of Daliath website is Chaosium’s online repository for Gloranthan Lore and RuneQuest clarifications and errata. It has some awesome content such as, say, an index of all White Dwarf articles for RuneQuest. It also has monthly archives of notable Facebook postings by Jeff Richard or Michael O’Brien, though without the commentary we provide here in our Journal of Runic Studies (which might be a good or bad thing depending on your opinion of it!)

The RuneQuest Q&A was recently updated with clarifications of the sorcery rules and the errata for sorcery spells. Gloranthan lore recently saw newly archived “Greg sez” articles, or detailed notes on Sandy Petersen’s 1984 Campaign.

There is a whole treasure trove of information in there… I’m a big fan of the Prosopaedia archive, which has the Runes of a lot of deities per publication, so you can see how their Runes changed (or not) across game lines. Another one I frequently consult is the giant Third Age Timeline of Dragon Pass, which helps collate various sources easily. It is divided in several chunks of history, each with their own page. Note that it only draws on official RuneQuest and general Glorantha publications up to and including the GM Screen package, and ignores dates e.g. from any of the HeroQuest publications or from the Stafford Library book “History of the Heortling Peoples” or “The Fortunate Succession”.

David Scott is the librarian behind the Well of Daliath, but several volunteers help here and there with the website. You can contact him to get involved!

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!

To Hunt a God

© 2021 Akhelas & Chaosium Inc.

The final-but-not-so-final issue of Monster of the Month Volume 2 is now out! To Hunt a God describes the crazy monkey cult of Hrunda who lives in the Old Woods of Esrolia, his “Temple of Bones”, and the first part of an adventure that sends you after him. Don’t forget to try Ludvik’s Liquor, it’s delicious and totally good for you.

Holiday Dorastor: Joulupukki

© 2021 Stormspearia & Chaosium Inc.

After the mean and ugly Krampuslauf, Stormspearia are now releasing Joulupukki, the apparently nice jolly good man who gives children gifts during Sacred Time… but he’s a sub-cult of Eurmal the Trickster God so who knows what he’s really up to?

Gloranthan Maps

Mikael Mansen continues to churn out nice looking parts of Genertela! There’s First Blessed, the Eastern Rockwood Mountains, and the Elf Sea. There’s also a three generic settlement maps.

Teaser of the Periplus of Southern Genertela

Art by Katrin Dirim © 2021 Martin Helsdon & Chaosium Inc.

Martin Helsdon continues to tease his next Jonstown Compendium project which, I assume, is something based on his Periplus of Southern Genertela. The project will be illustrated by Katrim Dirim. The picture above supposedly shows Chalana Arroy, Lhankor Mhy, Issaries, and Dormal, and is part of a much bigger picture featuring many more deities and heroes.

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.

Memes in the Second Age

One of the things that are often under-estimated when we think of the ancient world on Earth is how much cultural exchange there was between various part of Europe, Africa, and Asia. Well Jeff is talking about that for Glorantha’s Second Age:

Around the coastal regions of the world, the Middle Sea Empire, with its mix of Malkionism with a smattering of Theyalan and Darkness myths (starting from the Broken Council and Gbaji Wars era, but later built upon with the Dark Empire) and finds parallels in Kralorela, Teshnos, Fonrit, and elsewhere. This leads to the Monomyth – a universal approach to Gloranthan Mythology.

Now many commentators will say “God Learner Lies” or similar nonsense, but the Monomyth worked. It enabled deep exploration of the God Time and experimental heroquests to gain power and rob secrets from their enemies. Like Arabic numbers, the Monomyth was too useful not to be used, and the Empire of the Wyrms Friends eagerly embraced it (which can be viewed as its return to its source – as the origins of the Monomyth was with the First and Second Councils).

I really like this comparison to the Arabic Numbers: they worked, they were better, and everybody started using them. There’s just no arguing about it, and there’s no arguing about how the Monomyth worked and was more useful, from a theological standpoint, than the previous darker ages.

Still, even though Jeff shot down the idea, I can’t help but think about the little details that got lost in the process. Any generalization will, by definition, work in general, but might gloss over the little things. A change in mental framework is often accompanied by many other changes, such as when a 7-day week was introduced in the Roman Empire and that affected people’s habits and conception of time. So in my own Glorantha, there might have been minor gods and spirits lost in the process… when you’re changing your worship rituals to use the Monomyth version of your local goddess, it’s hard to tell if you’re getting access to new and larger mythical truths about her, or if you’re leaving her behind and worshipping a bigger and different goddess altogether! This sounds like a nice way to have an adventure or two where you need to appease one of those shunted deities, or even help them realize they are just a piece of a much bigger goddess who forgot who they were! Having to deal with the amnesiac aspect of Ernalda that makes radishes grow around a hill near Jonstown sounds fun to me!

And so by the height of the Second Age, a working understanding of the Monomyth had spread across much of Glorantha. The Monomyth never fully replaced many traditional names and cults, but it informed them of their greater context.

This is how you tell that radish goddess that she can still be herself, and consider herself a daughter or cousin of Ernalda, I guess?

In the Empire of the Wyrms Friends, the Third Council learned secrets from the dragonewts and wyrms, something entirely consistent with the traditional Orlanthi openness to strangers and new ideas. With aid from mythic maps stolen from the God Learners and with the Monomyth as a framework, experimental heroquests and mythic explorations were common in Dragon Pass, as the lives of such individuals as Gorangi Vak, Ingolf Dragonfriend, Isgangdrang, Lord Labyrgon, and Pavis show.

These God Learners’ mythic maps are available in the Glorantha Sourcebook and the Guide to Glorantha. Jeff shared an early sketch of one of those:

© 2021 Chaosium Inc.

The enemies of the empires also adopted their approach, and such heroes as Alakoring Rex, Iddi Scorchbane, Emperor Karvanyar, and Verenmars would not be possible without the secrets taken from the EWF and God Learners.

The disasters that ended the Second Age largely put an end to this experimental outlook and mythic explorations. With one big exception – the Lunar Empire.

That last sentence is important: the Lunar Empire has kept their heroquesting up consistently over the past centuries, and they continue innovating… the God Learners were just in it to “see how things work”. But:

The Lunars, in contrast, are basically driven by the desire to aid the Red Goddess in remaking the world (we can euphemisize this as “healing the world” if we want). Like the God Learners, personal ambition and the desire to weaponise these secrets factors into this, but I’d say the Lunar interest is much narrower (but deeper) than the God Learners.


Let’s talk about our homeland! (the God Learners’, I mean)

Jrustela was somewhere more than 400,000 square miles in area or about twice the size of Madagascar. Dwarfs, and several species of sentient insects, the Timinits, were indigenous to Jrustela.

© 2021 Chaosium Inc.

Humans came to Jrustela in the First Age. The initial settlers largely came from Slontos and were brought here by Waertagi dragonships. They called themselves the Olodo, and settled in the interior away from the coasts. They settled in small freeholds and fought with the Timinits.

Slontos was a land on the southern Genertelan shore, west of the Holy Country, which sank in 1050, leaving behind only islands off the (new) coast of Maniria.

The Wartagi are an ancient humanoid amphibian race who sailed the oceans ever since there were oceans to sail, some time in the God Time. They’ve always had an alliance with the Brithini, and had many trade routes across southwest Genertela including Slontos.

This was all good and fine until some problems with royal succession in Seshnela sent a whole bunch of unhappy wizards and nobles to Jrustela:

In the Second Age, the Seshnelan king Nralar son of Gerlant Flamesword died in 603 after ruling for more than a century. Nralar had many eligible and powerful sons to succeed him, and so a council of nobles, Hrestoli adepts, and wizards met to chose a new king. The council chose one of Nralar’s younger sons, Nepur, the older brother having been deemed unfit to rule the kingdom.

Rather than contest the choice of the council, a great many descendants of Nralar left the kingdom, sailing upon Waertagi ships over the ocean to Jrustela. The royal talars were accompanied by their sorcerers and followers. They founded the city of Hredmarinos, and allied with the Olodo against the Timinits. The Seshnegi kept to the coasts, and the Olodo claimed the rugged interior of the island.

So you’ve got wizards and nobles (talars) going to Jrustela, followed by a whole bunch more soon after:

Sadly, the settlement of Jrustela by the Nralarites did not prevent a civil war in Seshnela, and many others fled Seshnela to the comparative peace of Jrustela.

Jeff shares more in another post:

The human settlements on Jrustela grew in number and population. Each settlement was free and independent. At first, this was no problem as there was land and resources enough for all, but within two generations conflicts grew. In 646 the quarrelling rulers and wizards of the city-states and tribes of Jrustela met to reach a lasting settlement.

Art by Eric Vanel © 2021 Chaosium Inc.

Unexpectedly, the conclave created or was presented with a new ecumenical syncretic form of Hrestoli Malkionism called the Abiding Book, which presented the Invisible God as an utterly simple, ineffable, unknowable entity which is both the creative source of existence and the teleological end of all existing things. The Invisible God created the Runes, the Powers, Elements, and Conditions, which slowly commingled and degenerated into gods, spirits, and mortals. All of creation was made understandable and knowable – with the exception of the Invisible God itself of course.

You can look up the Invisible God in previous issues of the Journal for more information and, most importantly, real-world inspirations.

This Abiding Book presented the true teachings of Malkion, and was consistent with the teachings of Hrestol, Zzabur, Gerlant, and Arkat – without need for the dangerous mysticism and irrational contradictions of Stygianism. The Abiding Book was a framework for understanding, and was an open invitation for exploring the cosmos. Everything could have its proper place within the framework of the Abiding Book, and the limited perspectives of the various barbarian cults could be put together to flesh out that framework.

About this time, the Jrusteli began experimenting with seagoing ships and began their first tentative challenges to the Waertagi.


Do you speak Dragon?

Around 650, some of the Orlanthi of Dragon Pass learned to speak with the Dragons. This opened tremendous mystical vistas for the Orlanthi, identifying the Cosmic Dragon as the Source and expanding their cosmological perspective.

The 650s are about one century into the era of the Empire of the Wyrms Friends as far as I can tell. Jörg points me to the timeline in the Guide, however, which show that in the 560s Rostand the Speaker was already teaching the “kernels of draconic consciousness”, and a decade later Vistikos Left-eye was establishing a “formula and pattern for a draconic human life”. It’s possible some of these figures, along with a few of their students, were the ones who opened up these channels of communication.

Unlike the Invisible God of the God Learners, insight into the Cosmic Dragon cannot be reached through materialistic logic – the identity of opposites, matters of duality and nonduality, formation of the “self”, and other such metaphysical questions.

© 2021 Chaosium Inc.

The following immortal dragonewt poem is a chant and prayer which relates to the creation of the world and was popular with the Wyrmfriends:

– Silence, The Infinite
O 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
OUROBORO Nothing, emptiness.
OUROBOROS S= “Voice” (i.e. the sound a serpent makes).

We’ve seen this poem in a few places. Jörg points to Wyrm’s Footnotes 14, where the “Dragon Pantheon” is defined, and the above poem is tied to the Cosmic Dragon. We’ve also seen it recently in MOB’s tales of Yellow Mellow.

The poem shows a gradual internalization of something to bring about the formation of the concept of “self.” This poem was also repeated backwards at rituals and transported the chanters and the universe into mystical bliss which was ordinarily impossible to reach.

Ouroboros was sometimes worshiped as the Source and seen as the complement to Glorantha the World Goddess who was without consort or mate in her own realm. The phenomenal world is constantly changing and thus ultimately spiritually unreal – the gods themselves, although useful, do not reveal the hidden principles and implicit knowledge that created them and the universe.

Orlanth led the path towards draconic understanding. His openness to strangers meant it was easiest for his priests to speak to alien species. They learned that Orlanth embraced Arangorf the Inner Dragon, and that Orlanth had performed utuma for the Cosmic Dragon. Orlanth’s role as a cosmic creative-destroyer was promoted by the priests, sometimes to the near-exclusion of his other aspects.

Ok so this is getting interesting. “Utuma” is the term for the ritual suicide that Dragonewts commit when their time has come to get to the next evolutionary stage. You might remember that these weird little buggers can die many many times, and they always come back in a new body grown from the same egg. Only they sometimes come back with a new improved body as they reach the next of their five stages of evolution… which is why they get reaaaaally pissed off when humans go destroy their nest cities. Last time it happened, things didn’t go well for those humans. Anyway, so that’s what “utuma” is, although it’s also the term for the ritual dagger used for that ritual suicide.

Anyway, we know that Orlanth is big on fighting dragons: he had several adventures where this happened, the most famous one being his fight against Aroka (the Blue Dragon who kept all the rain inside it and caused drought in the lands). But I had somewhat glanced over in the Glorantha Sourcebook that he also killed Sh’harkazeel, the Cosmic Dragon. It’s originally framed as Orlanth being appointed by the other gods to go kill the Cosmic Dragon because it was awoken and was about to eat all of them… but it’s also called out that Orlanth had a chat with Sh’harkazeel and learned a bunch of draconic secrets, in exchange for performing utuma on the venerable dragon.

So depending on how you take the myth, Orlanth might be your classic dragon-slaying hero, or the confidante of a wise, ancestral, mystical dragon. This being Glorantha, he’s probably both. That’s why Orlanth is cool, I guess.

Through their draconic insights, the rulers of the Wyrms Friends had access to powerful dragon magic that terrified their enemies. Their mystics could dismiss even the most powerful of elementals or spells, terrify foes, deflect spells, breathe fire, or even become dragons themselves!

Summarizing the Second Age

Jeff takes a high-level view of the Second Age, a period of “widespread mythic experimentation and exploration”.

Not only did we have God Learnerism, dragonic mysticism, and syncretic developments in cults, but also there was an exploration of the God Time. This was a time of remarkable cult-changing heroes such as Pavis, Alakoring Rex, Gorangi Vak, Ingolf Dragonfriend, Carmanos, Verenmars, Jaldon Goldentooth, Delecti, and many more. This was the time that experimental artificial gods were created – and they proved to have magical power (although not necessarily as expected).

However, the Second Age ended in catastrophes worse than that of the First Age. The Oceans were closed to humans. Seshnela was sundered into fragments, Slontos sunk, and the Dragonkill War exterminated humans in Dragon Pass. Nature struck back against human hubris. After 1120, humans had learned to fear experimentation, exploration, and new ideas.

There were three main exceptions to this: the “resurrection” of the Red Goddess, the arrival of Belintar, and the rise of Sartar.

In 1220, a desperate cabal with nothing left to lose brought back into the world a goddess that had been destroyed in the God Time. Seeking weapons against her enemies, she tread paths in the Underworld and became lost there until she was Illuminated by Nysalor and returned with the Crimson Bat. She later rose into the Middle Earth as the Red Moon after appointing her son as her regent for her mundane affairs.

In 1313, a Stranger came ashore in Kethaela despite the Closed Seas. He made alliances with the Silver Age heroes of that lands, gained acceptance of their gods and goddess, and overcame the Only Old One, the dark lord of that land since prehistory. He instituted rites and ceremonies by which the Gods World could remain in proximity of the mundane world, and began the Tournament of the Masters of Luck and Death to keep those pathways active and empowered. Kethaela became known as the Holy Country because of this.

In 1470, a wanderer named Sartar came to Dragon Pass from the Holy Country. Without using violence himself, this wanderer united the quarreling Orlanthi of Dragon Pass, made friends with the dwarfs, centaurs, dragonewts, ducks, and werewolves, founded cities and built roads, temples, and libraries, and made himself King of Dragon Pass when he married the Feathered Horse Queen (another mythic adventurer from the Grazelands). He displayed the secrets and magic of Orlanth Rex, but also maintained draconic friendship. The kingdom he founded became rich on trade, and was influential far beyond its size and population.

This backstory helps explain the context of the Hero Wars, and gives ideas as to what they are all doing. Few if any of the main heroes are repeating the deeds of others. They are forging new paths, experimenting and exploring. Like your adventurers likely do!

Harrek the Berserk

Jeff takes a look at another big, epic, and iconic figure of the HeroWars: Harrek the Berserk. After all, the original Gloranthan game, White Bear & Red Moon, was named partially after him, not Argrath or whoever else.

Separating the stories of Harrek from the truth of his life is nearly impossible – certainly Irrippi Ontor has so far failed to do so. Harrek was, as far as any can tell, initially a normal Rathori warrior. There are rumors that Syndic’s Ban was somehow connected to his adulthood initiation but those are but rumors. What is known is that after he awakened in 1594, he was extraordinary. For over a decade, Harrek wandered the world without – both the mundane world AND the mythic realms. Stories of him as a penniless mercenary, a slave, a Lunar gladiator, etc., are often associated with this time. In 1605 he received training as a Dart Warrior.

Rathori are bear Hsunchen people, similar to, say, how Telmori are wolf Hsunchen people. They’re typically from Fronela.

© 2021 Chaosium Inc.

In 1607, as part of a Dart War, Harrek killed the Red Emperor and fled through the wilds of Dorastor to escape. Harrek is known to hate the Red Emperor and the Red Goddess with an overwhelming passion – it is thought this hatred originates from those experiences.

Harrek’s training as a Dart Warrior means he was basically a black-ops operative for the Red Emperor, or for one of the leading households of the Empire. He probably witnessed the worst side of the Lunars during that time, which played into his later hatred of it.

And then in 1609, Harrek slew and bound the White Bear God – and now always wears its skin and claws. After this, Harrek was no longer merely extraordinary – he was a superhero, a shaman with a god as a fetch, a demigod of destruction and disorder. Constantly wandering through this world and the Mythic Realm, Harrek is constantly seeking treasures, weapons, and fame. But his goals are erratic. He’s thrown away fortunes and even kingdoms for further adventure, traveled all the way around the world, and quested along unknown paths.

Oh that’s interesting: I thought the white bear god was a bound spirit for Harrek, but it’s actually his fetch… which means that a fetch is not necessarily your own “awakened” spirit, but can be another spirit you “acquire” somehow during your initiation? Interesting. I guess that brings exciting possibilities if you have a very ambitious shaman in your party, especially if they take an unusual path towards shamanism. In particular, Jeff commented:

I personally find the idea of a self-initiated shaman terrifying.

What about Harrek’s Facebook profile?

Harrek is said to be loyal only to Gunda, his Shield Maiden. His relationship with Argrath is more complicated; Argrath is the closest thing Harrek has to a true friend, but they also come to blows on several occasions. Harrek has an intense and inflexible hatred for the Lunar Empire and everything in it.

Given Harrek’s hatred of the Lunars, you might wonder why he still worked for them in a couple occasions, like the taking of the city of Karse, or the destruction of the Holy Country’s fleet. Personally, I interpret these as some other Wolf Pirates doing these things (Harrek isn’t necessarily the leader of all Wolf Pirates… they existed before him), but Jeff also offers another explanation:

One theory is that Harrek’s hatred is very personal (and focused on the Red Goddess, Red Emperor, and the demigods around them) and he didn’t appreciate that Gimgim the Grim or whoever brokered the deal was an agent of the distant Red Emperor.

Gimgim the Grim is a secret operative of the Red Emperor, who was at some point posted in Pavis to gather intelligence and run operations in Prax.

Harrek can be thought of as a great random factor throughout the Hero Wars. And one who does not fit easily within anyone’s models or frameworks.

Harrek’s combination of power – both physical and spiritual – with his unpredictability makes him perhaps the most dangerous protagonist in the Hero Wars.

Harrek is savage and uncivilised, but he’s also been trained by the Lunars, been to Dorastor, plundered cities in Fronela, Teshnos, Fonrit, and Seshnela. He’s definitely no fool and has bestial cunning.


Jeff hopes that people will have moved on from heroquesting as pictured in the King of Dragon Pass computer game, or the HeroWars/HeroQuest books.

Every culture performs ceremonies and rites that cause the mundane and divine worlds to overlap into what is called the Hero Plane. This is where you get your Rune magic from, your allied spirits, befriend cult spirits, and all that stuff.

Now that stuff is gameable, but it really only gets interesting IMO when things go wrong. When the ceremony no longer predictably works, when dangerous enemies show up, etc.

So this is what heroquesting has mostly been about since the HeroWars/HeroQuest line: you go in thinking you know what’s going to happen, but the gamemaster throws in a bunch of surprises and twists. Jeff goes farther:

But far more interesting to me is deliberately exploring the mythic realms and discover previously unknown paths through the divine world. This is what heroes such as Alakoring, Argrath, Arkat, the Feathered Horse Queen, Harmast, Harrek, Jaldon Goldentooth, Pavis, Sir Ethilrist, Cragspider, Jar-eel, Hwarin Dalthippa, Hon-eel, and the Red Goddess. They did not “invent” new myths – they traveled previously unknown paths through the Hero Plane and brought back their experiences to the mundane world. They discovered paths and events that had always been latent in the God Time.

Being a recent convert to Glorantha, and playing with people who didn’t know anything either until a few game sessions ago, I have to say you probably need to do the former before you do the latter. Players need to know that heroquesting is a thing, how it works, and what it can give them, before they can start making it their own with advanced exploratory heroquesting.

And this ties a lot into rules and world-building to me. On the one hand, heroquesting is supposed to be very dangerous and require lots of magical support, but on the other hand we want to facilitate it for players to go wild with it. But it’s easy to undermine the heroquesting prowess of Kallyr, King Broyan, or even Belintar if that kind of advanced heroquesting can also be done by the thanes of Apple Lanes after a few seasons of adventuring in Colymar lands. Without going into details (that’s maybe for a future Runic Rants article), there are a few ways to resolve this conundrum depending on your players and your campaign:

  • If you have ambitious players, let them become leaders, and give them followers that can (at least narratively) provide magical support for big heroquesting.
  • Decide that actually anybody can move the heavens… it’s just that farmers have better things to do, and other thanes are not crazy enough to try it.
  • Make the adventurers join the entourage of big NPCs like Kallyr or Argrath, and have some missions essentially be about going heroquesting somewhere to figure out some kind of weakness in an enemy, find some advantage, or whatever else. The mission giver doesn’t have any precise instructions: “just figure it out“.

This approach to heroquesting was fairly common in the late First Age and through the Second Age. Most people shunned it after the cataclysms that ended that Age. BUT not everywhere – in the Lunar Empire and the Holy Country this sort of spiritual exploration remained, although for very different ends. And Sartar and his dynasty inherit the techniques developed in the Holy Country.

As the Hero Wars develop, the protagonists take more risks and gambles in their heroquesting – such as rediscovering the techniques of the God Learners and the Empire of the Wyrms Friends, using Chaotic magic in heroquests, and more. People take short cuts, make permanent changes for short-term gains, and all the sorts of things that people do when they are desperate and ambitious. That becomes the Hero Wars. We start from a familiar starting point, but by the end, the world has changed so much we can barely recognize where we began.

So I guess this gives weight to the second option from above: people are just warming back up to doing “creative” heroquesting, and the adventurers are part of the “innovators” or “early adopters” of the heroquest techniques adoption cycle.

Jeff concludes with this:

It is important to keep in mind that underlying Glorantha are the Runes and other archetypes. These archetypes are more real than reality. We know that the Runes joined together, came into conflict, devolved, and made the world we live in. But how we interact with these archetypes is based on our experiences which in turn is the foundation of our understanding of it all.

Repeating somebody else’s story is not the point of heroquesting – nobody becomes a hero by simply being the understudy! One becomes a hero by making your own path through the mythic realm of archetypes and Runes. Make the divine and eternal the personal and psychological!

Cults Friendly or Neutral to Chaos

From a question posed on the Facebook group about cults friendly or neutral to Chaos, Jeff’s answer gives a sneak peek at some cult relationships from the upcoming Cults book:

Let’s put aside cults with the Chaos Rune (Red Goddess, Nysalor, Thed, Vivamort, Crimson Bat, etc.) or weird specific Chaotic cult specific associations (like Thed and Daka Fal) and just look at non-Chaotic cults that are Friend towards Primal Chaos:

Hwarin Dalthippa
Yara Aranis

And those neutral towards Primal Chaos:

Black Fang

Another short (but interesting) list.

Yelm is an Enemy of Primal Chaos. He makes a few Chaotic exceptions – Red Goddess and Nysalor – but in general he hates Chaos.

As an aside, Yelm is Neutral not Hostile let alone an Enemy of Orlanth. And vice versa. If Orlanth was enemies of every god he fought with, he’d have no friends at all! And if Yelm was enemies with every rebel god, he’d have nothing to rule!

Community Roundup

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

RuneQuest Year Zero Podcast

Baz Stevens, one half of the excellent “What Would The Smart Party Do?” podcast, has started a new RuneQuest-specific podcast that aims to chronicle his first foray into the game. It’s called RuneQuest Year Zero and in some ways it’s Baz’s own series-long foray into what we’re attempting here with our “Glorantha Initiation Series”, where we interview newcomers to Glorantha one at a time. I’m looking forward to hear more from Baz, and hopefully we’ll have him on the God Learners podcast soon!

Painted Mad Knight Pre-gens

Phil Leedell did an awesome job painting Mad Knight’s RuneQuest pre-gens! I love how vibrant those colours are:

That’s the culmination of a year of miniature painting:

[…] I managed to paint 178 miniatures this year and most of them were Gloranthan.

Felix Figure Paintings’ Gloranthan Works

Felix Figure Paintings does, well, figure paintings, of a large array of collections and styles. Here are some Dragonewts, and some Lunar soldiers.

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 was of course holiday season, with some unusual low temperatures and snowfall here in Jrustela. While I was trying to wrap up some art for Jonstown Compendium customers and for my own projects, Jeff posted a lot of large notes on Facebook, with not much time left for me to analyze or research them in-depth… so apologies for the large blocks of quoted text this week!

God Learner Sorcery

We are now occupying a nice little tower with a long history of previous occupants who have left behind documents, tablets, artifacts, and other kinds of junk. As we clean up and archive these things, we share the most interesting ones with you.

‘Tis the Season

This week was the heart of the holiday season for most people who would be reading this kind of blog, so for all of you who celebrate anything, happy Sacred Time!

Now, the correspondence between Glorantha’s and Earth’s calendar has always been a bit iffy. Chaosium themselves have also given their Sacred Time Greetings this week, but in theory Sacred Time is a spring festival. The Gloranthan winter solstice happens in the penultimate week of Dark Season, as Ian Cooper explains, and as marked in the Glorantha Calendar and the Guide… But hey, I don’t see anybody getting two weeks off in spring to get drunk and eat piles of meat with their whole families! So I guess that when it comes to Earth/Glorantha correspondence, we have to pick between cosmological correspondence and cultural correspondence? Which would you pick?

Review: RuneQuest Starter Set

Did you think we would not start writing reviews of Gloranthan products? Well, to be frank, we weren’t sure either… but the pandemic holidays brought me some free time:

The RuneQuest Starter Set has already been reviewed many, many times, but since I have already gifted it three times this holiday season (yes, to my unsuspecting players), its merits and faults have been on my mind… and what kind of a Glorantha focused website would we be if we didn’t have some reviews? We’re just slow about writing them, being, like, two products behind schedule. But we are the God Learners, and you wouldn’t believe the kind of administrative puzzle we have to go through for approval of that kind of thing.

You can read this in-depth and, we hope, somewhat insightful or interesting review here!

We have linked to a whole bunch of other reviews in previous issues of the Journal already, but new ones keep coming! Lately these included Rolling Boxcars’ review, James Nicoll’s review, and Charles Dunwoody’s review.

Chaosium News

Here are this week’s Chaosium news!

Jeff Richard on Rambling about RuneQuest

Jeff Richard was interviewed on RPG Ramblings about RuneQuest and 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!

Glorantha Area Map: Kanthor’s Islands

© 2021 Mikael Mansen & Chaosium Inc.

Mikael Mansen has been working on pimping up the Argan Argar Atlas’ maps, and doing a pretty good job at it! The first map is out on the Jonstown Compendium, and covers Kanthor’s Islands, in Seshnela. This is a pretty minimal product (two maps, one with text and one without), but it’s quite pretty and high resolution.

Mikael is also working on other maps, such as the Elf Sea area and other parts of Genertela.

RPG Imaginings Unboxes Armies & Enemies of Dragon Pass

If you want to see what the Print-on-Demand version of Martin Helsdon’s book looks like, here is RPG Imaginings flipping through it on camera!

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.

Nochet and Other Metropolises

Jeff tries to remind us how densely populated cities like Nochet are, giving Bombay or Calcutta as a point of comparison.

Nochet’s population density averages somewhere around 18,000+ per square kilometer. That’s average – for every Sacred City garden that means somewhere else people are piled on top of each other.

Boldhome in comparison is a mere 3000 people per square kilometer, but it has plenty of empty space, which means that in the Pockets and the Main City, things get piled up.

In comparison, the population density of modern London is 5700 per square kilometer; modern Manhattan has a population density of 29,000 per square kilometer and San Francisco about 6600 per square kilometer.

While Nochet’s density is incredible, it isn’t unheard of for Earth’s bronze age cities either.

For instance, Alexandria in the last century BCE might have had 500,000 inhabitants, and even if only a fraction of those lived inside its walls (an area of about 5.3 square kilometres), that would still be way more dense than Nochet.

Another example is the ancient Greek city of Antioch (in modern day southern Turkey) is said to have peaked with at least 250,000 inhabitants around the same time frame (last century BCE), and potentially as high as 500,000 inhabitants. I’m having trouble figuring out its area (there’s the intramuros area and the general suburbian area, and some of that area was uninhabited rocky mountain), but even with a conservative estimate, it might have been twice as dense as Nochet.

Anyway, back to Glorantha:

Interestingly, although Boldhome averages only about 3000 people per square mile, Jonstown averages somewhere around 16,000 people per square mile. Which means it is built up more like Nochet than Boldhome.

Sheng Seleris, Shadow of the Lunar Empire

Jeff shares some thoughts about everybody’s favourite ruthless horse riding crazy nomad:

Sheng Seleris and his nomad army entered Peloria for the first time in 1375. Sheng Seleris was a celestial hero, whose horses could run through the sky, and whose companions were as pure and as merciless as the light of the sky.

As we mentioned in last week’s Journal, Sheng Seleris used his army’s superior mobility to force the Lunars into battles during Dark or Dying lunar phases. For almost 30 years, the Lunars knew “little more than defeat and humiliation”. Ouch.

© 2021 Chaosium Inc.

Jeff shared map sketches (above for the 3rd wane, later below for the 4th wane), but if you look at the nice colour versions in the Glorantha Sourcebook, you’ll see how the Lunar Empire got broken up in small pieces between 1355 and 1389. The Red Emperor really just had a few strongholds left (Glamour and the Silver Shadow area, Sylila, and the West Reaches).

The Red Emperor engaged in several magical contests with Sheng Seleris, but appeared to have lost them all.

I’m not sure what these magical contests would have been… Face to face battles, such as their “wrestling” in front of Glamour’s gates? Encounters during heroquests where the Emperor and the Nomad recognize each other? Something else? Either way, I’m pretty sure it was awesome.

Much of Peloria was overrun, and many cultivated areas returned to grassland. For FOUR GENERATIONS(!), nomadic herds roamed over the Pelorian grasslands. In some areas, city and town life continued, ruled over by Yelm-worshipping horsemen. Other areas paid tribute to whatever nomad chieftain demanded it, and submitted themselves to whatever other demands were made, in exchange for limited autonomy.

These four generations of nomadic supremacy ended in 1460, when Shen Seleris was finally defeated by a later Red Emperor. But let’s go back to the early 15th century first:

In 1409, the first Temple of the Reaching Moon founded. Within the “Glowline” formed by her temples, the Red Moon was always magically at Half Phase, which helped to mitigate the Lunar magical weakness that Sheng Seleris exploited. The Lunar Army knew a few successes against the lieutenants of Sheng Seleris, although whenever Sheng Seleris was present, the Lunars were badly defeated.

Reading the corresponding part of the Glorantha Sourcebook, my understanding was that three Temples of the Reaching Moon (and the Glowline they produce) was actually in effect several years prior to that, as early as 1397. My understanding here is that 1409 is the year during which the name “Temple of the Reaching Moon” was made official, and when the effect of the Glowline was revealed publicly.

Imagine the fun stories to tell and play in the years when the Lunars are building this magical infrastructure, but have to keep it secret from their enemies… could there be a Lunar sorcerer who, for reasons unknown, betrays the Red Emperor and designs a fatal flaw in the temples’ magical lattice, or something? A flaw that could be exploited by a small band of nomads who just have to lob an explosive into a small shaft to blow the entire thing up? Am I watching too many movies? Is my analogy completely wrong because the nomads are the ruling bad guys in this case? Am I asking to many questions in my own newsletter?

Anyway, you can check last week’s Journal for more discussion on the Glowline.

© 2021 Chaosium Inc.

In 1415, Sheng Seleris killed the Red Emperor in a magical duel. This is the first time the Red Emperor is known to have died. He had ruled for over 150 years but now was gone. For 15 years, there was no emperor.

For those of you following at home, for some reason this is not mentioned in the Glorantha Sourcebook… I blame the Lunar Ministry of Truth and its “correction” of historical records. Thankfully, the Guide to Glorantha has a mention of the event. After that, you can follow Sheng Seleris and the Red Emperor’s battles in either books, but I like how it gets pretty epic at some point:

In 1442, Sheng Seleris defeated the Kralorelan Emperor and became a god. A new star appeared in the heavens. The remnants of the Lunar Empire shuddered before the Celestial Empire. The Red Emperor confronted Sheng Seleris and was killed again, and Sheng Seleris flew his elite warriors to the Red Moon to search for him. The scars on the Red Moon can still be seen by the naked eye.

That’s pretty bad-ass. But things started to change:

Sheng Seleris continued to search for the Red Emperor, and ravaged the land and mythology. He killed those who were formerly neutral in the conflict, and made a growing number of enemies. Even those who had once hated and feared the Red Goddess increasingly viewed her as the lesser threat.

In 1460, the Red Emperor returned (in a new form) and finally defeated Sheng Seleris in a magical duel the Battle of Kitor. Lunar propaganda claim this was a long-planned master scheme of the Red Emperor, but other accounts suggest it was more opportunistic and that many former enemies aided the new Red Emperor.

Over the next few years, the Lunar Army forced the now leaderless nomads to withdraw from the Lunar Heartlands into the Redlands. But the nomads were still powerful and a near-equal to the Lunar Army. The threat was not ended for another two generations with the Nights of Horror (1506), which destroyed both the Lunar Army and the nomads. The Lunar Empire raised a new army, but the nomads were forced deep into Pent.

The Redlands are immediately east of the Lunar Heartlands, with Pent far further north-east from there. The Nights of Horror was a two-day battle where most of 150,000 warriors and magicians were slain, Hon-eel (daughter of the Red Emperor) died, and Chaos and Dragons were involved. Exciting stuff. And yes, Chaos was summoned by the Red Emperor… I’m sure that using Chaos to finally get rid of the nomad bane was a big step at the time, but given its success at the time, the Lunars probably won’t think too much before they do it again if needed.

Sheng Seleris’ game of Whack-a-Mole against the Red Emperor exhausted the Celestial Emperor and turned formerly neutral (or even potentially friendly) forces into enemies. Ironically, this sounds a lot like what happened to the Lunar Empire in the Eighth Wane.

The Eigth Wane is of course the “current” wane, as per RuneQuest’s starting date.

Almost every institution we associate with the “modern” Lunar Empire except the Seven Mothers and the Red Goddess really is the result of the struggle with Sheng Seleris and the nomads. The Glowline. The Lunar College of Magic. The Cavalry Corps. The widespread nature of New Pelorian. Referring to each new Red Emperor as a “Mask” of the Red Emperor. And so on.

So before you think about the Lunar Empire, remember that it rose out of the ashes of a previous Lunar Empire, one nearly destroyed by Sheng Seleris. The Lunar Empire has known defeat and had to recreate itself out of the ruins.

The Seven Mothers Cult

Jeff wants to set the record straight about the Seven Mothers cult, which is sometimes pictured as imperialist colonial administrators similar to those of the 19th century British Empire. But they’re not thinking of themselves as “bringing civilization to the barbarians of Dragon Pass”, and don’t act in a condescending way to the cultures they are proselytizing in:

The Seven Mothers purpose is to prepare people to embrace the Red Goddess. Most people never become Illuminated, but the Seven Mothers creates an environment where Illumination can be welcomed and respected – not feared or killed. The Seven Mothers likes those things that like the Red Goddess, and it fights against those who would fight the Red Goddess.

In my campaign set in the 1610s near Alone, I gave a few glimpses of the Seven Mothers missionaries getting set up around the confederation: they are advocating inclusivity, telling all the kids they can be “whatever they want to be when they grow up”, hand out candy and free t-shirts at their worship ceremonies, advertise the tax cuts you get when you join them, and so on. They’re very nice people (at first glance), and I sort of modelled them after real-life cultists like Raelians or Scientologists.

Often Seven Mothers missionaries find themselves in cultures that are as wealthy, technically skilled, whatever, as the Lunar Heartlands. Carmania was wealthier, more developed, etc. than Rinliddi – that didn’t matter. Carmania threatened the nascent Red Goddess and needed to be defeated so that its population could be prepared to embrace her.

For most Seven Mothers cultists it is a universal goal – the Red Goddess needs to be embraced by the world so that we all can finally be healed. The Lunar Heartlands are in just as much need of healing as the barbarians.

See? They’re nice people! They’re looking after your well-being!

Now add to that a level of imperial chauvinism – that it is only right and proper that the Red Emperor rules the world and that Lunar/Dara Happan/Pelorian society is the only right and proper society and that everyone not of Lunar/Dara Happan culture is a benighted barbarian. This cultural chauvinism is always present but is also at odds with the Seven Mothers mission. It is sometimes suppressed (by enlightened provincial administrators like Phargentes, Moirades, Fazzur Wideread, or Sor-eel), but just as often it suppresses the Seven Mothers mission (e.g., Euglyptus the Fat, Tatius the Bright, Halcyon var Enkorth, etc.).

Well, you know, they’re people too, and they have their flaws. Still… free t-shirts! Come over!

These imperialists rarely justify their rule by saying they are building roads, aqueducts, whatever – because they aren’t! Maybe they introduce maize through the Hon-eel cult, if they remember to do that. They tolerate the Seven Mothers missionaries, but primarily they justify their rule because it is right and proper that the rule of the Red Emperor should be universally acknowledged. They are imperialists first and foremosts.

Remember that Sartar already has fancy roads, cool dwarf-built architecture, and so on… so although I love the Life of Brian references as much as the next guy, they don’t quite apply as much in the “new Sartar” described in the latest RuneQuest line.

The imperialists and the missionaries often work hand to hand, but also are often in tension. Many suggest that the closer to Mirin’s Cross, the more likely the missionaries get their way – the further away, the more the imperialists get their way. But enough exceptions exist to make this a dubious political maxim.

It sort of nice to think about because you could even show the difference between the Lunar soldiers, administrators, and tax collectors, and the Seven Mothers missionaries, with one getting obviously annoyed by the other. One wants to invade and control everything, the other wants to spiritually liberate everybody. That could generate some sympathy for the missionaries, and even lead to interesting alliances, stories, and even cult memberships…

Jar-eel the Razoress

What’s more bad-ass that Jar-eel’s nickname? Well, a Jon Hodgson painting for instance!

Art by Jon Hodgson © 2021 Chaosium Inc.

Jeff says:

Arguably the mightiest hero in Glorantha at this time is Jar-eel the Razoress. She has loads of titles – Fourth Inspiration of Moonson, Incarnation of the Red Goddess in Time, daughter/lover/mother of the Red Emperor, poetess and musician, defeater of barbarians, etc. But let’s talk about HER for a moment.

Jar-eel was born in 1588 in Glamour and when she was only one year old she was part of the Legion of Infants that traveled over Fronela in Moonboats and thawed Syndic’s Ban. At ONE year old.

At eight, she was Illuminated and traveled to the Red Moon itself.

At fourteen, she was a leader of the elite warriors who sacked Boldhome.

When she was twenty-nine, the Temple to Jar-eel was consecrated in Glamour. The Moonsword cult already worships her. She dismembers Belintar, suppresses the White Moon Movement, and defeats the Voor-ash confederation. And so on, and so on.

[…] Jar-eel was born to incredible power and privilege and has achieved more.

She is not a ruler, but even the Red Emperor is often over-shadowed by his glorious “daughter”. She is a figure like Krisha in the Mahabharata – operating at a different plane of existence than those around here. Let her drive your chariot, and she’s likely to Illuminate you on the trip across the battlefield!

“The energy which the gods are endowed with is indeed great, but mine is greater.” – from the Song of the Razoress.

She so incredible that Jeff thinks she’s probably the most famous person alive if you play in the standard timeline. She is “revered within the Lunar Empire, feared in the Redlands, Holy Country, Dragon Pass, and Prax”.

And Jar-eel embraces contradictions. She is both notably merciful and notoriously cruel. She loves, but kills without hesitation or remorse.

Jar-eel is a patron of the arts, a musician, and a poetess. She debates with the White Moon Movement and many of those who witness her renounce their errors and return to the Red Moon. Those who reject her words are killed.

I picture these “debates” are incredibly tense scenes in the Lunar halls, like a magical and heroquesting version of the movie Ridicule, where “simple” discussions and witty exchanges in the French King’s court can lead to extremely serious, violent, and deadly outcomes later on.

And they are true debates, magical events where she invites the leaders of the WMM to prove their claims. Jar-eel devastates them so badly that some bleed from the eyes as their tears run out.

Jar-eel, not the Red Emperor, is the real Elvis of the Lunar Empire. She walks into a room and everyone – even gods and spirits – stops to look at her. She’s that beautiful, that charismatic.

So whenever you think of the Lunar Empire, always keep in mind the presence of Jar-eel, for good or ill. Her charisma overwhelms that of the Red Emperor or Great Sister. She is a rock star, movie star, star athlete, and so much more.

Of course, she can juggle the duality of Moon and Chaos without any problem:

As for Chaos, Jar-eel accepts it as any Red Goddess illuminate should. Jar-eel has ridden the Crimson Bat, unaffected by its Chaotic abilities. I’ve heard stories that she has even allowed civilised broo to join the Moonsword regiment, as long as they maintain discipline and standards.

Jar-eel is said to be inhumanly graceful and agile, and dances with her two swords to cut down entire regiments. Afterwards, she is famed for composing poems. One famous poem compares bloodshed in battle to a field of red roses, with the impression that both are equally expressions of beauty.

After reading all this, I’ve been wondering whether Jar-eel actually gets more magic from her Hero Soul than from her worship of the Lunar deities?

For than a generation Jar-eel has been a – and more often THE – dominant light in the Lunar sky. Most accounts place her far above the mundane and magical machinations of her Eel-ariash kin, who nonetheless have gained tremendously by her presence. Even the Red Emperor might have second thoughts before acting against the family of the Fourth Inspiration of Moonson. Imagine how the other satraps and imperial nobles must feel!

The Great Compromise

We know that the Great Compromise was created after the Gods War to separate the Gods from the mortals, binding the latter to Time. Jeff adds a few details: three “universal rules” that the deities agreed to.

First, they would concede previous claims, and mutually agree to define themselves as they were, making no further attempts to interfere with the realms of other deities. They shared Nature among themselves. No longer would Orlanth strive to be Lord of the Underworld, nor Yelm to be King of Middle Air.

Second, all the goddesses and gods accepted to include within their being all which had occurred to them before, each event being in appropriate measure. Thus Yelm would spend half his time in the Underworld, and half in the upper world.

They agreed too that no deity would directly manifest themselves into the world, but instead work through Nature, worshippers, proxies, avatars, and incarnations which would be inferior to the true deity.

I think that most deities took it the same way Captain Barbossa takes the rules of parley: “it’s more what you’d call guidelines than actual rules”…

The Red Goddess in Time

Speaking of violating the Great Compromise, let’s look at the Red Goddess:

She is a Greater God who appeared during Time, embraces Chaos, and her very existence violates the Cosmic Compromise. Many of the Old Gods refused to acknowledge her because of this – her victory at Castle Blue forced them to acknowledge her power, and many now accept and even embrace her (most significantly Yelm). However, several of the most powerful gods remain her resolute enemies (Orlanth most prominently, but also Storm Bull, Valind, Kyger Litor, Humakt, Eurmal, and Zorak Zoran). Many others (Aldrya, Magasta, Yelmalio, and the Malkioni) remain hostile to the Red Goddess.

The Battle of Castle Blue was a year-long affair that’s a bit convoluted, but as far as I understand the Red Goddess (who was not a deity yet) triggered it as a way to “prove” herself, drawing in all the Old Gods and forcing them to accept her in the God Time. That’s when she truly became the Red Goddess.

Through Illumination, the initiates of the Red Goddess are liberated from the reflexive fear of Chaos and oblivion. They believe that by following along the path of the Red Goddess, they can thread this needle and embrace ego annihilation as a means of liberating the true self. Enemies of the Lunar Way point out that in many cases this path to “ego annihilation” results in an even greater false self – Gbaji. The parallels with Nysalor and the Broken Council are there for all to see, although many Lunar apologists claim that with the Red Goddess’ aid, Nysalor has now defeated Gbaji (Sheng Seleris). Others claim that at the Shadows of the Empire, Arkat or Arkats are being formed once again.

More disturbingly is the rise of the Lords of Terror with at least the tolerance of the Red Goddess. The Lunar Empire sponsors the Chaos demon called the Crimson Bat, accepts worship of Primal Chaos, and is known to cooperate with such Chaotic cults Krarsht, Mallia, Thed, and Vivamort against the mutual foes. Within Chaos strongholds such as Dorastor, Snakepipe Hollow, and the Footprint, the Lords of Terror have awakened.

Some mystics claim there is uncertainty at the core of the Red Goddess’ existence that makes it impossible to resolve whether she is a deity of Chaos or of the Cosmos, or even that she is both simultaneously. This uncertainty and ambivalence is a key driver in the cataclysm later known as the Hero Wars.

Here, frankly, I’m not sure it matters? When it comes to the people of Glorantha, they probably judge her on her actions and the actions of her followers: she’s crazy, rides a giant Chaotic weapon of mass destruction, and says you can reach illumination and be one with the cosmos. Or something like that. Classifying deities is the purview of the God Learners and other intellectuals. Others just know that their gods hate the Red Goddess, and that’s enough for them?

It is perhaps inevitable that the Hero Wars ultimately is conflict between the two most complex of Gloranthan deities – the Red Goddess and Orlanth. As we know, Orlanth is both a Destroyer and the Upholder of the Cosmos. Like Shiva, he destroys and creates. He plunged the Cosmos into Darkness when he slew Yelm, but his Lightbringers Quest was the key to the preservation of the Cosmos.

Memory of the Elder Races

Jeff muses about the memory of the Elder Races. For instance, a lot of elves will remember the Inhuman Occupation, and be unable to differentiate much between the various humans who came back into Dragon Pass. The “political squabbles” between the Lunars and the Orlanthi doesn’t mean much to them… this means you can have any elf show up on any side, or be an annoying road block to both sides!

And some elves have been replanted or reseeded, and recall events from the Second or even First Age.But this memory also means that old feuds and betrayal are not forgotten. Humans are a secondary concern – the other Elder Races are existential threats.

Ok, on to the Uz. Mistress Race trolls are immortal, but there’s only very few of them around:

Most Mistress Race Trolls were born in Wonderhome, before the Dawn. The race was already diminishing in the First Age before the Curse of Kin. Arkat and his companions were the last Mistress Race Trolls born in Time, until recently.

Arkat is considered a Mistress Race Troll? Huh, interesting (disclaimer: I don’t know much about Arkat). And “until recently”? Ok, who got some big babies?

Some are many thousands of years old. They barely recognize the dark trolls as their descendants – the trollkin are hated mockeries. The Mistress Race remember Osentalka! They remember the Broken Council! They remember the betrayal of the dwarves and elves, the fickleness of the dragonewts.

A Mistress Race Troll should be a terrifying encounter – likely to occur only in the deepest Darkness of a troll stronghold. She is a dark, rumbling thing, constantly hungry, utterly without mercy, and those with Second Sight will wish they did not. Sure she has dozens of Rune points but most have also wrested strange powers from gods and spirits. Your human tribe, kingdom, or empire is irrelevant to her, unless she learns that it is tied to something she experienced and still cares about.

The Deadwood

Jeff is talking about something we just explored in my campaign: the Deadwood, up in the Indigo Mountains near Alone… and not to be confused with the Woods of the Dead, which is also near Alone, but is completely different! (seriously, Greg, what the fuck)

Deadwood was the site of an Early Third Age conflict between elves and trolls. After the Dragonkill War killed all the humans, the elves tried to reclaim the Pass from 1120 to 1150. Reinforced by Brown Elves from the Old Woods, the Stinking Forest expands to the Indigo Mountains (as well as down the Dragonspine).

The Elves planted a marching forest to try to break the back of the trolls. That’s why the trees go so far up the mountains. To the elves’ horror, the trolls summoned Gorakiki Beetle and swarms of bark-boring beetles killed trees and elves alike. The trolls awakened the Indigo Mountains and an eruption killed the trees inside the Indigo Mountains, and then the trolls released the beetles on the rest. The trolls were also aided by spirits and by the half-trolls of the Ivory Plinth.

This broke the back of the Aldryami attempt to reclaim Dragon Pass. The trolls keep the dead trees standing as a reminder to the elves what will happen if they try again. The angry ghosts of the Aldryami still haunt Deadwood.

I didn’t have angry elf ghosts in my Deadwood (maybe I’ll add them next time I run the adventure!) but I went a bit farther, trying to explain why the trolls didn’t unleash these bark-boring beetles onto other elven armies: I turned it into a unique type of beetle that a Gorakkiki Rune Lord got only through advanced heroquesting… and paid a steep price for.

I’m sure you can also explain it more simply by the fact that the elves kept their distance anyway, and that Dragon Pass got repopulated with humans quickly after, which created a lot of buffer between the two warring Elder Races.

Now this nicely illustrates the conflict between the Elder Races. Always remember that the Elder Races usually view all humans as the Lesser Enemy. The True Enemy is the other Elder Races. And they have very good reasons for this.

This I got right: in my adventure, both the trolls and the elves have no regard for the humans of the Alone Confederation tribes, using them as cannon fodder or meat shields in their centuries-long battles… still, my players sided with the elves in this case! Go figure!

Random Events

Jeff shared a snippet of the upcoming Dragon Pass Campaign (or whatever it will be called): a few tables for random events at the clan, tribe, and entire region levels! This is a really nice treat as far as I’m concerned… Here they are, lightly formatted for your enjoyment.

This kind of table is nice for rolling or picking an idea for a new adventure or a complication in an existing one. Jeff also adds:

This is intended to be out of the ordinary events. So stuff like a caravan shows up is an ordinary activity. Or the stuff that normally happens at assemblies, militia musters, or seasonal holy days. That stuff happens according to the calendar – or often enough that it is pretty darn predictable.This is the unpredictable stuff that happens, and screws with player plans!

A Summary of Argrath’s Life to 1627

Jeff shared a short document he and Greg worked on to get an outline of Argrath’s life path until 1627:

Born on Starfire Ridge to the Colymar Tribe
Maniski killed in fall of Sartar
Yanioth killed (by Telmori?)
Initiated to Orlanth
Outlawed from Starfire Ridge
Made slave among Bison Riders
Discovered White Bull, founded secret society
Became Wind Lord of Orlanth, gained a draconic entity as an allied spirit
Adopted name Garrath Sharpsword and resided in New Pavis
Quest of the Drinking Giant’s Cauldron
Giant’s Cradle
Met Harrek
Circumnavigated the World, many adventures
Battle of Pennel Ford
Was lover of Queen Samastina
Left for Prax, gathered White Bull society and summoned Jaldon Goldentooth
Liberated Pavis
Liberated Corflu
Defeated at Hender’s Ruins
Founded first Magical Union, gained Dragon Teeth
Defeated Lunar Army in Far Place, liberated Alda-Chur
Became Prince of Sartar

And some peek behind the scenes:

When we were writing this, we looked at the early years of Alexander and Napoleon Bonaparte – Argrath’s manic activities seem pretty reasonable in comparison!

But Argrath has the farthest to travel in order to become a peer of the likes of the Red Emperor, Gunda the Guilty, Beat-Pot, or Sir Ethilirist.

The Sisters of Mercy

I thought that “Sisters of Mercy” was just a term for Chalana Arroy hospital staff, but apparently they’re also actual daughters of the goddess? I don’t know, I haven’t read much of the Stafford Library’s stuff. But Jeff knows of course!

The Sisters of Mercy are the daughters of Chalana Arroy, adopted or otherwise. Malamse, Oronio, and Amprefesne are the three holy Sisters most often called upon, but there are many others. Many living High Healers are often accounted among their numbers and the title “Sister of Mercy” is a common name for High Healers in Dragon Pass.

They live in an invisible nunnery whose exact location or dimensions are unknown. Some claim that it is as large as the world, encompassing all of the cosmos within its walls. This is, however, untrue as proved by the Sage Elad Kramdnil during the reign of Prince Salinarg. He showed that the Sisters are met wherever the old Empire of the Wyrms Friends was dominant, and he was the first to state that they should be considered remnants of that lost empire. This lends credence to the belief that the Empire was not totally corrupt, as such remnants as the Tusk Riders and Delecti would suggest.

The Sisters of Mercy is the subcult most commonly worshiped in Dragon Pass and Prax. It provides the Refine Medicine spell. The center of the subcult is the Nunnery in Dragon Pass.

You can find the Refine Medicine spell in the Red Book of Magic, along with all the rules for finding and processing healing plants!

The Middle Sea Empire and the God Learners

I know we’re supposed to be the God Learners and I should know about this, but I’m mostly ignorant about the Middle Sea Empire, aka the Jrusteli Empire, the farthest-spanning nation in the history of Glorantha. Jeff says:

Its core was city-states of the island-continent of Jrustela who were tightly allied with the kings of Seshnela, and in 789 they formed together the Middle Sea Empire.

Seshnela and Jrustela were ruled by Hrestoli Malkioni, although they had significant Theyalan influences, particularly in Jrustela. The Umathelan Coalition was part of the original alliance, and in Pamaltela, the Empire expanded to conquer Fonrit, Laskal, and Jolar (where it was known as the Six Legged Empire).

To help place things geographically, Jeff shared another map sketch, and if you want the pretty version you can look into the Glorantha Sourcebook or the Guide, of course.

© 2021 Chaosium Inc.

Slontos was conquered by the Middle Sea Empire, and it formed a borderland between the Middle Sea Empire and the krjalki of the Empire of the Wyrms Friends, with its dragons and trolls. Akem in Fronela was also a stronghold of the Empire, which later expanded to rule much of Frontem (Loskalm).

The Middle Sea Empire ruled Teshnos, Teleos, and Loral and included the New Dragon Ring of Kralorela.

With the core of the Middle Sea Empire being a bunch of Malkioni sorcerers, and the Empire of the Wyrms Friends being more theistic, I don’t imagine they got along philosophically speaking at least.

The Dark Empire of Ralios was conquered in 740, and the Arkati secrets taken from the Stygian Archons formed the basis of the Mythic Maps of the God Learners, which enabled their great conquests.

Ok so here we have the remnants of Arkat’s empire, with some of the secrets he got from his awesome heroquesting and battling against Gbaji a couple centuries prior. The God Learners plunder that and start piecing things together.

The Mythic Synthesis Movement enabled the God Learners to develop the Monomyth, a holistic understanding of all the mythologies of their allies and subjects. Cults such as Chalana Arroy, Issaries, Lhankor Mhy, and Wachaza were deliberately encouraged and spread by the God Learners, although the ruling caste was largely Hrestoli Malkioni, at least at first.

And this is something worth keeping in mind – the Middle Sea Empire was not a Malkioni missionary movement. Each new culture it encountered or conquered had secrets and insights which were synthesized into the Monomyth, and the God Learners came the closest of any mortals to seeing the “whole mythological picture”. Their insights were adopted by their enemies, for example, Jrusteli information and trade filtered into Dragon Pass, where it was quickly appreciated by the rulers and used in tandem with their new draconic magics.

The Empire of the Wyrms Friends

And of course now that we talked about the Middle Sea Empire, we have to talk about the EWF. Jeff shared this abridged text from the upcoming Cults books:

Two great schools of investigation existed in the Second Age. One originated in the far east. It became a popular mystical religion in Dragon Pass and created new horizons of magic. The political form of this religion was the Empire of the Wyrms Friends, who had learned powerful secrets from the dragons and enjoyed the support of the dragonewts and the rest of dragon-kind. This splendid and colorful age combined many parts of many ideas to make a new wholeness to face the world.

The ruling humans became progressively more interested, fascinated, and enmeshed in the strange draconic magics. These left-handed pathways offered exotic and strange powers, whose effects could be exceptionally devastating when manifest in the physical world. In 826, the Empire of the Wyrms Friends—or the Third Council—was established to rule over the material interests of the leaders of the draconic movement. The rulers began a long and intense ritual that was expected to take generations to conclude.

During the development of the Grand Ritual, the fortunes of the Empire of the Wyrms Friends grew. Armies of dragonewts and trolls led by Lightbringers who rode dragons and wyrms conquered much of central Genertela. The barbarians of Prax were defeated, and the Shadowlands and the Storm Hills paid heavy tribute rather than fight. Jrusteli information and trade filtered into Dragon Pass, where it was quickly appreciated by the rulers and used in tandem with their new draconic magics.

Here we are catching up to what we had in the previous note (above), where the Mythical Synthesis Movement was used to actually strengthen the religious understanding of the EWF.

Also, if you want to ride dragons into battle, here is where and when you can do it! (the “Lightbringers” in this case are, I believe, Runemasters of Lightbringer deities)

In 889, the Third Council demanded to be worshiped in place of the traditional Lightbringer deities. Immense energy and power were needed to sustain the Grand Ritual. The dance of the gods in the early stages of the ritual provided much of the energy used to expand the Third Council’s domain. However, in the latter parts of the spell, more and more power was to be provided by the population, who were at the same time growing distant from their increasingly-demanding Council. The Council, deep in spectacular meditation, was either unaware of the dissatisfaction, or unable to break their concentration to do anything about it.

[…] The Pelorian peasants welcomed Carmanian spirits into their newly-built temples, and burned the images of the Third Council members. The dark trolls of the Blue Moon Plateau killed and ate the dragonewts that garrisoned Peloria. Dara Happa rebelled and Prax fell. Orlanth Rex reestablished his primacy over the gods and slew his Third Council imposter.

Another member of the Third Council awoke to the threat of the barbarian hero Jaldon Goldentooth, and directed some divine energies to aid the beleaguered Six Sisters upon the border with Prax. The tattered remains of the Empire gained heart, and members of the Council took form and descended to the earth to aid their people.

Such was the cause of their downfall, for in aiding their fellow mortals, the Council abandoned their unfinished ritual. The Grand Ritual was left with insufficient leadership among those few Council members who did not return to earth. The magic lost direction, and its release was directed first against its makers and then against their followers.

As always, Jeff adds a few insights in follow-up comments:

So imagine the EWF as “something like” the old World Council of Friends, BUT the Orlanthi are clearly the dominant group and they are firmly allied with the dragonewts and other draconics. And their rulers are in deep conversations with the dragons, seeking power and understanding. Eventually, that ruling council concludes that they are gods and should be worshiped as such.

So we have this Orlanthi empire that dominated central Genertela. Now wait you might say – the Third Council insisted on being worshipped as gods! How can you say they were Orlanthi?

Simple – the rulers established themselves atop the traditional cults and allocated more and more the worship energies to the great great ritual of the Proximate Realm. But the base was always the traditional cults at least until near the end.

But this mighty empire – which steamrolled Dara Happa while fighting off the Middle Sea Empire – lurks behind Orlanthi history.

“We hate dragons and would never cooperate with them.”
“Perhaps that is true. But our ancestors did, and they ruled the world.”

I guess that’s Argrath’s marketing pitch?

So where we see the EWF dominant, we also see the Lightbringers Pantheon (Orlanth, the other Lightbrinters, Ernalda, Humakt, etc). The very top of the society are engaged in mystical experimentation, but most people at most dabble in this and worship their Theyalan gods as led by their priests (who are increasingly engaged in mystical experimentation).

This is of course a gradual process. In 826, we might have a ruling council allied with the dragonewts and dragons, who are supported by the priests who seek to maintain the Proximate Realm, and the rest of society just do what they have always done with a little extra for the Proximate Realm.

By 889, those rulers are now gods and demand to be the primary focus of worship and are supported by the priests. The rest of society is torn about this, but the rulers are as powerful as gods, are backed by dragonewts, dragons, and many mercenaries. And so things erupt in violence and peoples who might have supported the original Empire of the Wyrms Friends now oppose it. And people who did oppose the original EWF, now support it.


The EWF was dominated by its Storm Voices, many of whom had learned to speak with the dragons and dragonewts. The priests formed the council that ruled Dragon Pass and beyond, and the chieftains and war lords were bent to their will. Orlanth Rex fixed this, so that the Rex rules the priests and can even cut them off from their magic.

Oh that’s very interesting… I had heard before that the Orlanth Rex tradition of ruling only came towards the end of the Second Age, when Alakoring Dragonbreaker introduced it to the Orlanthi tribes… and guess what, that guy was a big enemy of the EWF, organizing various rebellions and acts of sabotage against it.

So really, the introduction of the Orlanth Rex cult was a way to separate powers in different branches of government! Well, until Argrath, that is:

And now, we have an Orlanth Rex who can speak with the dragons and dragonewts. And not just any Rex, but the Prince of Sartar, who also has Jaldon Goldentooth at his side.

History sure can have a sense of irony!

The Empire of the Wyrms Friends still haunt the dreams and ambitions of the Orlanthi – and is still feared by the Praxians, the trolls, and the Pelorians.

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.

King of Dragon Pass is on Sale

© 2021 A-Sharp

The PC version, that is. It’s part of the Steam Winter Sale, at -70%! You can even get it in a bundle with its sequel Six Ages.

RPGImaginings Plays Vasana’s SoloQuest

In case you’re too busy to play the SoloQuest yourself, but you can multitask enough to watch someone else play it, RPGImaginings has got you covered!

The video is part 1 of a series, and includes some introduction on RuneQuest, some commentary on BRP rules or the world of Glorantha, and so on.

“Stand Watch”, a Holiday Tale

Ian Cooper shared this nice holiday season story:

“Stand Watch” – that was Orlanth’s instruction to Rigsdal. At this time of year in Glorantha (the Winter Solstice falls on Fire Day, Illusion Week of Dark Season) the Heortlings look up at the Pole Star and think about him as the Night Watchman.

Sacred Time remains weeks away, when spring comes in Sea Season, but many Heortlings doubtless look forward to it, as Rigsdal stands guard, and they gather around the “first hearth’ that is dedicated to Elmal – the light in the darkness, shining atop Kero Fin. Perhaps they indulge in salted beef, pickles, and pass around clay jugs of cider and other winter foods.

So prayers to the Night Watchmen and Elmal, who watch over us all, whilst Orlanth and Ernalda are the underworld.

“Stand Watch”

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.

Some Old Egyptian Board Game

Photo from the British Museum

Above is a good reference for board games in ancient times! It dates back to the 4th or 3rd millenium BCE, in the Early Egyptian Dynastic Period.

Who Were the Phoenicians and Where to Find Them in Glorantha

Joerg decided to pop into the newsletter this week!

While much of the Phoenician history falls into the Iron Age, their beginnings lie in the Bronze Age. (But then, a lot of the same can be said about the Greeks.)

There are few surviving records written by Phoenician sources, as they were vilified by their antagonists – most prominently the Romans, whose struggle with the Phoenician-founded city-state then empire of Carthage was bitter and genocidal.

The Entire History of the Phoenicians (2500 to 300 BC)

The Phoenicians provided one of the earliest transportation network not only along the (mostly southern and central) Mediterranean coasts, but also in the coastal Atlantic on both northern Africa and western Europe. They served as middlemen already to the Bronze Age Egyptians, and may have been responsible for providing the tobacco found in certain royal mummies.

The Quinpolic League of southern Seshnela and Tanisor resembles the Phoenicians somewhat in their de-centralized city-state approach and their reliance on naval trade, and the Waertagi- and Tanisoran-enforced exodus of the surviving remnants of their merchant navy and patrol duty mercenary fleet may be the kernel of a new development, as touched upon in Martin Helsdon’s Periplus of Southern Genertela which had been available on Facebook for a short while, and of which there are about two dozen fund-raiser hardcopies in circulation since Dragonmeet. Martin has posted a few art previews on Facebook, mythological representations of the Mirrorsea Ports of Rhigos and Durengard by Katrin Dirim.

The Maslo cities might be another such non-centralized thalassocracy, even though they have Hoom Jhis as the Dynast of Flanch. Half the Maslo catamarans may come from Elamle, possibly more as the Masloi there are in league with the Alryami and may receive purpose-grown tree trunks for immense dugout hulls.

The Vadeli naval empire prior to the disastrous loss of the Battle of Oenriko Rocks against the Masloi and what remains of it in the Vadeli enclaves in Umathela and Fonrit and their port cities in Jrustela is another Gloranthan thalassocracy which bears some similarity to the Phoenician one, especially since the Vadeli lack a central government or leader due to their caste restrictions. Rather than being accused of burning their firstborn to Baal Ammon, the Brown Vadeli are rumored to eat their children to maintain their immortality. But then, the Vadeli are objectively vile, by their own choice, or that of their ancestors few generations earlier, in the Gods War.

Finally, the Waertagi trading monopoly in the Western Seas bears some similarity to the role of the Phoenicians following the Bronze Age collapse in the Mediterranean.

Hanno the Navigator

The most famous Phoenician mariner probably was Hanno the Navigator, a fifth century BC explorer whose periplus only survives in a Greek translation, which did reach much of the West African coast, and which has the remarkable observation of seeing the sun cast shadows toward the south, something observable only a fair bit beyond the tropical (or at high northern latitudes). While disputed, his travels may have carried him all the way to Gabon.

Alongside St. Brendan and his Old Irish cognate, Hanno is one of the achtetypical explorers that both Waertag and Dormal have been drawing on.

The Habiru and King Idrimi

The penomenon of the Apiru or Habiru in the late Fertile Crescent Bronze Age is interesting as the composition of their forces has a lot in common with how Umath and after him Orlanth assembled his Storm Tribe around him. The name “the dirty” also applies to the Burtae, and the appearance of the Storm Peoples.

One Habiru leader was Idrimi, a disowned son of a king who made himself leader of a sizable contingent of the Habiru and leading them against numerous established cities. The story of many a Gloranthan hero fits this bill, like Prince Aamor mentioned in the Seshnela chapter of the Guide

Thank you for reading

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

The RuneQuest Starter Set has already been reviewed many, many times, but since I have already gifted it three times this holiday season (yes, to my unsuspecting players), its merits and faults have been on my mind… and what kind of a Glorantha focused website would we be if we didn’t have some reviews? We’re just slow about writing them, being, like, two products behind schedule. But we are the God Learners, and you wouldn’t believe the kind of administrative puzzle we have to go through for approval of that kind of thing.

The Box

As I wrote earlier this year on my personal blog, the RuneQuest Starter Set is part of the “RPG boxed set come back”, where the boxes of yore are coming back as introductory game material.

RuneQuest © 2021 Chaosium Inc., artificial Christmas tree decoration © 2021 my kids

Here, the RuneQuest Starter Set is following in the footsteps of its older Call of Cthulhu Starter Set sibling, with a very sturdy box of unusual size. The reason for this unusual size is that all the booklets and handouts inside the box don’t leave any empty space (unlike some other disappointingly empty Starter Sets we won’t name here), so the set of dice that Chaosium provides has to find room at the top, with a taller-than-usual box.

RuneQuest © 2021 Chaosium Inc.

If you have very snug shelves, you might have trouble fitting the RuneQuest Starter Set on them. However, if you have the Call of Cthulhu Starter Set, some old Chaosium boxed sets like Thieves’ World or Superworld, other tall game boxes like Harnmaster, or any kind of European game books or boxes, then the RuneQuest Starter Set should fit perfectly next to them.

Since we are looking at the dice, those are pretty nice by the way: they are very legible, and have a nice colour that evokes the bronze age setting of Glorantha.

RuneQuest © 2021 Chaosium Inc.

The box itself is quite impressive. It’s among the sturdiest boxes of all the starter sets I have in my library, and the art is stunning, original, and evocative. Vasana’s pose is even reminiscent of the original female warrior on the first two editions of RuneQuest, which is a nice touch for the fans. The only nitpicky remark I have here is the back illustration (right, above) which depicts what seems to be a port city, maybe Nochet. It does a great job of showing the colour and density of a bronze age city, but it’s not representative of the region described in the booklets where players will have their first adventures.

Another notable aspect of the RuneQuest Starter Set is its weight… so much so that my first step was to weigh it against my other starter sets!

Scale… for scale… all games © 2021 their respective publishers

The RuneQuest Starter Set comes in at a whooping 1.380 kgs! The lightest of the bunch is around 670 grams, with most of the others between 800 grams and 1 kg. The excellent Alien RPG Starter Set is right behind RuneQuest, at 1.300 kgs (I hope I didn’t forget to put everything back in it to get a proper measurement!), and the even more excellent Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay Starter Set (which we will mention again) is just above one kilogram.

You might be shocked to learn however that RuneQuest’s box is not the heaviest of the bunch. There is another one on this picture that comes in at a stunning 1.700 kgs! It’s the Mongoose 2nd edition Traveller Starter Set, whose box is also notable for having a nice little ribbon at the bottom to help you lift the contents easily (publishers, take note). But as far as I can tell, it’s not available anymore, except in PDF on DriveThruRPG, so I guess it doesn’t count? Yeah, let’s go with that. The RuneQuest Starter Set is the heaviest on the market! Yay!

Introduction and Reference Sheets

RuneQuest © 2021 Chaosium Inc.

When you open the RuneQuest Starter Set box, you’re greeted with a traditional “what’s in the box” sheet. I love that Chaosium also thought of including a “what’s NOT in the box” section, to set people’s expectations right. In particular, the box does not contain character creation rules: there just wasn’t enough room, especially with the lengthy Family History section that takes up almost 20 pages in the core rulebook. Instead, Chaosium provides more than a dozen pre-generated adventurers, which is more than enough for getting started. Other notable omissions are rules for high level characters like Shamans and Rune Masters, which is again understandable for a starter set.

RuneQuest © 2021 Chaosium Inc.

A few reference sheets are provided: the usual Gamemaster aids (ability results table, resistance table, hit locations, and so on), a player-facing description of Gloranthan Runes, and a Strike Rank Tracker for combat (which also nicely incorporates some rules summary).

The Strike Rank Tracker is made of thick paper, which is excellent since it’s bound to be used a lot during gameplay. Sadly the other two handouts are made of “normal” paper, which is surprising because I would actually expect them to be manipulated a lot more: the Strike Rank Tracker would probably just sit there on the table, while the other two are flipped, picked up, and passed around all the time even outside of combat.

Last, the back of the Strike Rank Tracker is an ad for other Chaosium products. It would have been nice to see, say, the ability result table on the back instead, so that you can flip this reference sheet on one side during combat, and on the other side for other scenes.


RuneQuest © 2021 Chaosium Inc.

The RuneQuest Starter Set’s main material is split between four books. The first book is the rulebook, the second describes the world of Glorantha in general and the area around Jonstown in particular, then there’s a “SoloQuest” book, and a book of adventures.

The SoloQuest is notable because it’s both a call back to RuneQuest’s early tradition of “Choose You Own Adventure“-style books (which are now available in Print-on-Demand), and to Call of Cthulhu’s own solo adventure in its Starter Set.

If you turn the booklets around, you realize that they all line up and form a map of northern Sartar, which is a nice touch. You know I’m a sucker for maps.

RuneQuest © 2021 Chaosium Inc.

Book 1: Rules

The first book throws you into the complex and crunchy rules of RuneQuest. I’m not totally convinced that this is the best way to make a good impression on new players, but Chaosium put some effort in simplifying the rules and making them easily understandable.

But first things first. The first few pages deal with the usual introductory material: what’s a roleplaying-game, how do you roll dice, and so on. More importantly, it has some good summary of RuneQuest’s core activity: playing adventurers that are members of a community and a cult, and who will rise up as heroes during the Hero Wars.

The next few chapters of the rules booklet by and large contains similar material as the core rulebook, although the text has been shortened in many places. In some cases, this is actually beneficial for long-time RuneQuest players and gamemasters: the core rulebook has, in my opinion, many editing problems, so the shorter and simpler rules of the starter set help understand the “rules as intended”. In many other cases, however, the same editing problems persist and new players are bound to have the same slew of questions as everybody else. Let’s point these people to the Well of Daliath!

In some occurrences, rules have been modified to be simpler. The most obvious example is that the core rulebook’s fumble table, which is rolled on with a D100, has a simpler D20-based version in the starter set. This is fine, and quite welcome for a starter set product.

What’s more baffling are rules modifications that don’t really simplify anything: they’re just… different from the core rulebook for no reason I can think of. For instance the attack/parry table has a couple of subtle differences between the two rulesets. Sometimes, the starter set even introduces entirely new rules, which seems counter-intuitive for a product that aims to simplify things. For instance, there are some new rules around language which cap your adventurer’s communication skills… I don’t like these rules, and will thoroughly ignore them. I’m just surprised to see new rules in a starter set: I expected less of them.

Thankfully, this problem is quite limited.

RuneQuest © 2021 Chaosium Inc.

These early rules chapters (game system, skills, combat) are occasionally decorated with very nice art pieces plundered from Chaosium’s older books, such as this wonderful duel scene (above) from the mind-blowing Guide to Glorantha.

Once we get into the Magic chapter, things become quite shortened compared to the core rulebook. Only spells and rules needed by the adventurers are described, and everything else gets a hint or short write-up, nudging you to get the core rulebook if you want to know more. The material on the Spirit World and Shamanism is short, since neither the adventures of Book 4 nor the pre-generated adventurers would have much to do with it, but there’s enough to whet a new player’s appetite. I really appreciate that because these are some of the game elements that set RuneQuest and Glorantha apart for me.

Book 2: The World of Glorantha

The second booklet in the box describes Glorantha in general, and the city of Jonstown (and surroundings) in particular, which acts as the stomping grounds for new players.

RuneQuest © 2021 Chaosium Inc.

In the first part, Chaosium really sharpened their ability to distill Glorantha’s essence in a minimum of pages, with some nice art (including new stuff, as far as I can tell, see above). In a short 20-ish pages, we learn about the bronze age flair of the setting, the magic, the Gods, the Runes, and other explicitly called out “Unique Aspects of Glorantha”. We learn about Dragon Pass, its myths, and its history from the Gods War all the way to the present. This is the best summary of Glorantha I’ve seen to date: short enough to keep the reader’s attention, but with enough detail to keep it exciting and unique.

The second part of the booklet details the city of Jonstown and its surroundings. This is where the RuneQuest Starter Set shines: Chaosium wanted to release a product that would appeal to new and experienced players alike by providing valuable exclusive material, and this is our first encounter with it.

RuneQuest © 2021 Chaosium Inc.

Not only is this an in-depth look at a Sartarite city that hasn’t been featured much in official books (I think the only existing write-up of Jonstown is in the now defunct HeroQuest line), it’s also a great reference for any Sartarite city, period. The information on buildings, citizenship, walls and guards, markets and trade, government, militia, and more is already worth half the price of the box in my opinion. This kind of “everyday life” information was what I was lacking when I originally read the core rulebook (being wholly ignorant about the bronze age at the time), which meant I had trouble picturing the world of Glorantha in practice.

Next are write-ups for important NPCs, with some good background and detailed stat blocks for each. The remaining 20 or so pages weren’t as exciting to me, however, because they were a mostly descriptive list of places across the city. The gamemaster will have to come up with their own ideas to fill the city with intrigue, adventure, secrets, and more, using this rather cold and factual material as the foundation… by comparison, the previously mentioned Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay Starter Set fills its description of Ubersreik with places and NPCs both big and small, and there’s an adventure hook (or two!) on every page:

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay © 2021 Cubicle7

Thankfully, Book 4: Adventures contains a few scenario seeds and encounters, which mitigates this problem a bit.

Going back to Jonstown, the one thing I got very excited about is the map. It’s an absolutely stunning map, both pretty and functional, extremely readable, and equipped with a scale! (believe me, it’s not a given with Gloranthan maps…)

RuneQuest © 2021 Chaosium Inc.

The map pictured above is actually a poster-sized handout available in the box (there’s a smaller full-page version in Book 2), but you get the idea: it’s very good looking! And while we are on maps, let’s look at the other poster map, which covers northern Sartar:

RuneQuest © 2021 Chaosium Inc.

This is another great map: it’s both prettier and vastly more legible than the maps from the core rulebook. Somehow, it looks to me, style-wise, like a modernized version of classic Gloranthan maps such as the Dagori Inkarth map from Trollpak.

Book 3: SoloQuest

Next, we have the SoloQuest book, which puts the reader in Vasana’s… err… greaves during the epic Battle of Dangerford. This is a great choice to put a new player in the heart of Gloranthan and RuneQuest action, and you can even play this adventure for free in your browser.

The adventure does a good job to show many different mechanics, introduce recent events of Dragon Pass, and get up-close with important NPCs. After running the adventure, you not only should have a better grasp on the crunchy RuneQuest rules (there’s often a big difference between “getting it in theory” and “getting it in practice”!), but you also should get an idea of the grittiness and “swinginess” of RuneQuest combat: anything could happen, and playing through a few scenes twice yields vastly different results, from glorious to deadly.

Sadly, the solo adventure also exposed one of the classic problems with RuneQuest combat. Without spoiling much, at some point you get a chance to fight a duel against a Lunar soldier. Up until then, I was playing the adventure along with my 10 year old kid who was quite invested in the story. But with Vasana’s 90% Broadsword up against an opponent’s 80% Kopis, the game came to a crawl, as we rolled and rolled and rolled, neither combatant able to hurt the other. My kid got bored and moved on to something else, asking me to call him back “when something happens”. Ouch. “Out of the mouths of babes” and all that, I guess, eh?

Generally speaking, this SoloQuest was a solid and enjoyable experience. I preferred the solo adventure from the Call of Cthulhu Starter Set, however. Maybe it’s because I’m such a giant horror gaming fan, but maybe it’s because it’s so innovative. It is actually the first booklet in the Call of Cthulhu Starter Set box: it makes you go through a simple version of character creation as part of the first few steps in the story, and follows by teaching you the rules in an interactive way. This makes getting into Call of Cthulhu so easy and entertaining! In comparison, the RuneQuest Starter Set has a more “standard” setup, where you first learn about the rules, then the setting, and then you play a game to see if you got it all correctly. The innovation of having this first game be a solo adventure remains, however, so the RuneQuest Starter Set keeps a leg up on the non-Chaosium competition. I don’t know if Chaosium could have done it differently anyway, since RuneQuest and Glorantha are much more complex to grasp than Call of Cthulhu and, well, Earth… I would love to read a “Designer Diary” about whether they tried it!

Book 4: Adventures

I’m obviously not going to say much about the last booklet in the box, since it contains the adventures and I’m trying to keep this review spoiler-free. What I can say is that it contains three adventures, and a few adventure seeds and rumours for further gaming.

The first adventure has a pretty simple premise that will work wonders for players migrating from other fantasy games like D&D or Pathfinder. You can see an actual play of it here, courtesy of the Glass Cannon. But I think it lacks in Gloranthan flavour, and for a “first contact” I much prefer the Quickstart adventure “The Broken Tower”, which is free to download in PDF.

The second adventure is great because it has the kind of stuff I like, such as a big investigation element. Both the first and second adventures are also well anchored into recent events of the setting, which is great.

The last adventure is an update of The Rainbow Mounds, originally from the Apple Lane supplement (now available in Print-on-Demand), where the players are sent to the titular caves. This is a classic Gloranthan dungeon crawl, where the dungeon has a fine backstory, its inhabitants have agendas and reasons to live there, and things are more complicated than they seem.

Pre-Generated Characters

The last material in the RuneQuest Starter Set is a pile of 14 (fourteen!) pre-generated characters. Surely there will be enough choice to mitigate the lack of character creation rules: these pre-gens range from a blood-thirsty axe-wielding Babeester Gori, to a pacifist Chalana Arroy healer, to a “reformed” Lunar soldier, and more. The heroine of the SoloQuest book, Vasana, is of course there too.

These pre-gens come in fancy “folio” format, as previously seen in the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay Starter Set (which also forgoes character creation rules, by the way), and you can see the resemblance:

RuneQuest © 2021 Chaosium Inc., Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay © 2021 Cubicle7

WFRP’s folios are printed on thick paper, so the RuneQuest ones feel flimsy in comparison. On the other hand, WFRP only offers six pre-gens, so there must have been a compromise there.

RuneQuest © 2021 Chaosium Inc., Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay © 2021 Cubicle7
RuneQuest © 2021 Chaosium Inc., Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay © 2021 Cubicle7

Another small problem is with what goes where. WFRP puts all the character’s abilities in the folio’s interior: the side panels’ exterior only has character background (above, right). RuneQuest’s folios have the character’s Runes on the left panel’s exterior (above, left), which means you have to flip it open and closed depending on what ability score you need… it’s easy, at least at first, to look for a Rune rating for a while before remembering that it’s on the other side.


Overall, the RuneQuest Starter Set is a fantastic product, especially given the very low price tag of about $30 USD. In my opinion, it sits firmly in the now triumvirate of the best RPG Starter Sets on the market today: Call of Cthulhu, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, and RuneQuest. With two of them from Chaosium, and all three based on class-less D100 systems, one might say I’m biased… but I’m ready to argue my points if needed! Well… who am I kidding… I’m a software engineer and I’m French: of course I’m ready to argue anything.

One of Chaosium’s goals was to make this product useful even for veterans of RuneQuest and Glorantha, and I think they have greatly succeeded here. Out of a total of 272 pages across all four booklets, there’s about 185 pages of new material, from the Jonstown write-up to the SoloQuest and adventures: that’s more that two-thirds of useful stuff for someone who already owns the core rulebook! The poster map of Sartar, the pre-gens, and the Strike Rank Tracker are just icing on the cake at this point!

RuneQuest and Khan of Khans © 2021 Chaosium Inc.

My final advice is that the best “introduction to Glorantha” combo is to offer one gift for your RPG nerd friend, and one gift for their family: the RuneQuest Starter Set plus Khan of Khans is your best bet at a successful summoning spell for your gaming table!

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 had a LOT of posts by Jeff on the Facebook groups, a new Glorantha Initiation Series episode, and that leaves little room for anything else in this issue of the Journal.

God Learner Sorcery

We are now occupying a nice little tower with a long history of previous occupants who have left behind documents, tablets, artifacts, and other kinds of junk. As we clean up and archive these things, we share the most interesting ones with you.

Initiation Series Episode 2

We released the second episode of our “Glorantha newbies” interview series. Our guest Russano Greenstripe talks about bringing Glorantha to D&D, finding inspiration in the Guide, and struggling to convince people to play RuneQuest. Check it out!

A History of the Glowline

I wrote an article about the history of the Glowline rules in RuneQuest over the editions… Don’t ask me why, I think it was just fun to look through a bunch of books and PDFs. Keep reading into the “Jeff’s Notes” section for Jeff’s in-world take on the Glowline, though!

Chaosium News

Here are this week’s Chaosium news!

New Gamemaster Month 2022

© 2021 Chaosium Inc & Monte Cook Games

Every January, the people at Monte Cook Games (who publish chunky good stuff like Numenera and Ptolus) organize “New Gamemaster Month“, an initiative focused on helping people make the jump from player to GM (or go straight to GM, too, I guess, that works). They provide several resources for getting started on a few handpicked games, with an active community ready to help on Facebook, Discord, and other places.

For 2022, the game picks include several of my absolute favourites (Delta Green, Unknown Armies, Trail of Cthulhu). As you might have guessed, the selection also includes our good old RuneQuest. You can even get a 10% discount on the core rulebook and/or the starter set to get yourself started…. then, in January, the website will start featuring articles with instructions for preparing and running your first game. So keep an eye on that if you or someone you know wants to start GMing RuneQuest or any of these other fine games.

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!

Hsunchen of the East

© 2021 Paul Baker & Chaosium Inc.

Paul Baker continues his exploration of Genertela outside of Dragon Pass, with a sourcebook on two eastern Hsunchen tribes: some Yak folk, and some Tiger folk. It includes background and rules for creating characters belonging to these tribes.

Holiday Dorastor: Seven Hills

© 2021 Stormpearia & Chaosium Inc.

Meanwhile, Stormpearia continues to explore Dorastor (it’s so nice this time of year, isn’t it?) and in particular the area known as the Seven Hills. Expect the usual Stormpearia Dorastor goodness, such as foul creatures, new magic items and spells, and a scenario… or two… or… wait, no, there are eight (8!) scenarios in there! Simon Phipp and Leon Kirshtein promise us that they range from “beginner to advanced”, but I’m not sure I want to see what their idea of “beginner” is…

Holiday Dorastor: Krampuslauf

© 2021 Stormpearia & Chaosium Inc.

Apparently the previous 130 pages weren’t enough, so Stormpearia also released a much more modest 5 pages supplement to get in the holiday season spirit… have you been naughty or nice? Is Eurmal going to give you candy, or is Krampuslauf going to whip you?

The Company of the Dragon Gets Some Love

© 2021 Andrew Logan Montgomery & Chaosium Inc

No, I don’t mean it that way, you pervert! What I mean is that Andrew Logan Montgomery’s best selling campaign was featured in Geek Native’s “Other Best Selling Fantasy RPGs of 2021“. Congrats Andrew!

Other nice appearances on that list include some Warhammer material, Mythras’ Mythic Babylon sourcebook, and the aforementioned Ptolus monster of a book.

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.

Vasana’s Tattoos

We know that Jeff has been working with artist Anna Orlova to make detailed “turntable” illustrations of several key figures like Argrath and the Feathered Horse Queen (featured in a previous Journal issue). Jeff now shares that they’re also working on detailing exactly what tattoos they have, where, and what they mean. Here’s Vasana:

Art by Anna Orlova © 2021 Chaosium Inc.

We can spot Vasana’s initiation tattoos, clan and tribe tattoos, tattoos from other factions like the White Bull, and foci for various spells. Of note, there are also “ordeal tattoos” from particularly big feats such as heroquests or delves down Snakepipe Hollow. Pretty cool! You can glimpse the important events in Vasana’s life this way.

This helps us tremendously with achieving a higher level of artistic consistency – and also lets us gain insight into these characters.

Remember, these tattoos are going to be far more painful than modern tattoos. That pain serves a magical purpose as it allows the recipient to focus on them without seeing them – the pain enhances their magical nature.

The Good Old Times

Jeff talks about the difference between survivors of the God Time, and mortals:

Waertagi, Golden Wheel Dancers, Mistress Race Trolls, elder Giants, Brithini – Glorantha has many relics of the Godtime that exist (to the extent they still do) in defiance of the world of Time. They continue their ancient ways, often refusing to acknowledge or accept Time and its changes. All of these peoples are dying out to a greater or lesser extent. The Golden Wheel Dancers were presumed extinct, at least until 1621.

Mortals, on the other hands, “have proven most successful in Time”. They experience the God Time (through worship and heroquesting and Rune Magic and so on), but as means to affect the mundane world.

Such mortals – in particular, the Orlanthi, the Lunars, and the Malkioni – have played a disproportionate role in the History of Time.

The Orlanthi and Malkioni are not trying to “revive” the good old times of the Storm Age or whatever. They are just tapping into it to be more successful here and now.

They are all good at recognizing the value of an old story or myth at providing guidance for dealing with a different now – but they also can see that the story is not a perfect guide.


The Orlanthi know that their greatest hero – Harmast Barefoot – assembled the pieces of the Lightbringers Quest from countless stories. And they also know that those stories were not sufficient guidance for him to complete the Lightbringers Quest. He needed to bring in new elements and new experiences to succeed.How do they know that? Because Harmast told them that. Twice.

The Lunars though are a bit more crazy:

They revived a dead goddess and created a Godtime inside of Time. And this Made in Time Godtime is being used at least in part to revive a Golden Age empire. The whole thing is a mad paradox worthy of Illumination points if studied for any length of time!

If you still want another big meta-plot lead (as if we didn’t have enough!), Jeff leaves this for you:

The idea of recreating the Empire of Wyrms Friends might have far more appeal though…..

Human Population in Dragon Pass

Would anyone think about the non-humans? Jeff goes over the early Dawn Age, when “the World Council of Friend (centered on Dragon Pass) united five mortal species, each of roughly equal strength and numbers – humans, trolls […], dragonewts, aldryami, and mostali”. Human population grew a bit faster than the other elder races, but it’s only in the Second Age that they became prominent, mostly because the others “tore themselves apart”.

In the Lunar Heartlands, most humans have likely never seen one of the Elder Races – certainly not the fearsome dragonewts or trolls, and even elves and dwarfs are rarely seen.

Things are different in Dragon Pass and the Holy Country. In the Holy Country, two of the sixths are dominated by Elder Races. Triolini are commonly seen in coastal areas and the trolls still rule their Shadow Plateau and in the Troll Woods.

In Dragon Pass, nonhumans occupied the region without ANY humans prior to about three centuries ago.

That was after the Dragonkill War, in 1120, when several Dream Dragons and True Dragons rose up and killed countless humans out of the blue. Well, not really out of the blue… the humans were threatening Dragonewt cities and nest eggs, I guess. Woops. That’s why you leave the Dragonewts alone now.

This was followed by a couple centuries of the “Inhuman Occupation”, when no humans were seen or dared enter in Dragon Pass. But of course we came back.

Since then, humans have regained their position as the dominant species, but still about a fifth of the population is non-human. Most humans have seen one of the Elder Races, and interaction is frequent. Beastmen, dragonewts, trolls, dwarfs, and elves are commonly seen, certainly along the roads and in the cities, but sometimes even in small villages. Morokanth are seen as often as any other of the Great Tribes, although they are feared (and often despised) as cruel slavers.

The Dragon Pass cultures are thus seen by many in the far West or in the Lunar Heartlands as being essentially non-human in some key regards.

So I guess I should have a lot more non-humans hanging around my markets in Sartar!

The Hill of Orlanth Victorious

Do your Orlanthi adventurers ever go on this pilgrimage?

It is roughly 20 miles from Boldhome to the Hill of Orlanth Victorious – a roughly comparable distance from the Akropolis of Athens to the sanctuary at Eleusis. No trade road connects the two, but countless Sartarites have made the pilgrimage.

During the rule of the Princes of Sartar, the Hill of Orlanth Victorious was where many Sacred Time rites were performed by many tribes and cults, overseen and supported by the Prince, and aided by the Red Vireo. People would travel from Boldhome, Jonstown, or beyond, take lodgings in nearby villages or camp in the fields. Priests and rune lords would offer sacrifices, perform rites and ceremonies, and Orlanth and his Lightbringers would be invoked by all.

The “Red Vireo” is not mentioned in any existing material, but will be in the upcoming Sartar Homeland boxed set: it’s the name of the clan whose lands include the sacred hill. See this map, previously shared by Jeff:

© 2021 Chaosium Inc

Having a big event like that in a game could be a big deal: besides the cool “Woodstock” or “Burning Man” vibe of a whole bunch of people camping together, this is a good opportunity to meet new NPCs, forge new ties, engage in gossip, and more…

Thousands of people, sometimes tens of thousands, would attend these rites. Priests and temples would jostle for priority, but for generations the Hill was under the direct protection of Hofstaring Treeleaper, a close ally to the Sartar Dynasty, and appeal to the Prince was thus rare.

There were of course many lesser celebrations of Sacred Time in Sartar, but the sacrifices at the Hill of Orlanth Victorious was THE celebration. The Prince, his household and companions, the leaders of the Lightbringers cults – all attended.

If you want a visual reference for the hill, Jeff suggests Bear Butte, in South Dakota:

Photo by Jerrye & Roy Klotz MD

After Starbrow’s Rebellion, the Hill was guarded by the Yelmalio Cult (instead of by Lunar soldiers), and the celebrations were much smaller (and notorious rebels were turned away from the hill). With the Liberation of Sartar in 1625, arranging the Sacred Time rites at the Hill of Orlanth Victorious were viewed by many to be the single most important and pressing priority of the new Prince.

Jeff notes that the Yelmalions guarding the Hill is “a direct repetition from the Greater Darkness“… that’s nice of them, although getting paid by the Lunars is not quite the same.

Don’t forget that the Hill of Orlanth Victorious is classified, in game terms, as a Great Temple, so there is bound to be a lot of associated cult activity, too, from sages and merchants to clowns and berserkers…

All the tribes of Sartar would be present, one way or another, temporarily setting aside any rivalry. However:

Of course some tribes are overrepresented – the Culbrea, the Cinsina, the Kheldon, not to mention the urban populations of Boldhome and Jonstown. And other tribes are underrepresented – the Ducks, Lismelder, Locaem, and Kultain are present in only small numbers if at all.

As the place from which Orlanth began his Lightbringer’s quest, and where Harmast Barefoot began two heroquests of that myth, the Hill of Orlanth Victorious has a pretty “permeable” boundary between the mundane world and the Other World:

Steps are taken to make sure the participants do not begin the Lightbringers Quest (as that quest is known to be extremely dangerous and unpredictable). For example, the Bad Rain is not normally summoned and the full ring not gathered.

But after the Liberation of Sartar, Prince Kallyr Starbrow begins preparations to perform the Lightbringers Quest (although she makes preparations to limit its dangers and unpredictability). Her quest, ultimately a failure, accelerates the Hero Wars and dissuades any from following in her footsteps for another generation, when Prince Argrath, desperate in the face of renewed Lunar might, performs the quest without any limitations or reservations.

Holy Places of Dragon Pass

Speaking of holy places where the boundary between worlds is thinner, Jeff gives a list of the notables ones: Hill of Orlanth Victorious (as we just saw), Kero Fin, Shake Land (which I assume is the area around the Shaker Temple?), Wild Temple, Quivin Peak, Dragons Eye, Caves of Chaos, Castle of Lead, Tarndisi’s Grove, Dryad Woods and Forest of Wondrous Beasts, and Arrowmound Peak.

I’m actually surprised to see Tarndisi’s Grove there: I assumed this one one of several elf groves around Dragon Pass, and not something special enough to make that kind of list. Or maybe all elf groves would make that list?

Many of these places have been centers of cult activity for centuries or even millennia. When you see them, you know that this is something wondrous and remarkable. Mortals gather at these places to interact with the Godtime, and spirits and gods can be easily contacted there.

Such magical locations have power comparable or greater than the greatest temples, even without the presence of the mortal worshipers. They are were great acts of Creation took place, where the world took its present form, or linger remnants of a world that otherwise died in the Great Darkness, or both.

What About the Triolini?

Jeff thinks that the Triolini don’t get enough attention in games centered around Dragon Pass, the Lunar Empire, or Prax… and I mean… yeah? There’s so much to do inland that adventurers probably don’t go down south to the shore very often.

It is worth considering that there are some 33,000 triolini in the Choralinthor Bay, mainly ludoch merfolk, but a smattering of mightier beings.

Fatalistic and often harshly practical, the ludoch are about as interested in landwalker politics as humans are in the conflicts beneath the sea. Their gods are often similarly ignored by the landbound species, but within their watery domain they are supreme.

I’ve always found the non-human pantheons overly simplistic, which can easily be explained out of game (people play humans the vast majority of the time, and therefore need more material there) and in-game (the God Learners who classified these deities are humanist elitist assholes… and I say that with much fondness in my heart). I think if I had a game that took a closer look at the merfolk, I would hint at little-known gods and heroes…

Until a little more than 40 years ago, the surface of the oceans were impassable to the landbound. Prior to that only the triolini had access to the blue waters. With the Opening of the Seas, the Mirrorsea ludoch are a tremendous ally for the sailors of Kethaela. They know (or can easily learn) the currents, conditions, and dangers of each body of water and can often intercede with the rulers of the waters on behalf of their friends.

One day I’ll get to play this long-distance trading campaign I’ve had in mind since I started reading about Glorantha. I think alliances and safe passage with the Triolini would feature just as much, and maybe more, as alliances and safe passage with various tribes, trolls, and other factions on land.

The Crimson Bat, and Other Terrors

Jeff mentions that, just like in Call of Cthulhu, the world of Glorantha is populated by horrible giant monsters: the Crimson Bat, Cwim, the Mother of Monsters, the Chaos Gaggle, the True Dragons, etc. The difference, Jeff posits, is that there are also heroes that are capable of defeating them, hinting that he has for instance seen games where Argrath defeats the Crimson Bat.

As a long time Call of Cthulhu player, I would add that the Mythos creatures have a few other things Gloranthan Terrors don’t have:

  1. A tendency to be a lot more “weirdly supernatural” (such as those who stalk you across time and manifest through acute angles, or those who are hyperdimensional beings who only appear as a color that can’t possibly perceive)
  2. An ability to blast your sanity way more effectively (Terrors have spot “fear” rules that arguably make these monsters more personalized and flavourful, but few have that kind of power, and their effects are never permanent)
  3. The ways to destroy them consistently involve corrupting yourself with their nature (I don’t think I’ve heard about anybody who had to take on a Chaos Taint to defeat a Terror, but that’s a great lead for an adventure if you ask me…)


But the presence of things like the Crimson Bat, as well the Lunar College of Magic, the Crater Makers, Jar-eel, the Full Moon Corps. etc – these are the backbone of the Lunar Empire’s incredible successes. The regular army units are better than average, but not powerful enough to defeat Sartar led by a member of its royal dynasty. But with its magicians, the Lunar Army can roll over most foes.

Unless of course they have their own magicians and heroes….

Jeff continues:

The importance of the Crimson Bat for the expansion of the Lunar Empire cannot be understated. We all know it is awesomely powerful in its own right, able to devour an entire regiment, spirits, and more – but it is also a Glowspot. Within about 10 miles of the Crimson Bat, Lunar magicians suffer no penalties even on crescent and dark Lunar phases.

The pinkish glow of the Crimson Bat can be seen for many miles, and its presence in the borderlands of the Lunar Empire strikes terror into the hearts of outsiders. One can assume if the Crimson Bat is heading your way it is accompanied by soldiers, magicians, and more.

During The Strong Making Peace wane, the Lunars used the Crimson Bat and Yara Aranis to strike fear into those nomads not led by Sheng Seleris – even those two demons were insufficient to strike against Sheng Seleris directly. But against tribal uprisings or confederations, they are normally more than sufficient.

I imagine there must be a big difference between a citizen’s view of the Empire, and that of a foreigner. The citizen’s view is about living in or near a city with art and culture and wealth and an idealized image of the Red Goddess and the upper class. People at the edge or outside of the empire see it as a ruthless imperialist machine with weapons of mass destruction, a highly corrupt and potentially insane ruling class, and a tendency to create their own enemies. Any similarity with a real-world nation would be coincidental…

That’s why I find it interesting to explore the difference between Passions like Hate, Devotion, and Loyalty to the Red Emperor vs the Red Goddess vs the Lunar Empire vs a specific nation like Tarsh.

About the Glowline

Speaking of the Lunar Empire, Jeff talked a bit more about the Glowline (and I did too in a recent blog post on its game mechanics):

Normally, Lunar Rune magic and Lunar magical techniques are only at full effectiveness three days out of the week. The other four days a week, Lunar magic is either underpowered or not available at all.

During the wars of the Zero, First, and Second Wanes, this was not that great of a disadvantage. Few of the Empire’s foes really understood the Lunar Cycle, and the Lunar magicians were a minority within the army. Most soldiers belonged to non-Lunar cults – Lodril, Yelm, Humakt, whatever – and were usually just lay members of the Seven Mothers. Lunar commanders would maneuever [sic] so that battle would occur on Empty or Full Half days, or even better during the Full Moon, so that the Lunar magicians could play a decisive role in the battle.

As the Lunar religion grew, more and more soldiers were members of Lunar cults, and the Lunar magicians grew in importance.

Jeff then explains that the Third Wane was a disaster, since Sheng Seleris figured out that he could outmaneuver the Lunars and force them to fight on waning days. This was especially easy since Sheng’s army was entirely composed of highly mobile horse-riding nomads.

© 2021 Chaosium Inc.

Yara Aranis was created to resolve this weakness. Her temples provided centers for magical defense, and the Glowline which they created eliminated the weakness of Dark and Crescent Moon days. Within the Glowline, it is always effectively Half Moon day. Lunar magic is fully effective, and the superior resources and training of the Lunar magicians mean that they are usually a match for any comparable number of opposing magicians. And since the Lunar empire has not foe capable of mustering a comparable number of opposing magicians, this means that within the Glowline there is almost no foe that can stand against the Lunar College of Magic.

Outside of the Glowline is another story. Four days out of the weak, the decisive arm of Lunar victory is denied to the Lunar Army. The Lunar Army tends to be tentative, hesitant, and easily routed outside of the Glowline, unless led by the Red Emperor, accompanied by the Crimson Bat, or led by a first tier leader like Fazzur Wideread.

If you’re wondering why Yana Aranis didn’t make the Glowline permanently “full moon” (which I looked at in my article from a purely game design perspective), Jeff gives a more in-world reply:

[It is] outside of her power. Can’t get something for nothing, not even for the Red Goddess.

And if you’re wondering why an expansionist empire would make costly stationary temples to support their magic, instead of an entire fleet of mobile Glowspots units, Jeff also has an explanation for you:

When they created the Glowline they were definitely NOT an imperialistic expansionist culture. They were a barely holding on, trying to survive being conquered by a World Conquerer.

Heroquesting Lunar Myths

While we are with the Lunars, here are some notes about heroquesting their myths:

Few non-Lunars have ever dared explore the experimental landscape of Lunar mythology. Most celestial cults are reluctant to look into the shadows, and the Earth cults rarely look up into the sky. Maybe some of those Water cults might take a back route there along the path of the Blue Moon, but who cares about merfolk!

This is generally interesting, and somewhat validates some hook I used recently in my game: elves were reluctant to heroquest into Darkness deities’ stories, and got the adventurers to do that for them… well, my players ended up refusing to go down in that pitch black hole so I guess it didn’t work, but fun times anyway.

So who might be bold enough to explore Lunar mythology? Jeff has two candidates in mind:

The more intrepid Darkness cults like Subere are comfortable in the deepest darkness of the Underworld and might be able to find some of those same paths. Heck, might know some of them better than She does. So if I were the Red Emperor I’d be cautiously wary of the trolls as much as I despise them as vile digijelm.

The other candidate would be a god famed for assembling a band of misfits and then forging a path through the deepest Underworld to its very bottom. One who was willing to get lost, to lose everything, in order to find the right path through the deepest darkness of the Underworld and then unite others to defeat the God of Chaos. One whose defining Quest is so very similar to that of the Red Goddess herself that it might be that his quest be uncomfortably near the source of Her power? Yes, I would keep on eye on that one as well.

To me however the question isn’t so much “who would dare heroquest into Lunar myths” but “what would they do with it”! Got any good scenario hooks? Please share them!


Let’s bounce down to the other side of Dragon Pass, to the city of Karse. It’s in Hendrikiland, south-east of Sartar, on the shore of the Mirrorsea Bay. Jeff notes that it’s very old, as it dates back to the Dawn.

© 2021 Chaosium Inc.

Karse has a fortifications all around, with two main gates – a Land Gate (the main gate) and a Sea Gate (that leads to the harbour).

A. Fortress. This fortress guards the harbor. It fell to an assault of dragonewts in 1619. It is now the base of operations of whoever rules the city.
B. Main City. Here are the temples, residences, markets, and warehouses. The enclosed area probably has several open areas, for tanning, and other crafts, or for storage of bulk goods or animals. I imagine there are a lot of inns – caravanserai – in the city.
C. The Beach. This is where boats are beached. There’s a ship shed for repair, maintenance, etc., that probably can house 20 ships. There’s a wall near the end of the harbor, past that small fishing boats are beached. Also on the Beach is the Sea Temple, with shrines to Magasta, Choralinthor, Diros, Dormal, and the gang.

The Harbor is a natural inlet that has been worked on for the last 1500 years.

Beyond the harbor are coastal pine woods and orchards, and a large fishing village.

Jeff provides a little bit more information in follow-up comments: elements of the cyclopean walls from before the Greater Darkness are probably still used, “but those are thousands of years old, and likely much has been replaced“.

This should be enough to flesh out the city for a campaign!

Jeff also recommends looking at Massalia as an Earth analog for Karse. Massalia is the ancient name for the contemporary city of Marseille, in Southern France. It was founded as a Greek colony around 600 BCE, and might have looked like this during its Hellenistic heyday:

Art by Jean-Claude Golvin © 2021

Notice the roughly rectangular harbour, with the city on the left side (when sailing in) in both Karse and Massalia. With this harbour, Karse is a notable trade city, so it is “going to have lots of inns and caravanserai as it is an entrepôt for the trade through Dragon Pass to Peloria and Prax“.

The city is no doubt filled with Sartarites and Esrolians, perhaps more than Heortlanders. There are likely some Etyries merchants still there, as they are protected by the Issaries cult, but I suspect most of the Seven Mothers cultists fled in 1624.

Jeff notes that in the early 1600s, Etyries merchants and Seven Mothers cultists would have been present too. Sure, they could report back on any war effort related to the Lunar invasion of Sartar, but so would Issaries merchants going to Peloria. There’s a lot of trade anywhere from Karse to Furthest.

Few Gloranthans believe in total war – certainly not the central Genertelans“, says Jeff, so all leaders across Dragon Pass prefer to keep the very lucrative tolls and taxes coming from trading rather than close their borders when a war is going on. In particular, the King’s Roads in Sartar are under the direct protection of the Prince of Sartar, whose main deity (Orlanth) is neutral towards the Etyries cult anyway.

Martin Helsdon added a bit of historical context if you have trouble reconciling war and trade going on in parallel. As often, I see these situations as opportunities for more fun and adventure. The adventurers might escort a caravan and be approached by spies of one faction or other, asking to carry secret messages, spy on their employer, or whatever else. They might find a route temporarily closed for a reason or other, and have to bribe their way through, or find a detour. They might even be framed, as a patrol searching their stuff finds something they shouldn’t have!

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.

Crawling Through the Rainbow Mounds

You might know the map by heart if you’ve played the Rainbow Mounds from its classic incarnation to its RuneQuest Starter Set revamp… but do you know how claustrophobic it feels when you’re actually inside? Fear not! Err… well, actually no, do fear!

D R is working on building the entire cave complex in Unreal Engine (a quite fine choice of game engine if I say so… ahem). Check it out:

According to some status update on the BRP forums, the modelling is done, but there’s still work to be done on the textures.

The Iconic Podcast Reviews the Starter Set

JM and Evan delve into the RuneQuest Starter Set for almost an hour, with the most in-depth review to date of this product.

A Cool Looking Wood Lord

Art by Fran Valdes © 2021

Fran Valdes painted this nice looking Aldryami warrior!

Aldriami vronkali, Wood Lord in arms. Runic cooper plate armor and sword. Spear head hasvested from a magic plant. Hail Aldria!!!

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.

Real-Life Dryad

I’ve seen this image popping up a lot in my feeds this week! Hard to say if it’s an image manipulation, or if the tree has been “nudged” into shape, or if it’s a totally natural occurrence, but it sure is a great art reference for a dryad:

Another nice one is the “dragon tree” in North Carolina:

Thank you for reading

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

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

Today I was nerd-sniped by a question on the BRP forums about the Glowline’s change from making it so that the Red Moon’s effect is always “full” (in RuneQuest 3) to always “half-full” (in HeroQuest and RuneQuest Glorantha)…

What’s the Glowline?

First, a bit of context: the Glowline is the geographical region under which the Red Moon’s light affects Lunar magic positively, and where Lunar citizens can always bask in the visible glory of the Red Goddess.

The Lunar Empire and most of its provinces are under its influence, and construction of additional Temples of the Reaching Moon extend this influence… when they’re not eaten by a big Brown Dragon rising from under them, that is (which is the inciting incident that kickstarts the 1625 timeline of the new RuneQuest Glorantha product line).

The Glowline Through the Editions

So I did a little archaeological digging about Lunar magic, Lunar cyclical effects, and the Glowline.

White Bear & Red Moon (1975) had the Glowline provide “Full Strength” to “cyclical Magicians”, and the Crimson Bat already had its own “wandering glowspot”. During the 80s, both RuneQuest 2 and 3 kept the full-strength of the Glowline with mentions in Cults of Terror (1981), Griffin Mountain (1981), and Gods of Glorantha (1985) among a couple others.

But although HeroQuest’s Sartar Companion (2010) also mentions a full-strength Glowline, I think it’s because it re-used the text from Cults of Terror for the Crimson Bat without a proper edit. As far as I can tell, the HeroWars and HeroQuest rulebooks (2000 and 2003) are the ones that introduced the concept of a Glowline that gives “neither bonus nor a penalty” to Lunar powers. According to the charts in these rulebooks, it corresponds to the half-moon phases. Pavis: Gateway to Adventure (2012) reiterates this statement of a half-moon moon inside the Glowline, which is then cemented in the Guide to Glorantha (2014).

The HeroWars and HeroQuest sourcebooks established another aspect of the Glowline, too:

Lunar worshippers who have learned the secret of their religion have an even greater connection to Sedenya. While within the Glowline, their Lunar magic is always boosted as if under a Full Moon. This
is a tremendous aid to the Empire when it defends itself from outsiders, and is one of the reasons for the great sense of security felt by Imperial citizens.

This creates a two-tier benefit for the Glowline: it acts as half-moon for Lunar cult initiates, but as full-moon for those who have “learned the secret of their religion”.

Our own Joerg posits that this “secret” might be a form of Illumination. I think it’s probably more about initiated into the Red Goddess’ cult, but being Illuminated is a prerequisite for it anyway, at least according to RuneQuest 3’s Gods of Glorantha. I guess we’ll know more when the Cults of Glorantha boxed set is released.

The “New” Glowline

Now if we put ourselves in the shoes of a designer who wanted to define Lunar magic for, say, an upcoming new version of RuneQuest firmly placed in Glorantha, we end up with a bit of a conundrum. We have a mix of texts saying that the Glowline gives “full strength” to Lunar magic, or that it acts as “full moon”, or that it gives “neither bonus nor a penalty”, or that it acts as “half moon”. Additionally, there are two existing RuneQuest rules on Lunar magic: one from Cults of Prax (1979) which has no lunar phase giving “neither bonus nor a penalty” (there’s either a limit on the size of Rune spells, or a boost on spell duration), and one from Gods of Glorantha (1985) which establishes half-moons as having no limits nor bonuses.

Given that Rune magic is a lot more powerful and freely available in HeroQuest, it makes sense to me that it introduced a two-tier approach to the Glowline, as mentioned earlier. It’s backwards compatible with White Bear & Red Moon, too, since that game was only concerned with elite Lunar sorcerer troops anyway. As Joerg says:

It can be safely assumed that all the units with cyclical phase in combat or magic would be ones initiated into the secrets of their respective Lunar denominations, hence the regiments receive full bonus.

One can even argue that it’s what RuneQuest 3’s Gods of Glorantha meant, since the text only mentions spells cast by “Lunar priests”, which would map to Rune Levels in RuneQuest Glorantha. As for Cults of Prax or Griffin Mountain, these were vastly unconcerned with the Glowline, being set in regions located outside of it, so… <shrug>?

With RuneQuest Glorantha also having freely available Rune Magic (not quite as much as HeroQuest, but much more than previous RuneQuest editions), and given Chaosium’s general stance that the Guide to Glorantha is the “ground truth”, I think it’s good that the latest edition went with what we have now for Lunar magic. That is: a Glowline that isn’t completely overpowered by default (it merely levels the playing field between Lunar Rune Magic and everybody else’s), but with some extra power for high-ranking Lunars.

Jeff gave his two cents on the topic:

Now [the Glowline] was [created] because Sheng Seleris quickly figured out that all he needed to do to beat Lunar armies was delay battle until the Dying/Black Moon phase and then use his superior mobility to force battle. Normally Lunar magic is only effective three days a week – Full Moon, Empty and Full Half Moons. Four days a week, Lunar magic is underpowered and two days a week it is effectively useless. The Glowline resolves a giant weakness in the Lunar magical system – which is powerful enough. It means that all of the time, all Lunar spells are available and freely stackable.

Funnily enough, the Glorantha Bestiary for RuneQuest Glorantha retained the old text from Cults of Terror: the entry for the Crimson Bat mentions that the Glowline makes the Red Moon always full… this text has travelled pretty far and wide! Like the Crimson Bat!

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

Art from King of Dragon Pass, by A-Sharp

On this second episode of the Glorantha Initiation Series, we interview Russano Greenstripe.

Russsano discovered Glorantha with King of Dragon Pass, a game by A-Sharp, available on pretty much any platforms you’d want to play on.

If he could start a Gloranthan game, Russano would pick QuestWorlds as a ruleset. In the meantime, he has brought Eurmal to his in D&D game. We also discuss 13th Age: Glorantha, available from Chaosium. The core system is available from Pelgrane Press.

D’Aulaires Book of Greek Myths is available on Amazon and most probably in your friendly local bookstore.

The music album Carmen Miranda’s Ghost is on YouTube.

Information on Greg Stolze’s REIGN is available here, including access to PDFs and Print-on-Demand of the first edition. Information on GODLIKE is available from ArcDream. Unknown Armies is available from Atlas Games.

Visit the Wyvern’s Tale in North Carolina!

The (unofficial) Chaosium Discord is found here. The Cult of Chaos Discord is for members of the (free and easy to join) Cult of Chaos.

Archives of old Gloranthan discussions are on Tapatalk (such as here), but there’s also a lot on Chaosium’s Well of Daliath. The old mailing lists are archived here by a good Samaritan.

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

This is a short week: neither Jeff nor us wrote anything. But at least Jeff has an excuse: the week was dominated by the release of the latest RuneQuest book!

Chaosium News

Here are this week’s Chaosium news!

The RuneQuest Weapons & Equipment PDF it Out!

© 2021 Chaosium Inc.

The Weapons & Equipment sourcebook for RuneQuest is out in PDF!

From the little I’ve read so far it’s a great addition to the RuneQuest line. Like the Bestiary before it, it’s a lot more than what you’d think at first glance. Both books are not just a list of creature or equipment stats because, in traditional Gloranthan fashion, they firmly anchor these creatures and items in the setting, providing extremely valuable world-building in the process. In particular, the Weapons & Equipment books provides much welcome information on the everyday life of the people of Dragon Pass. So if you’re not too interested in the book because you felt the rulebook was providing enough, know that there’s a lot more to it than extra tables of swords and shields!

Also, it feels like I spotted the Beer With Teeth mark in some of the more archeological flourishes of the text… I can tell, because I learned a whole bunch of new words!

ChaosiumCon Events

Chaosium has released a preliminary list of the events that will run during ChaosiumCon! Seminars, VIP game sessions, community content creator game sessions, an auction, a Gloranthan LARP, and more… this is exciting!

Also, ChaosiumCon is now accepting submissions for events!

In addition to Call of Cthulhu, RuneQuest, Pendragon and 7th Sea, we want everything from the entire history of Chaosium. Run that game of Stormbringer! Or run something new, such as Würm. Who has some decks of Mythos they want to play? 

You just have to fill up a Google Form document to get started.

(Ludovic writing here) Note that if everything goes well (which often doesn’t these days…), I’ll be at ChaosiumCon. I hope some of you will come say hello!

Primers on Orlanth and Ernalda

Chaosium’s James Coquillat started a series of interviews with Jeff Richard on the deities of Glorantha. The first two videos are out, on Orlanth and Ernalda respectively. They’re great short primers that are appropriate to forward to some new RuneQuest players, for instance.

Elf Pack Manuscript Completed

Shannon Appelcline has completed his manuscript for the upcoming Aldryami sourcebook, currently called “Elf Pack” as a sort-of call back to the original “Trollpak” sourcebook.

That’s not the only reference to it since the manuscript is similarly divided into 3 section: “Book of Aldryami” (for creating and playing elves), “Aldryami Lore” (elf legends and history), and “Into the Woods” (elf adventures). The whole thing comes up to a whooping 137000 words, including a few funny extras, again like Trollpak:

I also wrote a few handouts that could go in a box, including elf poetry in “triku” (treeku?) form.

Shannon shared some information about the making of the book:

This is my third take on Gloranthan elves, one of the previous ones published (for MRQ), one not (for HQ). I am quite confident that it’s the best of the set. I was happy with my MRQ book, but it was written *very* quickly; while the unpublished HQ book was too big picture, making it more of a worldwide Guide than a gameable supplement. But this time, Jeff had defined a very gameable line for RQ:G, centered on Dragon Pass, so that ensured that my book would be very gameable too.

That also led me to writing my four goals for the book:
1. Depict an alien race
2. Create a fantastical sense of wonder
3. Make everything very playable
4. Make much of the material very local

Don’t get too excited yet though: the manuscript still need to go through editing, art direction, layout, and so on, so I don’t imagine we’ll see its printed dead tree pages until 2024 or something.

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!

Secrets of HeroQuest is Available in POD

© 2021 Stormspearia & Chaosium Inc.

Simon Phipp’s Secrets of HeroQuesting is now available in hardcover on DriveThruRPG. The book gives you Simon’s, err, secrets on, err, heroquesting.

The Seven Tailed Wolf is Coming

© 2021 Andrew Logan Montgomery & Chaosium Inc.

Andrew Logan Montgomery is teasing the third instalment in the Haraborn series, after Six Seasons in Sartar and Company of the Dragon. It features adventures for the surviving members of the Haraborn clan who come back once again to their lands, plus some material originally intended for the first two books that was cut for space.

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.

Teasing the Periplus of Southern Genertela

Martin Helsdon (of the Armies & Enemies of Dragon Pass fame) has been writing a “Periplus of Southern Genertela”, a half-fiction, half-fake-archeological-item where the narrator travels around the Holy Country and beyond, telling of their travels and encounters. He was posting them on Facebook at first but it quickly grew too big for that. So he has made a book, and recently commissioned Katrin Dirim to illustrate it. Here’s a sneak peek, courtesy of Fenris Games:

It’s unclear where that book will be available from, though: the rules of the Jonstown Compendium exclude the possibility of publishing non-gaming material such as pure fiction.

Weapons & Equipment Reviews

Some people apparently read a LOT faster than me, or just, you know, have a lot more free time to dedicate to reading RPG books. Probably a mix of both… lucky bastards. But anyway, sure enough, the new RuneQuest book has a few reviews already available, in case my little blurb up there didn’t convince you.

Andrew Logan Montgomery (of Six Seasons in Sartar‘s fame) does a good overview of the book’s contents, with a sprinkle of his opinion on the book:

Look, it is easy to call anyone of these titles “indispensable.” The Red Book of Magic is the “indispensable” guide to spirit and Rune magic, the Glorantha Bestiary is the “indispensable” book of Gloranthan monsters, beasts, and Elder Races. But Weapons & Equipment is different. GMs and players should both want to have this, because even just reading random sections of it, Glorantha springs to life. It is like going from 2 to 3D.

RPG Imaginings already has a video, too:

On Twitter, he says:

RuneQuest’s new Weapons and Equipment supplement deftly avoids one of my biggest gripes in fantasy TTRPGs: it is not about bigger numbers for your hit-point smasher. Chaosium’s RuneQuest stands apart by putting culture and setting first.

Weaving Stories in RuneQuest

SkullDixon has a lengthy but very interesting play report over on his blog, titled “Baboons in the Apple Orchard“. He frames it as what to do during downtime, but the interesting bits for me were how he’s effectively weaving multiple storylines into his game (the original Apple Lane scenario, the new Apple Lane setting, the HeroWars “meta-plot”, including the upcoming Battle of Dangerford, and so on), and how he’s playing with time-frames with (that is: it’s not so much “what we do during downtime” for me and more “let’s fast-forward by a day or two here and there and let the story unfold over a longer time frame“, which is something I like doing occasionally).

Non-Violent Characters in RuneQuest

The Beer With Teeth blog is getting a lot of posts (you have to wonder if Diana has time for her day job anymore), but one that stood out was the collection of notes on creating and playing a non-violent character in RuneQuest. I’m looking forward to more notes from Xenofos about Lenta!

Citadel Miniatures Trolls

Photo and painting by Phil Leedell, miniatures by Citadel

Here are some lovely painted troll miniatures from back in the RuneQuest 2 days when the trolls had a folk-ish “old witch” sort of look, courtesy of Phil Leedell.

Phil also showed his great painting skills by reproducing one of the shield designs from the RuneQuest Starter Set’s SoloQuest cover:

Photo and painting by Phil Leedell

Esrolian Militia Miniatures

Photo by George Maczugowski

And here are some more miniatures, this time thanks to George Maczugowski. It’s an Esrolian Town Militia with “snazzy goose motif shields“!

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.

Where to Build Your Village

This is a great video for worldbuilding. Andrew Millison is a permaculture instructor, and what he says here can be used to put your Sartarite hamlets and towns in believable places, with building shapes, orientations, and distributions that make sense. There’s even a “fluvial geomorphology” aside that might give you ideas for how correctly placating the local naiad can affect the landscape and people (including the ability to not place your village “where it makes sense”!)

Thank you for reading

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