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!

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

God Learner Sorcery

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 6: Gamemastering RuneQuest

We have released a new episode of our podcast! We are joined by Jonstown Compendium authors Neil Gibson and Jon Webb to talk about the art of gamemastering RuneQuest Glorantha (although a lot of the discussion is generally applicable to many other RPGs). We discuss various tips and tricks to handle the system’s complexity, speed up combat, share game anecdotes, and generally agree on too much stuff…

Runic Rants: When You Don’t Know

Speaking of gamemastering, here’s a bunch of advice for GMs who are somewhat new to Glorantha:

[…] Start small, keep it simple, and so on. Between the fabulous Quickstart adventure, the excellent Gamemaster Screen Adventures book, and the great new Starter Set, you should have everything you need.

But Glorantha is a big and complicated setting, and as a gamemaster you’re bound to make “mistakes”, or get stuck with something you don’t know. Here’s some advice on that, from my short past couple years of RuneQuest.

It’s all in the article!

Chaosium News

Here are this week’s Chaosium news!

RuneQuest “All Stars” Game

The Brian Holland-led Starter Set adventure playthrough is now up on YouTube after having been streamed live last week. I haven’t watched it yet so I’ve got no comments on it… maybe next week!

ENWorld Interviews MOB

RPG news outfit ENWorld has an interview of Michael O’Brien on the topic of the upcoming ChaosiumCon. It mostly repeats the information you might have already read via Chaosium’s own channels, but with a sprinkle of extra anecdotes.

Jonstown Compendium

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

A History of Malkionism

Nick Brooke released some more out-of-print material, with some new illustrations by the awesome Katrin Dirim. It’s A History of Malkionism, which details parts of Western Genertela, including the Brithini, the Waertagi, and the Vadeli.

A Site to Die For

Here’s a new release from some new names, as far as I can tell. A Site to Die For is an adventure where your players will protect a week-long ceremony to consecrate a shrine to a Greydog Clan hero. Of course, there will be several enemies to defend against… and if your players are not playing in the Greydog Clan, you might be able to repurpose this book as something they can attack!

Six Seasons in Sartar Reaches Platinium Level

Six Seasons in Sartar is the first Jonstown Compendium title to reach Platinium Level! This means more than 1000 sales, which only less than 1.5% of all titles in DriveThruRPG (including “professional” titles) ever reach. Congratulations Andrew!

Nick Brooke on the Armies & Enemies of Dragon Pass

Still now sure about getting that big book? Nick Brooke goes over everything that’s inside to get you all hyped! Plus, some answers to common questions such as “why isn’t there a colour print edition?

Jonstown Compendium Sales Analysis

The ever productive Nick Brooke (does he ever sleep?) has an in-depth analysis of the Jonstown Compendium sales over on BRP Central and on the Chaosium blog. It includes pretty graphs, and you know I like pretty graphs as much as I like pretty maps.

There isn’t too much surprising data in there (although I like seeing how crazy Black Spear sold from the start!), but Nick always has some good conclusions to help Jonstown Compendium authors prepare, publish, and price their works. He was definitely a great pick as “embassador” for Chaosium.

Jeff’s Notes

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

The Spread of Grains

You guys know by now that I love maps, right? Well check this out:

Cartography by Matt Ryan © 2021 Chaosium Inc.

This is a work in progress map showing the spread of grains across Genertela. If you’re an ESL person and/or not very knowledgeable about agriculture (I’m both!), Jeff had previously posted about the different types of fields (thanks 7Tigers!):

  • Einkorn Wheat: “This cereal grain is relatively short, usually less than 70 centimeters tall. It can survive on poor, dry, marginal soils where other varieties of wheat will not.
  • Emmer Wheat: “This awned cereal grain gives good yields on poor soils.
  • Barley: “This cereal grain is a highly resilient crop, able to be grown in varied and marginal environments. It has a short growing season and is relatively drought tolerant.
  • Rye: “This cereal grain grows better than any other cereal on heavy clay and light sandy and infertile or drought-affected soils.
  • Spelt: “This husked wheat is adaptable to cold climates and is easy to store.
  • Oat: “This cereal grain is eaten chiefly as porridge. Oats are cold-tolerant and are unaffected by late frosts or snow.
  • Millet: “This annual grass is grown as a cereal grain. It can reach a height of 120 to 200 cm. It is well adapted to drought, low soil fertility, and high temperature.

Matt is still working on it (colours will be tweaked and typos fixed, don’t freak out!) so at this point I’m not sure how to read it yet. As far as I can tell each land goddesses has a “special” grain, which you can use in any heroquest involving the Flamal the Father of Seeds’ various unions with these deities. Imports and exports seems mostly balanced, except for Esrolia where it looks like they’re exporting more than they’re importing. This doesn’t necessarily translate to actual trade of goods, but it might be a factor for that country’s wealth.

Prax and The Wastes

And another map! Yay! This one is on Prax and the Wastes, with the green cross-hatching showing the fertile grounds:

Map courtesy of Jeff Richard © 2021 Chaosium Inc.

As far as most settled people are concerned, all of the Wastes are basically like Vulture Country – inhospitable to man and beast, with terrible dust storms (worst are those from the Copper Sands), and populated by broo, scorpion men, and other monsters.

But the Praxians know how to survive in the Wastes – Waha shows them the way. It is harsher and more demanding than fertile Prax, but herds can move from grassland to grassland protected by the nomads. Gods and spirits walk the Wastes – it was in the Wastes that Jaldon Goldentooth became a Hero. And it is there in the Wastes that Storm Bull defends the corrupted corpse of his friend and liege Genert.

If you’re simple-minded like me, your original understanding of the Praxian tribes might have been that Waha’s way was about surviving in Prax. Because they’re called “Praxian tribes”?

Well apparently not. Based on previous material shared by David Scott, it seems the Praxians spend most of their time in the Wastes:

During the Lunar Occupation, many Praxians exiled themselves to the Wastes. Many joined the White Bull Society, which began in the Wastes. Now they are returning to Prax at Argrath White Bull’s invitation, and they are making preparations for the Final War against Chaos.

And if you want maps of grazing regions in Prax, David Scott has you covered (there’s more in the next pages in the thread).

Note that the Praxian tribes being in the Wastes isn’t new to the Lunar Occupation. They’ve gone there many times, such as during the Second Age when the Pure Horse People invaded Prax. At some point, they also expanded northwards:

After the Dragonkill War and the closing of Dragon Pass, the Animal Nomads entered into a period of comparative calm and growth. Their intertribal warfare continued, often disintegrated into inter-clan fighting in the Genertelan Wastes. Yet they prospered, relieved at last of the troublesome influence of the civilizations in Dragon Pass. Minor adventures in the Holy Country, Kralorela, and Teshnos were viewed with alarm from the inhabitants of those regions, but their retaliatory raids failed to do long-lasting damage to the Animal Nomads. It is probably fortunate for those regions that the ancient ancestral grudge against the Horse Barbarians of Pent was greater than their lust from the luxuries of civilization.

Cut off from other areas of expansion the nomads expanded northward into Pent. This was a gradual process of many generations, yet proved inexorable. Both the Animal Nomads and the Horse Barbarians have stories about the famous battle of No-Feet-on-the-Ground, where even the sun and storm took part so that the earth itself recoiled and withdrew from contact with the battle. Its date is uncertain, and the multitude of conflicting information makes a sensible recollection impossible. Regardless, the battle was a disaster of immense proportions for the Horse Barbarians. They were split into East and West divisions, and reeling into civilized lands in the north. Their arrival in Peloria was during the Lunar Third Wane.

I actually much prefer these nomads being out the Wastes, personally. One thing I was bothered with when I started with Glorantha was how small Prax is for all these nomadic tribes… the size of the Wastes makes more sense to me.

Associated Deities

Jeff has some information on associated cults, and how much cross-pollination there is with priests and initiates of one cult participating in rituals of another:

For example. Ernalda’s husband deity participates in many of her mysteries – Orlanth in Sartar, Yelm in parts of Saird, etc. The Orlanth initiates gain access to some of Ernalda’s magic (but using Orlanth’s Rune points) and Ernalda gets their sacrifices and magic points.

I think we can see this in the White Bull campaign where a lot of the adventurers are at least lay members of several other cults, participating in their worship and getting Rune Points back by association. This shouldn’t be underestimated in a RuneQuest campaign, and only Humakt gets the short end of the stick, having no associated cults. Everybody else in the general Lightbringer pantheon has several associations. This is why Orlanth and Ernalda are so much more powerful as a cult choice.

Lunar Nobility

Jeff notes that there are many powerful families (or clans) surrounding the Red Emperor, all of which have some sort of kinship (distant or direct) to him. I’d love to play with this kind of court intrigue and imperial spycraft personally… Anyway, when you build Lunar patrons or villains for your campaign, make note of this:

Those “born in the red” are of course superior to those born while the mask was a mere mortal, although I have heard convincing speculation that only daughters are ever born in the red (Hwarin Dalthippa, Hon-eel, Jar-eel, etc.) but that might just be the murkiness of imperial genealogy. That being said, I am unaware of any confirmed son of Moonson.

The Silver Shadow Satrapy is filled with these imperial kin, but most Dara Happan nobles now claim at least some kinship with Moonson. Being descended from Moonson means that you are but a few generations from divinity and can claim descent from both the Red Goddess and Yelm!

Some of the most powerful clans are presented in the Guide. They include the satrapal clans like the Eel-arish and the Taran-il, think of these like daimyo clans in Imperial Japan. They are related, but conspire against each other, raise private armies, and fight with each other through assassination and secret wars. They are focused on the real prize, of course, and that is control of the Red Emperor and domination of the Lunar Empire itself.

“Satrapal clans” are family-run divisions of the Lunar Heartleands (as opposed to the Lunar Provinces).

The Daimyo were the classic feudal lords you see in the most popular stories set in Medieval Japan. They were subordinate to the Shoguns, and then to the Emperor (I’m not sure who the Shogun-equivalents would be in the Lunar Empire). If you’ve seen or heard any story set in, say, the Edo period, with samurai and ronins and all that cool stuff, think of the often complicated politics between regional lords always bickering and plotting among each other… like I said, I’d love to play in there!

Chaotic Features in the Lunar Empire

While we’re dealing with the Lunar Empire, how about a side-order of Chaos?

The Red Book of Magic had already hinted that the Red Goddess cult has access to the Chaos Gift spell, which grants someone with a Chaos Feature (temporarily) and a Chaos Rune affinity (permanently). Jeff also shared that this spell is granted (through cult associations, I assume) to senior priestesses of the Seven Mothers, and to several individual cults of these deities.

So let’s assume somewhere less than 1% of the Lunar population is tainted by Chaos, but that percentage is primarily in the ruling class or its henchmen.

Remember that a Chaos feature is much more than just a cool power – it is something that warps and mutates the recipient. Often it results in mutated horrors, but even when beneficial the results can be inhuman. People with features too smooth, uncanny valleys, exaggerated or grotesque body parts, and so on. But also those gifted have the sensation of wielding blasphemous power ripped out of the cosmos.

Now 99% of the population have never experienced Chaos Gift, but that less than 1% are tainted by the experience. Many are Illuminated, but many are not. Needless to say this likely has some cultural effect.

My own take on this “cultural effect” is that, depending on the place, the ruling class people would be seen either as perfect superior humans, alien creatures, horrible monsters to be feared, and so on. This would foster a different views and opinions on the difference between the leaders of the Empire, and the ideals of the Empire. There’s some interesting stuff to explore there.

Trading in Genertela

Genertela was not having a great time between the Closing of the Oceans (in the mid-900s) and the end of the Dragonkill War (in the mid 1100s).

[…] trade (and thus urban civilization) was minimal. Ralios and the Holy Country had contact through the Manirian Road – a series of caravans that went from Esrolia to Safelster and Tanisor.

Peloria was cut off from the south and Ralios, and had only the long river route down the Janube to Sog City. This route was controlled by the Carmanian Empire, but its long distance made it very expensive and slow.

It’s the founding of the Kingdom of Sartar (in 1492) that brought high-volume trade between the other main parts of the continent, especially as they build many roads and inns.

The Holy Country and Sartar grew wealthy hand in hand, and trade and cultural connections grew even stronger.

When the Opening took place in the 1580s, this became supercharged. Trade with the whole world became possible through the Holy Country, and spices, herbs, silks, and other exotic luxuries came across Dragon Pass into the Lunar Empire. The Lunar nobility greedily bought whatever luxuries they could, and coveted the great riches they brought the rulers of Sartar and the Holy Country.

In a follow-up post, Jeff expanded on the topic of trading, using silk as an example:

Silk is something found among the elites in the Heartland, in Lunar Tarsh, in Boldhome, and is quite common in Nochet, Rhigos, and Karse. Assuming the Lunar Empire has roughly the same level of elite access to silk as the later Roman Empire, it needs about 5 or 6 tons of silk per year.

Jeff then goes with some quick math. Let’s assume that Kralorela exports 10 tons of silk per year by ship through the Holy Country, and 6 tons of silk per year to the Kingdrom of Ignorance “to keep them quiet” (the Kingdrom of Ignorance used to be a great troll kingdom, and is now a decadent land ruled by “malignant humans who worship gods which would be best forgotten“).

The Holy Country keeps half the silk going through their ports, and the rest travels from Karse on northbound caravans. The Sartarite elite takes 1 ton of it as it passes through their lands, which is “enough silk for 800 silk tunics or 1600 silk dresses“. The Kingdom of Ignorance passes 2 tons of silk onto the Red-Haired Caravan (which I assume is a collective of merchants from the Red Hair Tribe of Pent) which also brings it to Peloria.

So that’s how the Lunar Empire gets their 6 tons of silk per year to keep the elite exquisitely clothed.

In theory, you could put that all in one big silk caravan, but of course it isn’t. Each caravan might have one mule with silk – but that still is enough for about 60 silk tunics, which is going to be a good return!

As an aside, if you’re wondering about spidersilk:

I suspect there is far more spidersilk produced in Dagori Inkarth (held to be superior for making of ropes and threads than the silkworm silk of Kralorela and Teshnos) than from [the Kingdom of] Ignorance. But it is also produced in much smaller amounts, coming only from the Aranea Cult.

Spidersilk is therefore more expensive, and first used by trolls for more practical things than fancy pajamas. If you like danger, you could try to start a new trade route starting from the Spiderwoods of Dorastor…

Anyway, now expand this trade volume to the “900 tons of goods that gets sent each year up from the Holy Country to Furthest“. Jeff does exactly that but his math didn’t seem to line up — I’m pretty sure it was just a typo in the first number, but I also figured it would be fun to do it myself! I’m also approaching it from a different methodology here.

A mule can apparently carry about 90kgs on average. That’s about 10000 mules a year passing through Sartar from the Holy Country to Peloria. Jeff splits them among 25 huge, large, and medium caravans. I’m going to tweak his numbers and say that a “huge” caravan is 1000 mules, a large one is 500 mules, and a medium one is 100 mules. This gives a split that’s very close to Jeff’s, with 4, 10, and 10 respectively of these caravans, for a total of 24 caravans moving northward along the King’s Roads.

If you consider a fixed point along those roads like, say, Jonstown, that’s one caravan passing through every two weeks. Jeff’s math comes up at one caravan passing through every two days, though… which would be possible in my model but with smaller caravans. But I figure that large caravans might stop at cities like Jonstown for a few days anyway. And if you add a similar trade volume coming the other way (from Peloria to the Holy Country), plus a smaller volume from Prax, we would indeed reach Jeff’s conclusion of one caravan every couple days.

These caravans are the life blood of the Kingdom of Sartar, and so keep that in mind when you think about the economics of the kingdom.

This is part of that big explosion in trade following the Opening – which interestingly is about the time the Red Emperor takes a personal interest in Dragon Pass.

Dawn Age Wenelia

How about some notes on Wenelia and the Pralori Elk People, which I frankly didn’t know much about until now?

First, let’s check out the Wenelia map from the Argan Argar Atlas:

© 2021 Chaosium Inc.

Wenelia is located between Maniria and the Holy Country, on the southern coast of Genertela. See these Wenelian Isles? There used to be a peninsula there, along with some bigger islands, before Slontos was sunk as part of the general cosmic backlash against the God Learners (which also sunk Jrustela and Seshnela, and Closed the Oceans). There’s a map of what it looked like in the Guide, but Jeff also shared his own historical map:

Map courtesy of Jeff Richard © 2021 Chaosium Inc.

So anyway the Pralori Elk People used to live here in Wenelia at the Dawn. These are Hsunchen people, so when we say they’re “elk people” we really mean it: they shapeshift into elks. They also tend to be more primitive than the cultures of Dragon Pass.

The traditional foes lived to the south and were called the Entruli. These were a branch of the Mraloti, or boar-folk, who had survived the Darkness in relative strength and delivered their civilization to their cousins after the sun rose. Thus, the Entruli ruled all of the peoples to the south.

So these people are fighting all the time like it’s still the Great Darkness, until:

In the year 97, the Entruli did what the Pralori could never do. Their ruler broke an ancient taboo which angered the gods. A great flood came rushing upon the land, drowning everything in its way and destroying the land. Only the capital, Porluftha, escaped because a Kolat clung madly to the buildings and held firm as the water washed over him. The city and its ancient inhabitants were preserved in a great air bubble undersea, lost to the outside world, undiscovered for many years.

I haven’t seen any references to this before, including a town called Porluftha, but according to the Guide the Mournful Sea (or Mournsea in the first modern map) used to be called Porluftan Sea! I guess we know where this underwater city roughly is…

Going back to the story, the Entruli and Pralori were still plundering each other, this time with the Pralori having the upper hand, but the Entruli got a break:

[…] there came a leader who was related to the old Entruli dynasty. He and his tribe came from the Shadowlands, where the Only Old One ruled over a nation of trolls and subject populations. A time had come when the Only Old One offered many of his subjects their freedom if they left his lands, or else commanded them to accept his rule.

This leader was Lalmor, of the Vathmai tribe. With the help of Aram Ya-Udram (whose descendants the Aramites, fun fact, became the hated Tusk Riders), he:

[…] united the Entruli, helped them rebuild their strongholds, and led them to a great victory in driving off the Pralori. He arrived in 115, was finished with his victories by 122, and died in 138.

King Lalmor’s arrival was more than simply a unification of the Entruli peoples. He brought a new religion with him, and he was also aided by many inhuman peoples. Lalmor came from Dragon Pass, where the Unity Council had been formed and where they worshiped the world-saving Lightbringers. Lalmor brought worship of Orlanth and his pantheon. With these new cults he was clearly ascendant.

So this is really the detailed story behind the Guide’s shorter account: “The people of Slontos were liberated from Pralori oppression in 115 by Lalmor of the Vathmai, a Theyalan tribe“. Shows you how much room you have to spin

After that the Theyelan missionaries spread from Entruli lands to meet the Pralori, who apparently received them well:

The Pralori recognized the superiority of the new gods over their own animistic spirits. It did not unify the tribe, nor did it split it.

The Lightbringers faith did not ensure the unity of the Entruli. After the death of Lalmor in 138 the Entruli heirs divided his lands into several kingdoms. Some were coastal and thrived upon the increasing sea-trade borne by the ship-living Waertagi race which ruled the surface waters. Some were buffer states between the coastal cities and the inland barbarians. Others were barbarian kingdoms living in woods and plains.

My mind immediately tries to find the connection between the aforementioned sunken city and the Waertagi. Is there already some material I have missed?

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.

RPG Imaginings Reviews the Starter Set

What it says on the tin: the RPG Imaginings channel, which fans of Call of Cthulhu would know very well, does a review of the RuneQuest Starter Set.

Andrew Logan Montgomery Interviews Claudia Loroff

The author of the aforementioned Six Seasons in Sartar has a nice treat for us on his blog: an interview with Claudia Loroff, who worked among other things on rewording and revamping the female-oriented cults in RuneQuest Glorantha. She’s also Jeff’s wife, by the way, and you can see her playing a Ty Kora Tek initiate in the White Bull Campaign stream.

The interview is mostly focused on the role of Ernalda, her cult, and her initiates, both in Glorantha itself and in gaming.

To make a long story short – your Ernaldan in your adventurer’s group is usually the key to get people to trust you and get their support. She can be very convincing, and her parties are legendary. 

At the same time, we had to make sure that she can be a real threat in a battle. An Earth Elemental is not funny and commanding swine can make the life of Tusk Riders very difficult. 

The whole interview is very interesting, including the origin of the pre-generated character Yanioth, how to deal with sex, pregnancy, and sacrifices in your campaign, and more!

Greg Stafford’s White Dwarf Interview

Do you read the GROGNARDIA blog yet? No? You should! It’s great!

James Maliszewski recently published an article about White Dwarf #17 (1980) which features a very interesting interview of Greg Stafford. There’s a lot of interesting stuff, such as what Greg had in mind when he created the main figures of the Hero Wars, how to pronounce White Bear & Red Moon’s acronym WB&RM, or what is the appeal of RPGs. Go check it out!

DiceBreaker’s Great RPGs That Aren’t D&D

DiceBreaker released a follow-up video to their original “10 Great RPGs That Aren’t D&D” (which featured surprisingly varied and opinionated choices… which is good!), with “6 More Great RPGs That Aren’t D&D“. Of course, since it’s here in this newsletter, you can bet they talk about some Glorantha game… RuneQuest, in this case.

[…] the game continues to stand-up as a singular in fantasy roleplaying, a mix of visionary world-building and ambitious gameplay that offers something very different to the likes of Dungeons & Dragons. A powerful meeting of realism and fantasy, it’s a tabletop RPG that has remained a cult classic for decades. It may not be as well known as Dungeons & Dragons, but it deserves to be discovered by more players.

Refereeing and Reflection, Reflecting on the Starter Set

The RPG blog Refereeing and Reflection did a pretty nice review of the RuneQuest Starter Set which delved into some “comparative reviewing” that I hadn’t seen yet so far. Mainly: the reviews delves into the similarities and differences between the RuneQuest, Call of Cthulhu, and Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay Starter Sets (they’re all great, get them all!). For instance:

Another important distinction is that whereas the Call of Cthulhu Starter Set included a compact character generation process, there are no character generation rules here. RuneQuest has always had a somewhat crunchier system than Call of Cthulhu and other Basic Roleplaying-derived games (after all, Basic Roleplaying was originally derived by taking RuneQuest and then pruning it back to the core), and the current edition is no exception – between their cultural backgrounds, Runic affiliations, passions, cult memberships, magic, and so on, your typical RuneQuest character simply has far more in the way of game mechanical moving parts than a Call of Cthulhu PC.

Read the full review here.

Six Ages Makes RPS’s Top 100 PC Games

© 2021 A-Sharp

Video games review website Rock Paper Shotgun has an annual Top 100 of their favourite PC games, and Six Ages made it on this year’s list at 77:

In 1999 we were visited on this earth by a fantasy tribal management game called King Of Dragon Pass. It was a blessed time. But those days are gone, and now… wait, what glimmering is that from the woods? Ah, it is Six Ages, the spiritual successor to that ancient game of decision-making and clan-gathering.

Art by Zoja Barylko

Jonstown Compendium authors take notice: you can get commissions from Zoja Barylko, who has a pretty original take on Glorantha! Top-left is a Maran Gor initiate, top-right are hippo-looking trolls, and bottom is a trollkin shop-keeper.

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.

Ancient Warfare Expert on Movie Battles

The Insider channel brought ancient-warfare Roel Konijnendijk to comment on a whole bunch of battle scenes from movies ranging from the Bronze Age to the Middle Ages and through a few real-world-influenced fantasy things like Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones. He provides a few very interesting nuggets of information, such as “how can ancient warriors tell who they’re supposed to stab?” over the course of both videos.

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’s Runic Rants column isn’t about RuneQuest rules, but about general gaming in Glorantha.

There’s a lot of straightforward advice out there for introducing new players to Glorantha (start small, keep it simple, and so on), but these are often geared towards these players being handled by a gamemaster who is already familiar with Glorantha. I didn’t find so much advice for when the gamemasters themselves are new to the setting… so what’s a Glorantha newbie gamemaster to do?

Well, my advice begins in a pretty similar way: start small, keep it simple, and so on. Between the fabulous Quickstart adventure, the excellent Gamemaster Screen Adventures book, and the great new Starter Set, you should have everything you need.

But Glorantha is a big and complicated setting, and as a gamemaster you’re bound to make “mistakes”, or get stuck with something you don’t know. Here’s some advice on that, from my short past couple years of RuneQuest.

When You Don’t Know

Ignore It or Postpone It

The first question to ask yourself is whether you need to know something. A player asks whether Sartarites wear brightly coloured clothes or earthy tones in order to know if they would stand out in the forest? It’s not too relevant because “not standing out in the forest” will be determined by a Hide or Scan roll anyway. You can describe the clothes any way you want, or not describe them at all, without impacting the game…1

If you want, make a note about it and research the topic in the following days. You can then bring it up at the start of the next session, possibly during the recap phase, and now everybody’s on the same page.

Make It Up and Move On

Most often you need to know something right now, because a player is asking a genuine question and your answer will inform their next steps.

The easiest kind of question in this category is the one for which you can make shit up without too many repercussions. The players might want to know if there’s an elf living in Clearwine, because they need some Aldryami translator. Sure! His name is… errr… (here you can fake looking through your notes) Nulye Ferncloak! He lives in the Lower City but often takes a walk through the vineyards, where he acts as a kind of consultant with the Earth Temple. Or something. Note that the most important question to ask yourself here isn’t whether it’s “correct” or not that there is an elf in Clearwine, but whether it’s best for the pacing of the adventure to have this Aldryami translator easily found nearby, or if it’s best to have a side-quest going to, say, Tarndisi’s Grove. And in the very unlikely event that some later published material makes a big deal that there isn’t any elf in Clearwine (so much so that your version of Clearwine having one is a problem), then maybe Nulye Ferncloak has moved away, or he’s very discrete, or something. I’m sure you can figure something out!

Another type of question is the one with multiple possible answers. For instance, the players might want to know if Orlanthi farmers are initiated into Orlanth Thunderous (with access to its magic), or into various cults (with access to various spells), or are simple uninitiated lay members. This is because they’re considering recruiting a few of those farmers to defend their lands against a possible Tusk Rider raid, and they need to know what kind of “firepower” that would represent… Well, just pick something among the few possible answers! Let’s say that, yes, farmers are typically initiates of Orlanth Thunderous. Great, now if the players can convince the farmers, they will have a number of Air Elementals and Thunderbolts to back them up. If you run your combats in a very simulated way, you’ll know the kind of magic that will be thrown around. And if you run your combats in a more narrative way (especially for the NPCs), this will let you describe the scene appropriately, compared to a version where the farmers are mostly brandishing axes and pitchforks.

There are many questions who similarly have only a few possible answers: is our clan riding horses or bisons or zebras or what? Which cult are the chieftain’s bodyguards part of? Do inns have only big common rooms, or individual rooms too? Do shamans only ever live in isolated huts in the wilderness, or do they also live in the city? Just pick whatever answer seems right, given your historical influences, your favourite movies and TV shows, the pacing of the adventure, whether it’s near the end of the game session, and so on.

But what happens if you picked “the wrong answer”? We’ll look at that shortly.

Last, there is the trickier case of the fairly open-ended questions. For example, your players are going to Caladraland in the Holy Country, and you have to expand the write-up of Solung from the one paragraph found in the Guide to Glorantha into a playable adventure site. If an official Caladraland book ever gets published, there is a very high chance that the city of Solung ends up quite different from whatever you invented. But that’s fine! You went there because you wanted to make your own stuff, right?

When You Were “Wrong”

Ok, you have answered many player questions and played through many exciting scenes, but as you read some random Chaosium book you realize you “messed up” and gave incorrect information. What are you going to do?

Acknowledge It, Correct It

The first option is to simply acknowledge the error and see if there’s anything you can do to correct it.

In one of my campaigns, a player asked if they could learn to read and write, and I incorrectly told them that literacy was a cult secret of Lhankor Mhy. Later I realized it wasn’t the case, and that Lhankor Mhy just asks for a lot of money to teach people to read and write. I corrected the information during the following game session, and talked to the player about it. We figured it wasn’t too important since he didn’t have enough money yet anyway. If he had, we might have retroactively added the Read/Write skill to his character sheet. This might have been a slight problem if it could have played a role in the last adventure, but in this case we could have hand-waved it by saying he might have missed the roll anyway.

It’s Local Variation

The second option is to say that whatever the players encountered in the past few sessions is still valid, but is actually uncommon.

For instance, maybe you decided that farmers are typically lay members of Barntar, but you realize they should typically be initiates of Orlanth Thunderous. Or vice versa (who knows, really?) Well, either way, you can say that whatever farmers the players encountered were of one type, but elsewhere it’s different! And in fact, it makes a lot more sense to me to have different traditions in different clans and regions, rather than a uniform world-building.

In the case of Lhankor Mhy temples offering literacy courses, it could also have been a local variation: maybe most temples do indeed let lay members pay for skill training, but somehow the PCs’ local temple is run by elitist assholes who refuse teach the general population. You can transform a simple mistake into a roleplaying and adventuring opportunity! Maybe the PC will now want to become a sage in order to reform this temple!

The “local variation” solution works for many things, too: geographical features, traditions, temples and cults, monsters, animals and plants, magic spells, and so on. When in doubt, just say it was different back there.

NPCs Are People Too

People make mistakes or have different priorities. Weird situations come up.

So maybe these farmers weren’t Orlanth initiates because they failed the requirements… don’t ask, it’s a sensitive subject. Maybe the clan chieftain shouldn’t have given you half the loot, but he was feeling rather generous that day, or underestimated the value of the stuff you took. The next time he sends you on a mission, you’ll definitely get less. Maybe that Lhankor Mhy sage refused to teach your reading and writing because he wanted to take a nap that day, or because there’s a book thief that looks exactly like you. Stranger things have happened!

It’s a Different Glorantha

Sometimes, you’re not really making a “mistake”, you’re just improving the setting!

For instance, maybe your players encounter a Bearwalker (Rune Lord of Odayla) who shapeshifts into a bear several days in a row. Later you realize that they’re only able to do that on a Wildday. You could use the “local variation” option, saying that this Rune Lord knows a special version of the Transform Self spell (meaning that he can maybe teach it to one of the PCs!), but you decide to ignore the rules instead: the spell works any day in your Glorantha. In my book, that’s an improvement! It makes Odayla cultists suck less, and it greatly simplifies having one in the party… who wants to bother tracking the day of week throughout a whole campaign?

Well, as often the case, this ran a lot longer than I thought! But hopefully this advice will appease some of the concerns new gamemasters have about running games in Glorantha. Do you have other concerns? Do you have other advice? Please share!

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

1 And if your players are the kind to ask for a Hide bonus because they’re wearing dark green clothes, you have other problems! Ask them whether it may actually be the other way around: that a higher Hide skill maybe means the characters has more inconspicuous clothing?

This topic was actually suggested to us by our guests Jon Webb and Neil Gibson.

Jon Webb is the initiator and an author of the four volumes of the Sandheart series, following the challenges of the militia of a remote Sun County hamlet. Also featured on the Chaosium Blog.

Neil Gibson returns after gracing us in our first God Learner Podcast episode, with ducks in the pipeline.


Starter Set out in the Wild

We talk about the solo-quest and the scenarios. Jon needs to maintain his innocence for a while until his GM has presented those scenarios, while Neil has already spoilered himself.

Neil talks about working on a solo-quest.

Jörg points out that the solo-quest is available online on the Chaosium website.

Equipment Guide

We discuss the fantastic cover of the upcoming Equipment Guide.

Ludo talks about a rather reserved reaction to receiving an equipment book.

Chaosium Convention

April 2022 in Ann Arbor: ticket sales have started on Chaosium’s website, and other than Ludo none of the panelists are planning to attend due to distance and distancing.

We speculate on Chaosium Conventions elsewhere, and Neil reports that 2022 is not going to have an Australian one due to the pandemic.

Main Topic – Gamesmastering in Glorantha

Jon confesses that listening to episode 1 and talking about different styles of play gave him the idea for this episode.

Types of Campaigns

Ludo addresses the amount of crunch GMing RuneQuest brings compared to other games, and how that can become tricky at times.

Neil talks about his current campaign using the Sandheart books, how entire sessions can go on without combat as he uses the scenarios in the series and encounters or player-driven activities in between, and a mix of scenarios – both dungeon-bashing and bouts of negotiation and diplomacy.

Jon (unsurprisingly) has similar experiences, and mentions how Call of Cthulhu altered his GMing style, and how that may have changed his gaming group as well. He also talks about giving his players complete freedom as both he and his group dislike railroads, and how deadly combat will be (both in Cthulhu and RQG).

Ludo addresses lessons from horror and investigation rpgs, finding solutions to problems like pacing and mood and how to have the story progress.

Jörg has a railroad through the stories in his sandbox, with the players ignoring the rails, and how his games are character-driven both in the sense of character background and in the players’ ambitions for their characters. And how that can make pre-written scenarios harder to use.

Neil observes that the White Bull campaign run by Jeff Richard appears to be very Argrath-driven (as the titular NPC patron).

Ludo goes off-script discussing how the meta-plot can ground the characters into the world.

Neil expounds how being followers of Vega Goldbreath, in opposition to Count Belvani,

Making big changes to the timeline.

Subsystems in RuneQuest

Ability rolls, simple skill rolls, opposed rolls, chained rolls

Jon shies away from repeated rolls on the same skill, e.g. Track.

Neil tells an anecdote about rolling to disembark, and how a fumble doing that carried over into the combat.

Ludo plugs one of his Runic Rants articles on opposed rolls, ties, etc. and how a tied roll will change the playing field to different skills.

Jörg breaks a lance for repeated rolls analogous to combat. Ludo mentions extended contests and how a ticking clock will be a diminishing resource.

GM-Screen Usage

Neil talks about how playing online replaces the GM screen. There are rolls that the GM does rather than the players.

Jon values the brutal honesty of the rolls, even if it leads to total party kills.

Ludo talks about dice-driven games, and when he overrides the dice for the sake of a good epic story. RuneQuest with its Old School vibes can go either way.

Jörg talks about player-initiated combats vs. scripted combats, and how the scripted ones may be a lot less deadly or a bit harder as there may be ways to reinforce the story – to a certain degree. Also, turning a hopeless situation into a “barely survived as prisoners” situation (as in many a James Bond movie).

Another option is invoking heroquest conditions at a point, where the more magical environment may offer new options, and how the change in environment makes the appearance of a deity less of an ex machina. New complications may bring new options to resolve a situation.

Players rolling GM rolls – shifting the blame to the players

Leaving the gritty details like the hit location after a successful opponent’s hit to the player with the affected character.

Split parties open up the players whose characters aren’t involved in a conflict to roll the other players’ opposition. Also, in big combats, players would take over other players’ characters’ opponents and roll against them.

Ludo talks about opportunities to flip dice rolled behind the screen before revealing.

Phantom rolls, or how to stoke player paranoia with leading questions.

Rules Discipline

Diligent book-keeping and adherence. But YGGPMV – your Gloranthan game-play may vary. And game fun rules.

Not all opponents need to be at full health at the start of a combat, either.

Neil asks for name generation on the fly. Ludo comes prepared there, with lists of names, and possibly lists of personalities and motivations, too.

“Bor-ees Jan’s Son.”

Neil and Ludo use spread-sheets of all the NPCs, color-coded for attitude etc.

NPC passions, or NPC morale.

Jon advodates two modes of play – non-combat free-flowing or round-based, where only combat-related information is used. He also avoids rolling for interactions between NPCs, narrating those.

Neil laments the occasional loss of finely crafted monsters to dice luck, and we discuss ways around it, as in “monsters have mothers too”, or “it’s the same monster but with a moustache”. (Which may apply to the monster’s mother…)

When to roll, when not to roll

“If you win, the NPCs win, if you lose, they lose.”

Distributing rules mastery to the players.

Limiting players’ time for questions.

Statement of Intent. Changing intent (resulting in delays, or at lowered chances of success).

Battle Map vs. Theater of the Mind

Preparing maps for Roll 20 and similar, or for tabletop combat.

Clutter in the scene.

Different scales on battle maps.

Strike Ranks in the game as a hindrance? Strike rank tracker (as in the Starter Set).

Paired-off combatants when all player characters are engaged vs strict sequence of strike ranks.

Speeding up combat

Rolling all dice at once.

NPC actions and motivations.

Not having to look up rules details (like spells, criticals) in the middle of combat.

Disengaging from combat

Conflicts with plenty extras

Party Death, Party Size

Divine Intervention reducing character deaths.

Occasional rune levels and their influence on the game,

Reaching rune level, frequency of experience checks.

POW or CHA 18 as hard goal on the way to rune level.

Lack of ambition enjoying the human side vs, career-oriented character concepts.

Skills lacking skill check boxes

How strictly do you play “next season” between adventures to resolve experience checks?

Gloranthan holidays as reasons to refuse the call to adventure, votive figures.

Reusable rune magic for all as slightly reduced motivation to make it to rune level.

Regaining rune points from associated worship.

Sanctifying for rune points from your own ceremonies.

Tips for managing danger or threat levels.

Occasionally getting the match wrong after 30 years of GMing.

One trollkin with a critical head-shot will topple any balance.

Playing monsters sharper or dumber.

Overplaying your monsters.

The whack-a-mole monster where a monster offers few occasions to hit it.

Monsters beyond accidental kills by lucky rolls.

No clever last words…

Where to find our guests

The Sandheart books:
Tales of the Sun County Militia: Sandheart Volume One
The Corn Dolls & Fortunate Sun: Sandheart Volume Two
Tradition: Sandheart Volume Three
The God Skin & Mad Prax: Sandheart Volume Four

Neil calls for volunteers for his work-in-progress, a duck soloquest. Contact Neil on the RuneQuest & Glorantha Discord server (@BOLG), on other discords like the Chaosium Discord, or failing all those via our email collective@godlearners.com. You might know Neil’s work from episode 1, like LEGION.


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