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.

Runic Rants: Experience Checks (Parts 2 and 3)

I got a bit too enthusiastic about this topic so instead of a two-part series it became a three-part series.. . The good news is that part 2 and part 3 have been published this week, so you can bask in the glory of my fancy graphs!

Chaosium News

Here are this week’s Chaosium news!

The RuneQuest Starter is Really Really Coming Out Soon We Promise

© 2021 Chaosium Inc.

The Chaosium marketing machine is currently busy with a Call of Cthulhu-filled Halloween season, since this year marks this amazing game’s 40th anniversary, but they took some time to update us on the much awaited RuneQuest Starter Set box:

The RuneQuest Starter Set is now in four of our five Chaosium fulfilment warehouses (US, EU, AUS, CAN) but we’re still waiting to get it into the last – UK. The shipment to the UK is on the way, but the latest advice is it may take another 5-14 days to arrive, depending on UK customs and truck driver availability at the destination.

Thanks, Brexiters!

RuneQuest en Francais

Not quite Chaosium news, but Chaosium-adjacent: Studio Deadcrows, the French licensee for RuneQuest, has received the first physical copies of their RuneQuest translations and extra contents (besides the rulebook and bestiary, that is, which are already out there).

Top left are some handouts and reference sheets. Middle top is a magic spells reference book which is not the Red Book of Magic — instead it’s just a reference booklet for spells found in the rulebook and bestiary, and in fact it was announced before we even knew about the Red Book of Magic.

Bottom left is the Glorantha Sourcebook, of course.

Top right and bottom right are the Dundealos-centered campaign called “Enfants de la Flamme” (“Children of the Flame”). This book (whose PDF is available to backers) contains a history of the Dundealos tribe, an in-depth description and map of Swentown, and six scenarios set in 1625 and 1626 that take adventurers from Swenville to Prax to the reconquest of ancestral Dundealos lands, and to a meetup with Argrath.

Jonstown Compendium

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

The Black Spear in Hardcover

© 2021 Nick Brooke, Mike O’Connor, and Chaosium Inc.

Well that was quick! Nick Brooke’s latest RuneQuest adventure is now available in both standard and premium print hardcover from DriveThruRPG.

The Howling Tower and Stone and Bone on Sale

© 2021 Devin Cutler, Nick Brooke, Dario Corallo, Gianni Vacca, and Chaosium Inc.

The Howling Tower is one sale for Halloween!

© 2021 Beer With Teeth and Chaosium Inc.

Also, Beer With Teeth have lowered the price of their Praxian encounter adventure Stone and Bone!

Coming Soon: Sandheart Volume 4

© 2021 Jon Webb and Chaosium Inc.

Jon Webb, author of the excellent Sandheart series of adventures, is showing us the cover of the imminent fourth volume, The God Skin & Mad Prax. It contains two adventures, one by Jon Webb and one by Michael O’Brien. You can grab Volume One, Volume Two, and Volume Three through these affiliate links!

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.

Lunar Tarsh Notes

Tarsh is a historically Orlanthi kingdom located northwest of Dragon Pass, but it fell under Lunar rule many generations ago — it’s now a Lunar province.

Cartography by Matt Ryan © 2021 Chaosium Inc.

Jeff tells us about the people living there:

About 35% of the population of Lunar Tarsh are members of Lunar cults and a little less than 20% of the population of Lunar Tarsh came from or are descended from settlers from the Lunar Heartlands. Now that is a big number – about 60,000 people – and is mostly concentrated in Furthest (where they make up the majority of the population) and along the Oslir River between Kordros Island and Talfort, with a few colonies on the Kordros Island and around Stopover. This is sometimes called the “Maize Belt” – at least by Matt Ryan and I!

Jeff recommends looking at Ancient Greek colonies in Persia, Syria, and Bactria as a model for Furthest and its surroundings — an island of Lunar Heartland culture in an otherwise Theyelan land. More specifically, Alexandria Eschate (“Furthest Alexandria”) sounds like a direct inspiration for Glorantha’s Furthest: an Imperial outpost in conquered lands, meant to radiate its owning Empire’s language and culture in a semi-independent way.

This worked to some degree: the people in this Maize Belt abandoned Orlanthi clan structures and are using “Pelorian kinship organization”, where networks of kin and associates are maintained through the kingdom. Lands are granted by the (Lunar) King, not by the Earth temples like in Sartar. In Furthest proper, 70% of people are members of Lunar cults, “which is higher than pretty much anywhere outside of Glamour.” Most interestingly: “unlike Glamour, in Furthest Lunar authority is not filtered through the Yelm cult but is there directly.”

Outside of this area, however, Orlanthi traditions continue, including lands divided by clan. But officials appointed by the provincial authorities in Furthest are responsible for managing disputes and local affairs, instead of some Orlanth Rex representative like in Sartar.


This is wonderful: Jeff has shared the full map of Sartarite tribes and clans. We already featured a similar map last week but this one contains The Far Place too, among other things… and this is actually throwing a big wrench in the world-building I did for my ongoing Alone Confederation campaign! But hey, this was bound to happen!1

Sketch by Jeff © 2021 Chaosium Inc.

Clans south of the Creek speak Sartarite, while those in the northern Far Place speak Tarshite. Jeff warns us that there might be errors here and there until Matt Ryan, Chaosium’s cartographer, makes this correct and pretty. Also, remember that this map only shows the terroritories “alloted to each clan by the major Earth temples”. In practice, “many clan members live in cities and settlements outside of their territories”, and herding can cross these lines. Of course, that’s not even counting contested territorial claims.

Among the top dozen or so most powerful and influential clans in Sartar would have be the Black Rock, Blue Jay, Heran, Ernaldoring, Orlmarth, Taraling, Orleving, Goodhaven, Red Cow, Danstarl, Jereni Bird, Vari, White Quartz, and Sigtani Clans. Some new clans with a lot of clout would have to include the Red Hands and the Sharp Knives. Prior to 1613, the Lorthing Clan would have been on that list, but not any more.

1 It’s not too bad, I can adjust a few things if I need to (such as if I want to publish something on the Jonstown Compendium that is compatible with Chaosium’s Glorantha).

Cults Memberships

Jeff has confirmed that the still-in-progress Cults Book for RuneQuest will contain a break-down of cult memberships by homelands and elder races. These homelands seem to stretch across Peloria, Dragon Pass, and the Wastes. This includes of course the Homelands of the rulebook’s character creation chapters, but also various Lunar provinces, different Praxian tribes, and Holy Country regions. For the Elder Races, different sub-types of Aldryami are mentioned, a split between Dagori Inkarth and the Shadow Plateau for the Uz, and more. See the full list here.

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.

Pookie Reviews the Red Book of Magic

© 2021 Chaosium Inc.

Prolific reviewer and editor Pookie, from Reviews From R’lyeh, gives us another one of his RuneQuest reviews with the Red Book of Magic:

[…] The Red Book of Magic is a resource in game and out, and thus any character–and thus his player or her Game Master—could consult its pages (barring technicalities such as literacy of course). Most of all though, with descriptions of hundreds of spells, The Red Book of Magic is a simple and accessible resource to have at the table, its size making it a lot easier to reference than the RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha rulebook.

Drowning Rules from Beer With Teeth

Diana “Berra” Probst has been on a blogging roll lately, and one of her latest articles tweaks the RuneQuest rules to make drowning slower and more realistic. And also mostly to prevent you from total-party-knock-outs!

All three times I recall drowning rules going into action in my games, it’s been three instant knock-outs to the chest. That’s not really how it works – drowning is slow IRL and pretty horrible. Magical healing also takes the punch out of the damage to a particular location, if you get there in time. So I have an alternative, which I use in games where I want to be nice to my players.

Sex and Gender in the Orlanthi

Andrew Logan Montgomery blogged about the (mostly solo) introduction adventures to Six Seasons in Sartar (which he wrote and is a best-seller on the Jonstown Compendium).

© 2021 Andrew Logan Montgomery and Chaosium Inc.

These mini-adventures introduce players to Sartarite society via their adulthood rituals, which are separated between Orlanth’s “Rite of Passage” and Ernalda’s “Riddle”. Andrew wrote these adventures by heavily drawing from Greg Stafford’s pre-existing write-ups (available here and here from the Well of Daliath’s archives). This division of children in two camps obviously opens up many questions regarding sex and gender, and Andrew makes a good effort to answer them in this article.

In the Orlanthi mind, then, “biological” sex is simply about procreation. Humans and animals are born male and female simply for there to be an orderly continuation of the species. It has nothing to do with gender. In fact sex has little to do with the essential nature or being of a person. […]

“Gender” is something deeper. Unlike “shape,” it determines the inner nature of the individual, their role in society, and most importantly which gods they are called to.

It’s one possible way to think about sex and gender in Orlanthi society, but it’s mostly a very good designer’s note for any gamemaster planning to run Six Seasons in Sartar.

Sweet 3D-Printed Props

Over on Discord, Pig_Soldier showed us some really cool props any Glorantha gamemaster would love to have around the table, setting the mood!

Gloranthan Armor

Let’s continue the awesomeness with Sardonicus over on Twitter, showing off some really cool Sartarite armor!

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.

Rytma by Ali Eser

Turkish artist Ali Eser is working on some project called Rytma, “set on an island inspired by mediterranean enironments“. Where in Glorantha could this be?

Alexander’s People by J.F. Oliveras

Another artist, this time from Spain! J.F. Oliveras is working on a project about Alexander the Great and his successors, and you can get a good look of that on his ArtStation.

Thank you for reading

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

Updates: a previous version of this article misattributed the Red Book of Magic review to SkullDixon instead of Pookie.

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

In the previous parts of this Runic Rants series, we looked at all the situations that give you an experience check, and at miscellaneous stuff like “check hunting” and house rules. So now you have your experience checks and you need to do something about them. This is what some people call “rolling your ticks” (as I learned recently). More boring people might call it “making your experience rolls” or whatever. I used to be boring until a couple weeks ago.

Doing this usually happens in some kind of “downtime”. As written, the rules recommend to have one adventure per in-game season (RQG page 8). This is because it’s assumed that the adventurers are busy with their various responsibilities for the rest of the season: cult duties, family duties, worshiping, farming, patrolling, training, research, meditation, and so on. So with that model, you “roll your ticks” after every adventure. Other people play it differently, however, but we’ll address that shortly.

Fifty to Hero

So how many downtimes (a.k.a. “tick rolling” sessions) does it take to raise an ability? Let’s bust out some graphs! Hopefully my math is correct. Come yell at me if it isn’t and I’ll fix it.

Below is a graph that shows ability improvement starting from 50%, and POW improvement starting from 12. In both cases, the red line is the median of one thousand runs, going through 100 downtimes (on the horizontal axis). The adventurer’s score is obviously on the vertical axis. The reason I’m counting the number of “downtimes” and not “seasons” here will become apparent in the second half of the article.

A good way to interpret these graphs is to figure out how long it might take to get to Rune Priest or Rune Lord level. You usually need:

  • A few skills or Passions at 90%.
  • POW or CHA at 18.

Some of the required skills and Passions might be pretty high from the start, but it’s possible that at least one or two of them are at 60% or less, especially if the player didn’t think too much about their future when creating the character. So on average it will take around 40 of these downtimes to get there, assuming you get an experience check every time. This should be easy thanks to the easily-missed (and previously mentioned) rule in RQG p416 that grants every adventurer up to four experience checks in occupational and cult skills.

POW goes faster, as it takes only around 25 downtimes to raise it from a lowly 12 to the required 18, but of course this will be significantly slowed down by POW sacrifices such as those to gain new Rune Magic. There’s no easy way to figure out how long it will take to reach POW 18 in practice, but we can see that the player can adjust their POW sacrifices as needed when the other requirements are closing in.

CHA is improved with training, which takes 2 seasons in game. With a 1D3-1 roll, it averages around +1 point every 2 seasons, so there’s no need for a graph. If the adventurer is dedicated (i.e. they train every season!), they can go from 12 to 18 in 12 seasons minimum. Probably even slightly faster if they get CHA bonuses from cool gear and reputable acts. Even if we were to double that time, CHA increase would still not be the blocking factor.

Training Extras

If you carefully read the text for the ability Training and Research rules (RQG p416), you might realize that you can train or research an ability that you have already increased through last adventure’s experience. This is because Training and Research don’t use the experience check, they are their own thing, handled differently. If you don’t believe me, see the Well of Daliath Q&A.

While Training and Research are very useful for increasing skills that don’t have checkboxes (which is very relevant to, say, Lhankor Mhy sages), they have the downside that, for those skills who do have a checkbox, they stop working once that skill reaches 75%. Still, that can come in handy. The graph below shows the same improvement curve starting at 50%, but with the adventurer going through a handful of training in the early part of the curve:

You can see the curve is much steeper until the score reaches 75%, and the ability now reaches 90% in about 30 downtimes, compared to about 40. So this makes a little bit of difference.

Since I mentioned Lhankor Mhy sages, those have requirements for skills that don’t have a checkbox, so those adventurers have to train or research to improve. Research is super slow, but training has the benefit of not having the diminishing returns of experience rolls. This lets an adventurer become weirdly forever better for as long as they can find a teacher that has a better score than them! By training every downtime, which yields +2.5% on average, they can raise a 50% ability to 90% in about 16 downtimes. This might be spread among two skills, though, in which case the sage’s free time starts to be torn between many different obligations, and reaching 90% can take more than twice that time.

Adventurer to Hero

Things are obviously better if you start with higher abilities, and RQG definitely lets players make very capable adventurers compared to previous editions. This also includes having positive skill category modifiers, which helps with experience rolls. In fact, getting positive skill category modifiers becomes more likely with time because CHA and POW (which players need to increase to reach Rune Level) often count towards them!

For instance, a +10% skill category modifier helps a bit, lowering the ~40 downtimes to slightly over 30 downtimes to go from 50% to 90%:

Below is the same graph (+10% skill category modifier) but starting from a 65% ability, and POW 15:

Now a competent adventurer can reach some of these Rune Level requirements in less than 25 downtimes. And if you were wondering about our Lhankor Mhy sage, stuck with skills without checkboxes, starting from 65% lets them reach 90% in only 10 downtimes, so they’re pretty good on that front too.

Want to throw in a handful of training sessions in the adventurer’s early years in addition to all of the above? Here it is:

Yay, we’ve gotten down to 20 downtimes! Do you have tips to optimize it further? Besides cheating on your dice rolls to get into the higher part of the blue area that gets to 90% in, like, 5 downtimes? Send your suggestions!

Ok, we stared at enough graphs now to make this website look pompous and academic (we are the God Learners after all). Also my brain has started to shut down. I think we can basically sum up that it will probably take between 20 and 40 “downtimes” to get to Rune Level? Let’s go with that until someone finds an error.

Now don’t get me wrong: the goal of these graphs isn’t about minmaxing characters: it’s about managing expectations, and figuring out when, and how often, to insert these “downtimes” (‘tick rolling” sessions) in a campaign. And this leads us to…

Downtime Frequency

Seasonal Play

If we follow the rulebook’s advice of seasonal adventuring, we basically get one downtime after every scenario. Assuming an average of three sessions to complete an adventure (that’s pretty fast in my book but let’s be optimistic), playing bi-weekly, that’s about 8 adventures every year.

If we boil down all those graphs I went through the trouble of making to “it takes between 20 and 40 downtimes to get to Rune Level“, it corresponds to between 2.5 and 5 years of non-stop campaign play to get that in-game cult promotion. It seems important to know that when you make a character, if Rune Levels are important to you!

Also worth noting with seasonal play: after 30 adventures, you will have advanced the in-game timeline by about 6 years. So if your players wanted to be Rune Priests in the time of Argrath’s rise, you’ll need to make some adjustments…

Of course, you’ll have to adjust all these estimates based on how often your group plays, how fast they go through adventures, and so on. If you play weekly instead of bi-weekly, everything will go faster. My point here is that both the gamemaster and the players need to have the correct expectations. Not everybody can commit to a 3+ years game, so if they’ve read about these cool powers you get when you become Rune Lord, they might become disappointed if that feels out of reach.

Freeform Play

I suspect that many campaigns ignore the seasonal adventuring framework offered by the rulebook, and instead just advance time as necessary. The Chaosium White Bull campaign is one such game after all!

This is particularly suited to campaigns where the adventurers are mercenaries in a warband, soldiers in a military unit, merchants doing lots of traveling for trade, treasure hunters living near the Big Rubble, or the good old party of “murder tourists”. In these campaigns, downtimes and other fast-forwards occur whenever the players say that they are settling down for a bit.

Now, “rolling the ticks” doesn’t really need to happen during an actual downtime. They could happen between two adventures that occur just a couple days apart. But in freeform play, such as a sandbox game, it’s sometimes unclear where one adventure ends and another one starts… it’s usually all non-stop drama and action and burning down villages. So based on the seasonal play’s estimates, I’d say that the gamemaster should still have players “roll their ticks” at least every handful of sessions, whenever the opportunity arises (camping for a night, spending a day shopping around, etc). In this model, “rolling the ticks” will often happen independently from the rest of the “Between Adventures” chapter stuff: training, research, holy day worship, and so on, happen only when the players actually do it in game.

Speeding Things Up

Even with seasonal play, the gamemaster can sprinkle extra “tick rolling” sessions during long adventures to keep the character progression going. Whether this only involves skills, or also Runes, Passions, and/or POW is up to the gamemaster.

Just as with the “Freeform Play” model above, these extra experience rolls can happen, for example, during a bit of travel between the different parts of an adventure, after an investigation phase that lasted a few days in-game, or simply after what feels like the end of a narrative arc inside that adventure. If it feels like the adventurers could have a bit of spare time to reflect on their recent actions and learn from them, it’s probably a good time to some some experience rolls if that hasn’t happened recently.

So after all this number crunching, I think you’ll want to put some thought in your character’s abilities at creation if you’re eyeing a Rune Lord position in your future. For instance, get those five cult skills and POW or CHA as high as possible from the beginning, otherwise it will take much longer to reach 90% and 18. I know I said this wasn’t about minmaxing, but if you don’t at least pay attention to a handful of abilities, it might lead to disappointment later. Requirements for Rune Priest are a lot easier to reach, possibly on purpose because those characters tend to be more diversified than Rune Lords, but watch out for skills with no check box.

Also, there’s no shame in rolling for experience more often than not, such as once or twice in the middle of a big adventure. The worst that can happen is that the adventurers make Rune Level faster and the players have more fun earlier! And by “fun” I mean of course “more troubles, more responsibilities, and more deadly threats“. That’s the definition of fun, right?

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

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

In the previous part of this Runic Rants series, we looked at all the situations in which an adventurer can get an experience check on their character sheet. And if all these checks give you a warm and fuzzy feeling inside, you’re not alone!

Check Hunting

“Check hunting” (there are probably other names for this) is when some min-maxing player does random stuff just so they can get an experience check in a skill that doesn’t have one yet. This might happen more towards the end of an adventure or when the player knows that some downtime is coming up.

I haven’t encountered this problem much, so I don’t have any real good insights here. The only two players I know that have shown signs of “check hunting” are self-conscious enough to at least be upfront about it! So in my very limited experience there are really only two ways to go:

  1. If what they’re trying to do is dangerous, dramatic, or risky in any way, I let them attempt it and suffer the consequences if they fail. It can totally derail the game, but I tend to be a Gamemaster that likes going with the flow, unless I’m specifically running a linear campaign (which is uncommon but happens… I’m running one now). This quite often ends up a few months later with something like “the adventurers are not welcome in Sartar anymore“, but that’s fun, right? No? Well in that case the gamemaster can warn the players of what might happen if it fails, can invoke Passions, or can have spirits witness their shenanigans and tell on them so that the players know to think twice next time.
  2. If what they’re trying to do is inconsequential, mundane, or plain stupid, I say no. And by “no”, I don’t necessarily mean “they can’t do it” (although that can be the case too). I mostly mean that it just auto-succeeds. No roll, no check.

Check Generosity

The only difference between a “check hunting” player and well behaved player is that the well behaved one is, well, just well behaved. Inside, they all want experience checks just as much as everybody else. So how can the gamemaster be generous?


Your gamemaster lets you get an experience check for abilities used as augments, right? ’nuff said.


Sometimes, you learn just as much from succeeding as you do by failing spectacularly. So the gamemaster could occasionally award an experience check on a fumble, especially if that fumble put the adventurer in serious trouble.

Group Rolls

You might remember my article on group rolls (if not, go read it now!). I tried to address the very common RPG problem where more rolls increase the chances of at least one failure or one success, which is a problem with, say, stealth rolls and scan rolls respectively. The solution I offered was to do “group rolls” where one adventurer takes the lead with the “main roll”, and everybody else can, if they want, provide support with augments.

Some players might resist the idea of group rolls because they’re afraid this will “rob” them of some experience checks. In that article I therefore mentioned that the supporting characters get experience checks in the ability they used to augment the group leader, and that I was considering letting them get an experience check in the “main” group skill instead if they wish. So if an adventurer was helping the group Move Quietly with a Darkness Rune roll or a Scan roll, they could get an experience check in Move Quietly (instead of Darkness Rune or Scan), because the adventurer witnessed the leader demonstrate it in a practical way.

The gamemaster can twist and tweak this many ways, depending on how generous they are:

  • Supporting characters could get awarded an experience check in the “main” group skill even if their augment failed.
  • Supporting characters could choose to get an experience check in any of the abilities used in the group roll, not just choosing between their own augment or the “main” group skill. That is, they could choose to get their check in another supporter’s augmenting skill. The reasoning here is similar to getting a check in the “main” group skill: the adventurer witnessed a companion demonstrate that ability in a practical way.
  • Supporting characters could get awarded experience checks in both the “main” group skill and the augment skill (assuming the augment succeeded). In this case, you may want to let the group leader also get a second experience check, maybe in an ability picked from any of the successful augments.

I think that using these aforementioned rules can actually be good for group cohesion, incentivizing players to act as a team because that gives them up to twice as many experience checks. It also makes some adventurers effectively be teachers to the other adventurers, which adds roleplaying opportunities. Of course, it might also lead to excessive “group hugging”, another form of “check hunting” where your players do all kinds of things with group rolls to get more experience checks even when it doesn’t make sense… although that could also lead to interesting roleplaying: imagine a group Charm roll at the Uleria temple! Hey, I’m not here to judge! You do you!

Other House Rules

Austin Conrad recently told me about some ancient rule inherited from a previous generation of RuneQuest gamers, where a special success grants a second check, and a critical success grants two additional checks (so a total of three experience checks maximum). You could therefore be rolling for skill increases two or three times on the same skill between adventures.

Another player reported a variant of this rule, where special and critical successes granted checks in dedicated checkboxes… so to get, say, two skill increase rolls in the same skill, they had to get two different successes in the course of the adventure.

Joerg also just mentioned to me that if we wanted to be a nice gamemaster, he might allow experience gains of 1D4+2 instead of 1D6.

Do you have any other house rules for giving out experience checks? I’d love to hear about them!

Guess what, I got a bit over-excited with this series, and what I thought would be a two-parts series is actually a three-parts series! I hope you’re sitting down because the next and last (I promise!) part will have grraaaaapphs!

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

Update: I had misunderstood Austin’s old group’s house rules. It has been fixed now.

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.

Runic Rants: Experience Checks (Part 1)

A new Runic Rants article is out, and it deals with Experience Checks. In this first of a (probably) two-part article, I look at when to get award these checks.

RuneQuest Glorantha is one of those games that has many rules disseminated throughout their hefty rulebook. I often overlook or forget a detail about some rules (which is frankly a problem with this rulebook, but let’s not go into that rabbit hole), and one thing that is easily overlooked is the real rules behind Experience Checks. They are more complicated than you may think!

I’m hoping to write part 2 for next week but don’t hold your breath… We are the God Learners, we do what we want!

Get Ready for some Kraken News

Joerg is currently at the Kraken convention, gathering gossip, taking blurry pictures, and maybe even possibly interviewing a few people! Or, most likely, eating lots of upscale food, drinking beer, and gushing over the RuneQuest Starter Set copy he has gotten his hands on.

Chaosium News

Here are this week’s Chaosium news!

It’s Greg Stafford Week Again!

© 2021 Chaosium Inc.

Chaosium founder and first Gloranthan heroquester Greg Stafford passed away on 10th October 2018, so this week was a “We Are All Us” kind of week. I hope you all played a game in his honour this week… I know I forgot to mention him in my weekly RuneQuest game! Aaargh!

If you don’t know what to play, remember that Chaosium has some free adventures for the occasion. Pendragon might be an even better choice than RuneQuest!

Chaosium-Con 2022

© 2021 Chaosium Inc.

After several online “Impromptu Con” conventions, Chaosium seems ready to level-up (or initiate?) into more “proper” conventions: those where you can actually get drunk with a bunch of other nerds.

It will be happening 8-9th April 2022, at the Ann Arbor Marriot Ypsilanti near Detroit. We don’t know yet if the God Learners will be there (we’ll update you on that when we know!), but if you have any more interesting questions about the convention, Chaosium has an FAQ page just for you! You can also sign-up for a special mailing list for news about that convention.

The Chaotic Chaosium Logo

Photo by Rick Meints

I love these stories and investigations from Rick Meints, Chaosium’s president and foremost collector. This latest article covers the origin of the Chaosium logo, and why it doesn’t always faces to the right…

How to Get Started with RuneQuest

James Coquillat continues his interviews with the Chaosium designers and line editors. He’s back with Jeff Richard, the creative designer currently behind Glorantha and RuneQuest.

This is a short video, as usual, with quick blurbs about what makes RuneQuest different from other games, what will be in the upcoming RuneQuest Starter Set, why it’s a good way to, indeed, get started with RuneQuest, and what are good tips Jeff can share with new players. There’s nothing any Gloranthan veteran hasn’t heard before, but it’s a short enough marketing video that you can possibly send it to your players to sell them on RuneQuest for your next campaign!

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!

Andrew Logan Montgomery on Bad Day At Duck Rock

© 2021 Peter Hart and Chaosium Inc.

The recently released Bad Day at Duck Rock already has a review by Andrew Logan Montgomery, who seems to really, really like it:

It is also an adventure I would heartily recommend to a new GM. Bad Day at Duck Rock is written with terrific clarity and care, with support at every twist and turn to help GMs run it. Nothing here comes off fuzzy or half-baked. I get the definite feeling that in the years this was playtested, Hart took the opportunity to refine, retool, and clarify. […]

It is a terrific entry to the Jonstown Compendium.     

Jeff’s Notes

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

A Story Every Orlanthi Knows

I’m not going to quote the entire story here because it’s long (and it will end up on the Well of Daliath sooner or later), but that’s the kind of thing where I’m completely ignorant and useless. Deciphering these kinds of myths requires both an understanding of mythological patterns and of Gloranthan lore. I’ve got both of those skills near their default score so I’ll probably do a bad job at analyzing it… which is why I’m going to do it right now, in depth! And it will end up being longer than the original story! Yay! (You’re here for this kind of stuff, right?)

The story is a new and expanded version of “The Arming of Orlanth”, which you can find in King of Sartar (2nd edition, p68). It starts with Orlanth being unhappy because his wife, Ernalda, isn’t there, the food and drinks don’t taste good, the guests aren’t respectful, and so on. What a big baby. And instead of making a sandwich and binge-watching something on Netflix, like what any sane person would do on a sad Sunday, he starts brooding and losing his temper. Note that when he broods, that brings “Bad Rain”:

When he broods the clouds gather and do not drop their rain, growing black and grim. This is called “Bad Rain” and monsters can come with it.

At least, he protects his people from his own brooding monsters, so there’s that.

Now, people tell him all of this is because the “Grand Order” is lost, and needs to be found again. Lhankor Mhy says that the Grand Order is “a mirror of fire” which is “past the edge of the world”. I assume this “Grand Order” is the order provided by the Sun God, which is at this point dead since this tale supposedly happens during the Darkness. And so after getting all geared up and leaving some people in charge, he sets off from the Hill of Himself Victorious upon his quest…

So, err, is the Lightbringers’ Quest effectively triggered because Orlanth has left his home get messy, with only cold pizza in the fridge, when there’s no woman around to take care of groceries and house cleaning? What a loser. And I mean, sure, according to the other tales, there’s more to it, like the death of Kero Fin, but… still. Dude. Stop being so dramatic, pick up the vacuum and learn to cook!

Anyway, whereas the King of Sartar version has Heler arming Orlanth with all kinds of stuff, the new version from Jeff has Orlanth arming himself with different stuff, and Heler as a companion:

So Orlanth armed himself. He bore:
• his Ring,
• the Four Sacred Weapons,
• Four Winds and a net,
• the Black Spear and the Red Spear,
• the Three Other Winds and a bag,
• the Thunderstone,
• the Blue dye,
• the Spear of Truewood,
• the Rare Flower, and
• his First Knife.

Orlanth called his companions to aid him:
• Heler, the Blue God
• Mastakos the Charioteer
• Crisis and Rage, his two stamping horses.

It’s similar to the King of Sartar version, but different enough to be noted. I’ve got no idea what most of this gear is besides random cool sounding stuff, plus some name-dropping. I know about Thunderstones (rocks going boom) and blue dye (magic nudist armor, see the Bless Woad spell). The Bag of Winds is something Storm Voices like to make in their spare time, probably to emulate Orlanth here. The Black Spear, is that the Colymar one? Is the “Spear of Truewood” one of the original “True (weapon)” feats? Maybe. I love these kinds of epic and evocative mythological names. Sadly, I’m bad at coming up with them myself.

Unlike the King of Sartar version, there’s nothing about leaving someone in charge at the Storm Tribe stead, but there’s more about the early journey. For instance we get a quick encounter with Humakt, and a visit to the “strong house of his mother“, which had been ruined and overtaken by wild dogs. Orlanth kills most of them except one, which escapes. This bit has more to do with Mastakos and Kang Rowl (the dog who escaped), and you can find that story in “The Healing of Mastakos” (King of Sartar 2nd edition, p61). Jeff is using some advanced heroquesting techniques to range from one myth to another!

Next, Orlanth visits Kero Fin, and has a quick word with his father, “the Prisoner God, tied to the Earth and Sky” (remember that Umath made himself a place in the universe by separating the Earth and the Sky, but then I guess he got stuck there, “punished by being chained between them for all eternity“).

“I cannot move. The Triad makes the wind. There is One calling you, follow it. There is Another hunting you, avoid it. There is the Third, Unknowable, which you fear.”

That bit comes from “The Belorden Fragment”, reproduced in Sartar: Kingdom of Heroes (p196). The same goes for what follows, where Orlanth gazes upon the horizon and sees nine gods. It’s somewhat easy to figure out who the nine gods are (many are named directly, others are described well enough to make a guess or two), but I’m not sure what Umath means here. As far as I can tell, Umath is providing wisdom specific to the one asking for it, and the visions from atop Kero Fin are part of it. In the Belorden Fragment, for instance, the scribe mentions that they re-enacted this myth, and although the bit of wisdom is the same, the gods they saw were different.

So I guess among the nine gods, one is calling to Orlanth, one is hunting him, and one is that which Orlanth fears. I’ve got no good idea which is which. Jeff says: “we all have the Triad after all, we all move and change“. I wonder if there’s some kind of trick answer, with these three gods respectively being Ernalda (calling him), Yelm (hunting him), and himself (which he fears because he messed up the world… and remember that Orlanth Lightbringer is a different aspect from, say, Orlanth Adventurous, so one could run into the other in a myth).

Anyway, Orlanth follows “The One Who Called Him” which, if I understand it correctly, is a “kinsman to the west”. Thanks to Mastakos, who can run around the world super fast, Orlanth can also travel super fast by following in Mastakos’ foot prints:

He placed his left foot carefully upon the bootprint in the Smoking Ruins, and his right upon the edge of the home of Jarani Whitewall, the son of Ragorn, the son of Jorganos Archer, the son of Vingkot.

Wait, what? Are those the same Smoking Ruins as the ones in the South Wilds? The ones that wouldn’t be “ruins” until the late First Age, and wouldn’t be “smoking” until the 1200s? I’m confused. I guess we don’t care about temporal coherence when we’re in the God Time…

So what do you make of all this?

Ranging and Joining

Jeff tells us about another advanced heroquesting technique called Ranging and Joining (you can read about Jeff’s heroquesting basics here and here).

A technique developed by participants in the Tournament of the Masters of Luck and Death, these questers range at the edge of an ongoing quest or ritual and watch for events or entities. If this happens, they join that event and interact with it. Thought by some scholars to be related to the Waltzing and Hunting bands of the Empire of the Wyrms Friends.

Ranging is when you re-enact a myth, and then go from that myth to another myth that “crosses your path”, so to speak. It’s super dangerous because when you switch myths, you are currently Identified with deities and protagonists from that first myth — and unless the other myth has a very similar cast, you will have to also jump between Identifications.

And this is why questers who Range are so much more dangerous than those who simply re-enact existing stories; they discover new myths. And this is why the Lightbringers Quest is so dangerous and so powerful – like the Red Goddess Quest, it always involves Ranging.

In comparison, Ranging and Joining is less dangerous because you don’t go and play the main protagonists of the second myth. Instead, as I understand it, you just leave the first myth and “tag along” for the second myth, merely Identifying with minor characters or even unnamed “extras” in that second myth.

One watches at the edge of a story for a hint of another. An anonymous character gets a name and becomes adventure, or a passing mention becomes a story in its own right. This might provide a new key detail to an important myth, or might be a tangential eddy that swirls around wherever but becomes beloved by local storytellers.


Ranging and Joining is dangerous, but considered less dangerous than pure Ranging, as long as the questers stay in proximity (whatever that means) with the main ongoing quest or ritual. In large heroquests, Rangers and Joiners are typically chosen by spirits, lot, or even just find themselves in the role due to the mysteries of the ritual itself – some say that is the Luck referred to in the Masters of Luck of Death.

There are several other such advanced heroquesting techniques that have spun out of the 22 Tournaments of the Masters of Luck and Death held in the Holy Country’s history. These techniques have then been “disseminated through the Holy Country, Dragon Pass, and even Prax”, and many people (including Kallyr and Argrath) participated in those Tournaments not to seek its prize, but to learn these techniques first-hand. Which is to say: don’t hesitate to have some NPC in your game know about that stuff!

Talk about synchronicity: my current game is going to feature, effectively, Ranging and Joining, only I didn’t know it was “officially” a thing, I didn’t know it had a name, and I didn’t know where it came from. Now I can sprinkle a bit of additional backstory and it’s all good!

For the Lunars among you, note this:

These techniques are different from those taught and used with such great effect by the Lunar Way, but are potentially no less effective.

About Caladraland

One of my favourite unexplored lands in Dragon Pass (they have magic to awaken volcanoes!) gets a bit of coverage from Jeff this week.

Most of the note talks about stuff you would already know from the Guide or the Sourcebook: that Lodril is a big horny Fire & Sky dude who came (in pretty much all meanings of the word) onto the Earth, warming it with his sweet, sweet love fluids, occasionally shooting through and spraying everything around. Well, I mean, Jeff didn’t say it that way, but I definitely am, because Lodril is a sexy dude and I’ve got the mind of a 13 year old…. anyway, after that, things go dark for Lodril (again, literally) as he gets chained down by Argan Argar (the troll god of the Surface) and forced to build a palace on the Shadow Plateau, in southern Dragon Pass. Again, that’s all in the main books, but the following bits may not be (I only found partial matches in my quick searches):

In the First Age, the worshipers of Lodril rebelled and broke away from the trolls. They received help in this from the dwarfs of Gemborg and from those people of the sea who claimed descent from Choralinthor, and received mercenaries from the barbarians of Wenelia.

Gemborg is a Dwarf city in Caladraland, a region south of Esrolia, leading to the ocean (bottom left quadrant in the map below… you can see the end Gemborg’s name, cut from the left edge).

© 2021 Chaosium Inc.

These dwarves later exploited the volcanic area for the forges and workshops, the God Learners got involved with bringing worship of Lodril’s twin children, and Caladraland’s main volcano Veskarthan (supposed to be Lodril himself) erupted in 1050 in anger. Jeff has some more details compared to the Guide:

In the Second Age, the Lodril worshipers welcomed the reunion of Aurelion, Caladra’s twin, and allied with the God Learner province of Slontos against the Shadowlands and their EWF allies. The magnificent golden statue of Eurmal Lightbringer holding aloft a miniature version of the Sun was built by the God Learners at the Lighthouse. But Lodril aided the Old Powers in destroying the God Learners.

A big golden statue of Eurmal? Built by the God Learners? Now this ought to be good!

Later, Belintar came onto the local shores. For the newbies out there, that’s the hero/god/king who transformed the area into the Holy Country (also known as “mythical Disneyland fuelled by magical Battle Royale“… which is my favourite way of describing the Holy Country at its height). The Caladralanders tried to kill him “using both force and magic”:

But they failed, and Belintar used the powers of the Steam Demons to win his assault against their leaders.

Now, Caladraland is “ruled by the priests of the Volcano Twins”. I assume that’s Caladra and Aurelion, the aforementioned twin children of Lodril whose cult was introduced by the God Learners.

The population have adjusted their society around the needs and blessings of the vocano god. They are ruled by King Galerus, who was selected by the ruling council of clan chieftains for his ability to judge people carefully and his ability to lead armies. In 1620, Galerus refused to step down in accordance with tradition. Now called the King of the Diamond Diadem, Galerus allied with the dwarfs of Gemborg, the Demivierge of Rhigos, and the Warlord of Porthomeko. His kingdom has suffered terribly from a decade of barbarian invasions, but he holds onto power with the support of the Caladra and Aurelion cult.

Ok so the “Demivierge of Rhigos” has been Queen of Rhigos since 1610. Rhigos is a sizeable port city in South Esrolia, not far south from Nochet (again, see map above). The title is because the Queen is “sexually promiscuous” and yet still a virgin (“demivierge” means “half virgin” in French). Right. We’re totally buying that. But I guess that’s her loophole for keeping her position of High Priestess of Delaina, the “pure and restrained sister of Ernalda”, who is also the patron Goddess of Rhigos.

Porthomeka is the small but rich region located between Esrolia and Caladraland (see the cities of Steros and Oxnos in the map above). It’s ruled by warlords originally exiled from Caladraland, and it was once part of Esrolia. I imagine it has a pretty tense relationship with both its neighbours, and that’s why it’s a good idea to call yourself “Warlord” to make things clear…

Anyway, like I said, it’s a fairly unexplored (gaming-wise) part of the map, even though it’s rich in myth, politics, and cool things to do. I’d love to play some games there!


Jeff tells us that although people like to play in Pavis, Jonstown, or Boldhome, Wilmskirk is also “definitely worth a look“.

This was Wilms the Artist’s first masterpiece, designed by him according to aesthetic and philosophical principles inspired by the Jrusteli, and meant to be a true model city. The city was laid out to be both beautiful and function – and Wilms achieved this. It is a city of crafters, of artists, and is the center of painting and sculpture techniques in Dragon Pass.

So the Jrusteli are basically the God Learners, which everybody despises since they almost destroyed the world with their heroquesting experiments in the Second Age. But the God Learners also have a lasting legacy that people may not even realize is coming from them — the monomyth or mythical synthesis (because it’s “useful and largely correct”), the philosophy and arts, and so on. That’s one of those occurrences.

Here’s Jeff’s sketch of the city, which will probably be made pretty by Matt Ryan for the upcoming Sartar Homeland boxed set:

Sketch by Jeff Richard © 2021 Chaosium Inc.

Wilmskirk is shared by the Balmyr, Locaem, Balmyr, and Sambari tribes and it is now ruled by King Vamastal Greyskin of the Sambari, who participated in Starbrow’s Rebellion and is part of the High Council. Vamastal is half-mad through heroquesting, and gained his grey skin on a harrowing trip through Hell. He was friends with Garaystar Flatnose, who was City Rex of Wilmskirk in 1610-1613 but was exiled along with Vamastal after the Rebellion’s collapse.

Here is what the half-mad King of the Sambari looks like:

Art by Anna Orlova © 2021 Chaosium Inc.

Note that the previous City Rex was exiled, rather than executed, because that was Fazzur Wideread’s way of dealing with things (Fazzur was the Lunar Tarshite Provincial Administrator in Sartar for a while). Exiling leaders made it easier to assert legitimate(-ish) authority on the people. “Remember Fazzur understood the Orlanthi, unlike Euglyptus of Assiday”.

Greg Stafford on Heroquesting

Jeff shares an early manuscript from Greg Stafford on the subject of heroquesting (that’s a hot topic this week!). It goes over the basic concept: that the world of mortals and gods has been separate ever since the “end of the world” and the Cosmic Compromise. In this way, mortals exist within Time, which means that they are born and die, but also means they can change during that lifespan. Deities however are immortal, but cannot change.

Sketch by Greg Stafford © 2021 Chaosium Inc.

There are few bits that jumped at me:

The difference between the realms of the gods and of men is much more significant than mere mortality, for there are ramifications of great import. The most important is that mortals are born and die, but they are always changing, whereas the gods never change unless acted upon by an outside force.

The will of mortals allows a person to change themselves, change the mundane world, or even change the static world of mythology.

So when we say that gods can’t change, we mean that they can’t do anything themselves. Mortals can, and do, provide this “outside force” that changes gods. That’s what us God Learners did a whole lot of in the Second Age. It was pretty cool.

Greg writes (probably in the ancient pre-RuneQuest times) that heroquests are generally designed for “a single person to be the center of the action”. Any companions and followers gain “lesser benefits than those of the main quester”. Jeff wisely notes that this is the main challenge in bringing heroquests to RPGs, which are focused on a group of characters.

Heroquests generally take the form of a “path” which traverses a part of the mythical realm. It is presented as a starting place, a series of waystops where certain events occur, and then a climax. The climax is typically known beforehand because it is the specific act which will give the heroquester the thing they went off to get. This requires passing whatever test is appropriate, then the sacrifice of some part of them.

Jeff notes that this sacrifice at the climax is mechanically represented by a POW sacrifice in exchange for Hero Soul Points.

If you haven’t seen the White Bull campaign (Jeff’s game watchable on YouTube), which featured a preview of these rules, you may not know what these are. They’re effectively like a new pool of Rune Points, so you may have a Rune Points pool for your primary god, and then maybe another Rune Points pool if you have initiated with another god, and the Hero Soul Points are yet another point pool for casting Rune Magic. But while you replenish Rune Points by worshipping the appropriate deity, you replenish Hero Soul Points by having people worship you. This is such a cool mechanic, and a pretty unique one at that as far as I know.

Anyway, Greg talks about advanced heroquesting techniques, such as heading off from one myth to another and building a “map” of these mythic places and events.

However, the map requires that it be viewed in several different ways at once sometimes because of the interrelationships of certain mythical events. Successful heroquesters are able to switch from path to event and from map to map.

Jeff mentions that the Mythic Age maps from the Guide to Glorantha are helpful here, and I think there were most likely drawn by God Learners who did exactly that in their heroquests. Of note, Jeff also says that there will be more detailed maps in the upcoming Cults books.

The Guide’s maps (and the one from Greg visible above) are mostly geographic by nature, but I wonder if we will get narrative maps too, such as the paths leading from one important mythical event to another? Basically like a conspiracy theorist white board might look like if they were a Second Age God Learner? That would be interesting…

Thus it may be possible for a character to start at the Weapons Contest (between Orlanth and Yelm) and then follow the storm god until the Theft of the Sword (from Humakt) and then follow the Sword Myth through the hands of the gods that get it and enter the Underworld by marching with Zorak Zoran’s army, thereby bypassing regular checkpoints!

Finally, Jeff mentions that this kind of gameplay doesn’t have to require in-depth knowledge and review of Chaosium’s material. Gamemasters “can and should create their own mythic events that ‘fit’ into the themes and archetypes of Glorantha”.

Harmast’s Heroquests

Speaking of heroquesting (again!), there are short-form lists of Harmast’s heroquests in the RuneQuest Compendium (p6) and in HeroQuest’s Sartar: Kingdom of Heroes (p184), but Jeff just gave us a lot more details. It’s too long to share here (and, again, it will be on the Well of Daliath soon), but it’s a great inspiration for what’s possible with heroquests:

One thing that this list clearly shows is how heroquesting can move from “participating in big mythic battles” […], to events that are ultimately about the psyche of the quester […]. These last are likely the most dangerous – and most rewarding – but also the hardest to stage in a game.

A few things that stood out to me in Harmast’s list of heroquests:

  • Two common heroquests in an adventurer’s life are (1) for their adulthood ceremony, and (2) for their Rune Lord/Priest ceremony.
  • As far as I understand, when you’re participating as a “simple” initiate in a High Holy Day or Sacred Time ceremony, you will most probably be one of the many “extras” or “bystanders” in one particular event in a myth, which is a really cool way of starting small: “Twice he fought the star warriors at the Battle of the Thrinbarri Clouds. Four times he stood upon the Lightbringers’ Path: at the Bridge of Scythes, at the Crucible Gate, at the Bridge Over Corpses, and Where Kaarg was Defeated. At age twenty-one he was a spectator at the wedding of Orlanth and Ernalda.”
  • Things go bad in heroquests, and there’s a lot of cool/bad stuff happening here. Like “everybody died except Harmast” kinda bad.
  • Sometimes, you go on a heroquest just to get some advice from a mythical figure.
  • Other times, you go really deep: “[Harmast’s] broken pieces were purified and he confronted and overcame his Others: his victims – demon lover, his father, his mother; his obsessions, his tyranny, and the destruction he brought. Then he passed through the flames of the Band of Gold and entered the Dead Gods’ Court.

Ok, now I need to get better at coming up with cool things like “The River of Corpses”, and at making my players do really crazy things like “reaching the Purple Shores of Luathela”. Maybe I should start drinking?

Clans and Tribes

Jeff gives a glimpse at how clans, tribes, and confederations fit together, which he can do now that he has all the correct spreadsheets and maps. For instance, see this map of the Culbrea, Kheldon, and Aranwyth tribes:

© 2021 Chaosium Inc.

Even better, Jeff later shared a composite map of the central Sartar! I am so happy right now.

© 2021 Chaosium Inc.

One thing that is worth mentioning is that there are several different clans with the same name. There are at least two Wildcat clan, and several Owl Clans. In some cases that might point to a common origin, and in at least one set of Owl Clans it is just that Horned Owls are mighty spirits!

Laying it down with roads, cities, holy sites, and such probably greatly helps with the basic blocks of world-building. That was actually my approach with my current campaign located in the Alone confederation (which, sadly is missing from the composite above). Sketching a map and making a cult distribution spreadsheet helped get an idea of the dynamic between all of the three local tribes. It probably doesn’t really transpires in play, but it was still fun to do!

Ancient Commentaries On Magic And Chaos

A God Learner text was “recently discovered in a warehouse in Berkeley”, a.k.a an ancient manuscript from Greg Stafford. It’s a bit hard for me to analyze and summarize (I’m still a newbie God Learner), but it basically deals with the multiple beginnings of the universe, the tension between Chaos and Existence, and what happens to the Runes as foundations of the world when left unchecked in the hands of Gods. Oh, and there’s a nice little Old Vadeli prayer.

The Vadeli are basically super ancient atheist sorcerer sailors (they hang around the Jrusteli Islands, the remnants of the God Learners’ original country). They claim to have been there at the First Beginning, when Existence broke away from Chaos, in the form of the “Grey Ones”. Every since, as far as the Vadelia are concerned, simply “being” has been a constant struggle against the entropy of Chaos.

If I understand this correctly, the other beginnings include, say, when the Runes came into existence. At first they were owned by single-purposed entities, but then they multiplied and cross-pollinated and this new World of Gods eventually turned too fat and self-centred and they almost broke the world and left Chaos back in. So there again there’s Chaos seeping through all elements but, err, that’s kind of necessary for existence, it seems? I’m not sure.

This, of course, allowed for the greatest sharing and positive exploitation of Uleria’s Net, and eventually led to the breeding between elements and bonding of the seams of the world. This all is confirmed by the Book of Zzabur, although the Brithini rejected its implications.

Empty Head’s Tale

And here’s another God Learner text: “Empty Head’s Tale”, which apparently exists in one form or another everywhere in Genertela.

Its widespread distribution is indicative of the truth which it contains. Brithini wizards claim to have found proof of the veracity of the tale in fragments of the Blue Book of Zzabur.

So the “Grey Ones” from the previous God Learner text are living in the Spike (which is the axis of the world in the God Time, the original perfect mountain). But meanwhile, somewhere else, there’s the titular Empty Head, who is minding his own business sitting on some giant dome call Eggshell which floats on the sea (I’m getting the sense that this old man was Zzabur or some other ancient sorcerer). Some people come live inside the Eggshell with his permission, and start digging and building and multiplying inside it. I guess that’s all the annoying Gods and their tribes and all that stuff, and the Eggshell is Genertela?

These people lived under the rule of “Quaterlords”, in a big castle called Hill of Four. My guess is that’s the four original Elemental Runes, before the arrival of the Air Rune. Which comes here under the very appropriate name of “Trouble”, supposedly as the son of two other Quaterlords. This Trouble guy asks for a place atop the Eggshell, but is refused. He throws a tantrum with his followers but gets his ass kicked.

Shortly afterwards he was crushed by the spearmen of his father and the axemen of his mother, and his followers fled. Trouble was tossed into the sea, left to swim around in the shoreless ocean forever.

Yet Trouble returned, and far more powerful than before. Amid the vast oceans Trouble had met Empty-head, and although the old man did not even know it, he carried a weapon against the Quarterlords. He did not understand it, but Trouble did. The weapon was the sword, and it was made by a Grey One or else was a son of Trouble. Newly armed, Trouble crawled back on the Eggshell. What followed was the Gods War, a terrible Darkness Age, whose consequences are still felt today.”

Ok so there are definitely elements of Orlanth getting Death/Sword from Humakt and/or Eurmal, only with different moving parts. It works nicely as a proto-version of the Orlanthi myth, with an atheist sorcerous twist on it. I may be completely off mark but that’s my take for now!

The Universal Lunar Empire

The Red Emperor “does not acknowledge the existence of other peers“, meaning that he’s the boss of everywhere that the light of the Red Moon touches… and hey, guess what, that’s the entire world! What a coincidence. However, the Red Emperor isn’t necessarily after ruling over the entire world. He’s OK paying far-away barbarians to “submit to him or at least to be allies”. “What is important is that they acknowledge his position as the sole pillar of legitimacy in the world”. See? He’s not totally a crazy megalomaniac… just, like, very much a crazy megalomaniac.

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.

Ardwulf’s Lair Unboxes the RuneQuest Starter Set

If you’re a fan of Harn1, Traveller, or wargames, you might be familiar with Ardwulf’s Lair, a YouTube channel that does reviews of, well, Harn, Traveller, and wargames, mostly.

1 Harn is another very old and very detailed gaming fantasy world which I love almost as much as Glorantha, even though you could say it’s practically its polar opposite!

Elf Pack Work-in-Progress

Shannon Appelcline, known among other things as an RPG historian and a Gloranthan elf-expert, is still working on some upcoming “Elf Pack” (like Trollpak, but for elves). He tells us that there will be, as tradition dictates, some encounter tables!

The Spirit of Lost in the Dark

Quickly becoming a regular around these parts, SkullDixon has a new thing for us: a short spirit encounter for use in RuneQuest.

One of the great things about Glorantha is that most things in that world have a solid spiritual connection. Disease in Glorantha is not caused by microscopic lifeforms, they are often caused by Spirits. […] So I thought to myself – what if the reason why people become lost in the dark was also because of a spirit who plays upon the mind of the traveler, making them confused and making it difficult to recognize where they are traveling through.

The article comes with a short RuneQuest stat block.

Miniatures Roundup

Let’s do some Gloranthan miniatures roundup!

Photo by Phil Leedel, miniatures by Bad Squiddo Games

First, here are some Amazons by Bad Squiddo Games, painted by Phil Leedell — they make pretty good RuneQuest adventurers!

Phot by George Maczugowski, miniatures by Infinity Engine

Next, some Mistress Race Trolls by Infinity Engine, painted by George Maczugowski:

So here i present Gerkalak, priestess of Kyger Litor and Gorakiki dancing the Summon Ancestor spell before the clan totem!

As far as I can tell, those are new models that are not available yet.

Miniature by Crippled God Foundry
Miniature by Crippled God Foundry

Last, there are 3D-printable Minoan priestess models available from MyMiniFactory (thanks to Nick Brooke for the links). The two models (Ariadne and Pasiphae) are from Crippled God Foundry, which is such an awesome name.

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.

Arkaim, Southern Ural

Here’s your Middle Bronze Age site of the week: Arkaim, in Southern Ural (in modern Russia).

Arkaim consists of a fortified settlement from the Middle Bronze Age, constructed around 3.8-4000 years ago. Arkaim was a circular stronghold that housed 1,500 to 2,500 inhabitants with concentric bastions, constructed using adobe, a building material made from earth and organic materials.

HeritageDaily has more information for you. I particularly like this digital reconstruction to help picture what it may have looked like, because it’s quite unlike what I’m used to (as a layman) in terms of Bronze Age settlements:

Image by Jvtrplzz (CC0 1.0)

Scholars have some theories about this concentric design for the village, but in Glorantha, it wouldn’t take too much tinkering to make it look like a Fire/Sky Rune (for Grazelanders or Pentans), or an Air Rune (for Orlanthi).

Fans Wants Wizards of the Coast to use the Metric System in D&D

© 2021 Wizards of the Coast

Yep, apparently it’s gaining traction, with one of those online petitions things (currently at more than 6000 signatures, for whatever that’s worth). Meanwhile, Chaosium cheekily reminds us that “Greg Stafford and Steve Perrin put the metric system into RuneQuest from the get-go (1978)…“. Yeah, I always wondered about that. I mean, as a European, I’m very grateful that this RPG uses the correct (yes, you read that right1) measurement system, but I wonder what kind of enlightenment made a bunch of Americans in the seventies come to that decision?

1 Ok so I commonly see arguments that “the metric system has no place in a fantasy game“, presumably because meters and kilometers are somehow not “poetic” enough or “too modern” or whatever. This argument is completely wrong on two levels.

  • First, these people are often the same ones that also argue that they’re not running a “strictly historical simulation” and should therefore be able have anachronistic elements in their worlds (crossbows, stirrups, gumball machines, etc). Well, yeah, duh! But not metric distances, for some reason?
  • Second, there’s a whole difference between what measurements the rules use, and what measurements your NPCs will be talking about in-world. Go ahead and have fun with your Issaries merchant negotiating the price for 250 shekels of dried food, or your chieftain asking for one guard to be posted along the wall every 12 cubits. Hopefully these all mean the same thing from one city to another! And even if it’s unified in, say, Sartar, it might be different between Nochet, Boldhome, and Prax! The only place for fun ancient measurement units in the rulebook is the Vasana saga text boxes, because just as players typically say “can I learn Bladesharp 2?” instead of “can I learn to focus on my sword’s hilt and ask Orlanth’s spirits to bless my blade with their magical wetstone?“, players will also talk and think about measurement units they know. And aside from, like, one or two countries in the world, that’s metric. So thank you Steve and Greg!

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.

RuneQuest Glorantha is one of those games that has many rules disseminated throughout their hefty rulebook. I often overlook or forget a detail about some rules (which is frankly a problem with this rulebook, but let’s not go into that rabbit hole), and one thing that is easily overlooked is the real rules behind Experience Checks. They are more complicated than you may think!

Getting an Experience Check

It’s tempting to reduce things to “get a check when you succeed a roll (if there’s a checkbox)“, but that’s not what it is. RQG p415 says:

Experience checks are not automatic whenever a success is achieved—it must involve a real risk or challenge, or result in roleplaying opportunities. The ability to reward or deny an experience check is an important responsibility for the gamemaster.

So it’s really up to the Gamemaster to allow getting Experience Check. I tend to be a generous Gamemaster who lets players get a check in many situations, but mostly because their characters are still under-powered at this early point in our campaign. Other Gamemasters may find that their player characters are getting too powerful too fast, and look for guidance in the matter, but we’ll talk more about that later (mostly in Part 2 of this article).

The key element in my opinion is the clause that says that the situation “must involve a real risk or challenge, or result in roleplaying opportunities“. For instance, if the party is negotiating some price with a merchant in order to save a few bucks, that’s not real risk or challenge, and it probably wouldn’t lead to meaningful roleplaying opportunities. It might be a fun little scene, but the outcome will probably not impact the storyline (they will just have to pay full price, or will refuse the deal and go see someone else). So most probably there’s no Experience Check in that scene.

On the other hand, a character might take some “unnecessary” risks with the merchant, threatening to cut down his tent and stomp on his inventory, because that character is often roleplayed as violent and unstable (maybe high Air and Disorder Runes?), or because the merchant has some history with that character. In that case I might reward, say, an Intimidate roll with an Experience Check. Intimidate and Fast-Talk in particular are risky in my opinion because they can easily backfire, leading to local authorities getting involved on the grounds of harassment or fraud (unlike Charm and Orate which are safer but require more time). If this can take the story in a whole new direction, this is an indication that these rolls indeed include risks and rewards, and warrant an Experience Check.

Of course, if you have players who often derail the adventure with crazy antics, and/or you are unwilling to “go with the flow” because you have an adventure to run that you paid $50 for, you may not want to award Experience Checks in these situations. It’s a carrot, so use it sparingly.

Experience Checks Without Success

Runes and Passions can get automatic Experience Checks. In RQG p229:

The gamemaster might reward adventurers with a free experience check of the Rune when they roleplay in accordance with that Rune.

So when a character threatens an NPC they should leave alone (as in the previous example) because they are highly impulsive and violent, or have history with that NPC, that might call for an automatic Experience Check in a Rune or Passion (Air, Movement, Hate (Other Tribe), etc). Other examples could involve a pacifist character who stays calm even when action is required, a character high in the Illusion Rune who “can’t help” but insert lies and fabrications while reporting something to their thane or tribal King, or a character with a high Loyalty Passion who reports something to their thane or tribal King that would have been better omitted.

I basically see this clause as a “reward for good roleplaying“, although I’ll repeat that, in my opinion, it needs to have the possibility of taking the adventure in a new direction. One that would not have been taken if the player hadn’t said or done what they said or did. RQG p231 (under “Other Rune Experience Checks”) has an extreme example where a player decides that their character will lead an armed uprising. I don’t think it has to be that dramatic, but it should affect the storyline one way or another.

Experience Checks from Magic Use

Adventurers can get experience checks in Runes when they use Rune Magic. If you’re like me, however, I only make players roll for that if they’re in combat, or some other round-by-round action scene. If casting magic is part of the preparation leading up to a combat, or part of a non-action scene (like casting Charisma before an important meeting), I let players auto-succeed their roll. They may still ask for a roll if they hope to get a critical success (which means no Rune Points are spent), but the fear of getting a fumble (losing Rune Points for nothing) is usually enough to have them choose the automatic (normal) success anyway.

The idea here is that casting magic (Spirit or Rune) in a non-stressful situation is no big deal. And because it’s no big deal, I don’t give an Experience Check in that case. No risk, no reward.

POW Gain Rolls

Curiously enough, an Experience Check for the POW characteristic is called “getting a chance for a POW Gain Roll”, or some other similarly elliptic phrasing. I’m pretty sure everybody calls that a “POW check” or “POW experience check”.

Anyway, you get one such check when you successfully attack or parry in Spirit Combat, or when you win a POW Resistance Roll that was “hard enough” (below 95%).

You also get a POW check with some worship rituals where you succeed your Worship roll. In a nutshell:

  • Initiates only get that POW check on a High Holy Day or Sacred Time, or, maybe, when they do it all alone in a place they sanctified themselves with the Sanctify Rune Spell for the occasion.
  • Rune level adventurers can get a POW check in any Holy Day Worship situation if they are part of the presiding officials, which is probably often the case.

The Well of Daliath has some Q&A on the matter if you’re confused.

Miscellaneous Situations

There are a few situations that may give or remove Experience Checks.

  • Firing a missile weapon with the Sureshot spell prevents you from getting an Experience Check on that skill.
  • The Arouse Passion Rune Spell, by virtue of provoking a Passion roll, can lead to an Experience Check in that Passion.

Experience Between Adventures

The last situation in which you can get experience is the downtime between adventures. Did you know that this seasonal downtime lets you get an Experience Check in up to four occupational skills and cult skills? That’s in RQG p416. Don’t forget this! That’s quite a good way to get checks in rarely used skills!

This last rule is interesting to me because it deals with a delicate part of game design: the difference between game time and real time… but we will look at this, “check hunting”, and more in Part 2 of this article!

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

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

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.

Writing Adventures in Glorantha

Episode 4 of the podcast is finally out! We talked to most of the crew from the Beer With Teeth collective, who have written many great adventures and sourcebooks for the Jonstown Compendium. Diana, Dom, and Erin share their creative process and other tips for writing scenarios for RuneQuest Glorantha, in an episode full of ramblings and generally applicable RPG authoring advice!

Chaosium News

Here are this week’s Chaosium news!

Beginner’s Guide to Glorantha

James Coquillat interviews Jeff Richard about introducing Gloranthan deities to new players. It’s a nice video that you can pillage for short descriptions of the main gods… it might come in handy if, left to your own devices, you tend to rant for too long about Glorantha because you’re so excited about it! (I’m looking at you, you, and you over there… yes, you know who you are!)

And while some gods are easy to describe and grasp in one sentence (Chalana Arroy or Issaries, for instance), others aren’t that obvious. Funnily enough, the first non-obvious god that James asks Jeff to describe is our good old pal Yelmalio. Jeff also clarifies the differences between the different warrior gods, and what you can do as an Ernalda cultist.

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!


© 2021 John Lawson and Chaosium Inc.

John Lawson gives us a companion to the Smoking Ruin & Other Stories with Korolstead: Secrets of the Smoking Ruin. This expands what can be done to the already hefty Smoking Ruin adventure by providing extra maps, scenario seeds, NPCs and factions, encounter tables, and much more.

A Bad Day at Duck Rock

© 2021 Peter Hart and Chaosium Inc.

A Bad Day at Duck Rock by Peter Hart, illustrated by Dario Corallo, places the party as escorts to a merchant carrying various metals from Dwarf Run to Manville in Beast Valley through Duck Valley. An easy task given to the characters while the merchant takes a short side-trip, what could possibly go wrong? Find out in a duck-laden scenario.

Jeff’s Notes

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

Argrath and Alexander

Art by Anna Orlova for the Sartar Set © 2021 Chaosium Inc.

We’ve known for a while that Alexander “The Great” is a source of inspiration for the character of Argrath, but now Jeff gives us some proper comparison points:

Think of Classical Greece during the rise of Philip and Alexander. At first things aren’t too different from what they have been for the last century or so. We have our polis, and it is always the same major players – Thebes, Sparta, and Athens. And the Persian Empire is on the eastern shore and playing everyone off each other, a constant threat.

But within a generation, there is a Macedonian Empire, with generals who have made themselves kings, a a king who has made himself a god. And the polis are left making statues and obeisances to generals who rule armies, not lands.

And so something similar happens in Dragon Pass, i.e. a lot of change over a short period of time.

A snippet from the upcoming Sartar Homeland boxed set tells us about the many changes that Argrath enacted to his nation’s military. Before his arrival, Sartar’s armies were made of “inexperienced” tribal militia and “exhausted and semi-rebellious mercenaries” such as the various warbands that followed Kallyr for the past decade. But Argrath arrives with a competent cavalry that has years of combat experience together, and this changes things.

The reasons for this are several: 1. The existing warrior structure of Sartar had evolved to become rich, mounted noblemen (called “thanes”) leading armed mobs of freemen; 2. Dragon Pass, and especially the traditional friendship between the House of Sartar and the Grazelanders, was rich in horses; 3. Argrath’s own life and training was among the animal-riding nomads of Prax (except for the three years he spent as a Wolf Pirate) and he made brilliant use of the cavalry at his disposal (however, Argrath’s generalship always made excellent use of the forces he had at hand, even second rate infantry); 4. The magical powers which Argrath summoned to his aid were closely bound with wild rampages and shock tactics.

Argrath began assembling his army soon after he was driven from his home on Starfire Ridge when he took refuge among the nomads of Prax. Most tribes there had strict laws and customs restricting any foreigner from holding a position of authority or power, but there were several secret societies whose membership crossed all social or political boundaries. Incredibly, Argrath worked his way to supremacy among three of them. These units, the Twin Spears, Sword-brothers, and Bullocks, formed the kernel of his Free Army. After he received the gift of the Dragon’s Teeth, Argrath returned to Dragon Pass.The native Sartar tribal militia and the first initial units of the Sartar Free Army and the Sartar Magical Union, reinforced by Praxian nomads and some Holy Country volunteers, carried the weight of the early fighting.

From there the Sartarites grew into a unified army, alongside allies like the Grazelanders and the Tarsh Exiles, and mercenaries like the Sun Dome Templars, Dragonewts, and so on.

Of note:

Sieges were usually left to specialists which were organized and led by the famous engineer, Haraspac, rumored to be of dwarf blood.

Argrath’s friendship with the dragonewts extended to wyrms and even dream dragons. Such draconic allies were increasingly common in his later campaigns.

Orlanthi Justice

Here’s a short note on Orlanthi views on society and justice:

The Orlanthi encourage independence over centralization. They do not have faith in a single leader for all things, a single god for all things, or for a single rule to cover all eventualities. They know that their own rules may not be the same as others, and that difference is not bad or evil, and sometimes even has great good.

Justice is the “right way” of the world. Orlanth is the lord of justice, and his changeable nature indicates that justice too must be suited to the circumstances of anything being judged. The Orlanthi believe a single rule is not possible. Justice to one’s family, clan, tribe, and nation means to follow the ways of Orlanth. Justice to outsiders is determined by their actions, but requires curiousity, tolerance, and honest restraint on the part of the Orlanthi until the stranger proves themselves a friend or enemy.

There’s some more interesting follow-up notes:

Those who imagine the Orlanthi as being die-hard traditionalists who resist change, resent cities, don’t engage in trade with strangers, or who think think they favour a single leader, single god, or single rule – I think you forget who Orlanth is.

This openness to change is a key theme in the Hero Wars, as the Orlanthi undergo tremendous social and even religious changes from 1625 to 1655.

Dara Happan Justice

To contrast with the previous note, Jeff talks about justice in the Lunar Heartlands under Dara Happan traditions. As one can expect, it’s a lot more strict:

1. Proper social order. That means everyone is in their proper place, with the strong restrained from harming the weak (any more than is proper, of course), with everyone doing what is proper for the social position for the good of the community. This proper social order is derived from the gods, in particular Yelm, and entrusted to the Red Emperor to establish, maintain, and defend.

This is all written down in rules and laws.

2. Vengeance against those who have wronged. The wheel of vengeance will eventually crush all those who have wronged others. One must suffer, that is part of existence, but in the end, justice requires that those who suffered unfairly must be avenged. This is derived most strongly from the Red Goddess, although there are clearly Carmanian and Spolite antecedents to this. This is usually entrusted to the Red Emperor and his family.

This explains why, for instance, the Red Emperor’s daughers like Hon-Eel and Jar-Eel are often sent out to kick some ass around the Empire, depending on the Emperor’s mood.

Of course, this is directly opposed to the Orlanthi:

Unlike the Orlanthi, the Dara Happan culture favors the idea of one ruler for everyone (the Red Emperor), one set of rules for everyone ideally, and at times even flirts with the idea of one supreme god (or goddess).

Apocalypse Now

While Argrath is Alexander, Jeff imagines Arkat, especially in the late Gbaji Wars, as Colonel Kurtz, from Apocalypse Now.

I could imagine him giving Harmast this speech shortly before entering Dorastor:

Alternative video in case of geo-fencing: here!

Unlike Colonel Kurtz, however, Arkat gets to retire on a farm “in Ralios, protected by his ferocious Zorak Zorani children, parceling out his wisdom and epigrams to any who will listen”.

Now this part gets interesting:

Unlike Hrestol, who slew his irrational unconsciousness and destroyed his shadow in order to bring forth the rule of reason and will, Arkat rationally embraced his unconscious and became his own shadow. In the end, Arkat fully embraced the Darkness in order to extinguish the Light of Nysalor.

One might […] view the Red Goddess as an attempt to create a synthesis of Nysalor AND Arkat. Of Nysalor AND Gbaji. Of the Full Moon and the Black Moon.

And perhaps Argrath creates a synthesis of the destroyer and the balancer.

Dendara’s Runes

The Guide to Glorantha continues to gather small “errors” as some details get revised in new material. Is there a Guide to Glorantha errata somewhere? I don’t think so?

Anyway, those with the upcoming RuneQuest Cults of Glorantha preview noticed that the Runes for Dendara have been changed, from the Guide’s Light and Harmony Runes, to, effectively, the same set or Runes as Ernalda (Fertility, Earth, Harmony). Jeff replied to this succinctly:

Yeah, well I have done a lot of thought about Dendara specifically since I wrote the Guide. She has the same runes as Ernalda. Indeed she is so similar to Ernalda that the God Learners were absolutely convinced that they are the same deity.

We at the God Learners are indeed convinced of that. Right Joerg?

Except when she isn’t. All that Dendara = Entekos = Sedenya stuff looming…

Dart Wars

Jeff writes a note about a little played aspect of Glorantha: the cloak and dagger conflicts between noble houses of the Lunar Empire known as the Dart Wars:

The combatants in these secret wars are spies and mercenaries, analogous to ninja, that are hired by the houses. The Red Emperor himself is rumored to actively participate in Dart Wars and is the likely the single biggest employer of Dart Warriors. It is rumored that there are entire clans of Dart Warriors, training in secret.

As a result of the Dart Wars, the noble houses absolutely do not trust each other and prevents them from allying against the Red Emperor.

The most obvious result of a Dart War is when a ruling family of a satrap is replaced by a new family; but Dart Wars often involve control of a powerful temple or rule of a city.

Among the four campaign ideas that sprung to my mind when I discovered Glorantha, one of them was definitely a spy action thriller set across the Lunar Empire… I’m still hoping to run it one day! But even if you play in good old Dragon Pass or Prax, you can include a bit of the Dart Wars in your game:

The background presence of Dart Wars can explain some of the erratic decisions of the Lunar Army in the Provinces and elsewhere. They keep the ruling families divided and make it easier for the Red Emperor to assert his authority, which is far more important than some barbarian province.

It also means that much of the actual administration of the Lunar Empire is not so much in the hands of the powerful noble families with their Red Goddess initiates and temples, and weird ambitions, but in the hands of Irrippi Ontor clerks who just keep their heads down and issue papers.

Dwarf Danger!

Here are Jeff’s suggestions for weird dwarven things to throw at your players:

Jolati with buggy pre-programmed commands.
Gobbler seeking stolen gunpowder.
Angry spirits escaped from a faulty Silver Dwarf energy matrix.
Mechanical construct (tiktok) with limited self-awareness.
Bound energy construct, abandoned by Silver Dwarfs.

My players already kind of know this, but Jeff also reminds us that “Dwarven mines and strongholds [are] full of weird things that the dwarfs used to assist them in their labor, sources of energy, or defensive systems”.

Strange Foods in the Holy Country

Here are some strange facts about the Holy Country:

The strangest livestock in the Holy Country has got to be the pig variant popularly called the “Sausage Loaf”. These are huge animals – weighing up to 500 kg but exceptionally calm, gentle, and even submissive – and are famed for their incredibly tasty meat.

And another:

A runner up for strangest food source is the giant sloth found in the forests of Heortland and Esrolia.

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.

Lace and Steel on RuneQuest

Author and game designer Paul Kidd (aka “Pauli”, aka “Lace & Steel”, aka “Mistress Lenalia of Duck Point, Rune Priestess of Humakt”) made a video about RuneQuest, its history, its supplements, Gloranthan humour, religion, and everything they like about the game. You can also catch Pauli’s funny quips about RuneQuest edition wars, or insightful short comments about melee combat mechanics compared to real life melee combat.

Of course, the video eventually gets to the latest RuneQuest Glorantha edition, with Pauli giving a review of it. This review goes into interesting opinions, given Pauli’s big background in 2nd edition RuneQuest — the big increase in how much the lore and setting are described rather than hinted at, or the loss of “charm and comedy”, for instance. Pauli does however make a point of stating how much RuneQuest was innovative and influential in terms of game design, and concludes with “wonderful to have it back” and a toast to Chaosium.

If you have a glass in your hand right now, you can join Pauli in the toast.

Teelo Imara Gives Proof Before The Court of Virtue

Eff’s highly recommended blog Eight Arms and a Mask offers a new entry from the Zero Wane when the Red Goddess still walked the earth. The Goddess of Virtue has a planet in the sky, and while she is worshiped as one entity in parts of Peloria, the Dara Happans recognize two deities associated with the House of Virtue, Entekos and Dendara. This story has the Red Goddess incarnate use an uncomfortable truth about the goddesses to prove her divinity.

The disclaimer framing the story dates this as a sixth wane Imperial College research document of dubious (read: heterodox) provenance, the stuff that new heresies are founded on. Putting such a disclaimer into a document accessible to students of experimental heroquesting is of course an ingenious way of getting this research done without having to apply for imperial funding…

Akhelas Updates

© 2021 Akhelas and Chaosium Inc.

Austin Conrad has another blog article out following the latest Monster of the Month, Jallupel Goodwind, which was a collaboration with Beer With Teeth’s Diana Probst. It goes quickly over a few “behind the scenes” bits for that issue, and then updates us on Austin’s other projects. We have confirmation that MotM will, as planned, end with the current second series, and that it will include a “plus sized” issue, like last year’s Quacken. We also learn that writing on Volume Two of Treasures of Glorantha is underway!

Black Elf by CrimFlower

© 2021 CrimFlower and Chaosium Inc.

Over on Twitter, @CrimFlower made an illustration of their black elf character… we don’t see many Voralans in illustrations so it’s nice when one pops up!

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.

Using Myths for Science

© 2021 James Kerry and Smithsonian Magazine

In this article from the Smithsonian Magazine, scientists look at myths from Makin Island to help figure out how three huge out-of-place boulders ended up there. It’s also nice to think about it in reverse, too: how you can imagine what “really” happened, and make a myth out of it.

An Exploration of Ancient Pig Herding

This video offers an exploration into pig domestication in a region where pigs are now taboo, using archaeological data as well as the biblical research on Levithicus.

One interesting factoid brought up was that pigs roaming refuse-littered streets in crowded cities actually improve the sanitation by consuming all manner of refuse, including even nightsoil, and reducing the exposure to infectious material.

Thank you for reading

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

This episode’s guests are Beer with Teeth, at time in character:

  • Erin (aka Varanis, a noble of Sartar lineage)
  • Dom (aka Rajar, a huge Storm Bull axe fighter)
  • Diana (aka Berra, a tiny Humakti warrior)

We also learn about their original GM Tom who is at fault, and about Kris who is the resident visual artist.

Why Beer With Teeth, and how they arrived at the logo.

Current Glorantha games played: one in the classical era, meant to end with the Cradle, one in the current timeline which had Kallyr come back after the Battle of Queens, and another such game run by Diana, currently digging into their characters’ previous history.

The campaigns combine published stuff and “making stuff up”.

Keeping several games’ plot-lines aligned when different GMs and parties advance at different paces.

Ludo talks about his games, and Dom discusses Cthulhu.

Using the Ars Magica trick of guest Gming in the main game (GMed by Tom), which is how

A Tale of Woodcraft” came about – drawing plot cards.

Diana adds how Crimson Petals (Pegasus Plateau) came from that guest slot GMing

Ludo plugs our Newsletter “Journal of Runic Studies


The Starter Set first observed in the wild at GenCon

Links to 3rd party unboxing videos, Andrew Logan Montgomery’s review.

Glass Cannon play-through as an example how the RuneQuest rules may be tough for newcomer GMs and players.

On the virtues of starter sets.

The GM has to decide which aspect of the rules you pick for a given situation, and what you ad-lib rather than sticking to the rules.

About the complexity of the RQ rules – at least as initial hurdle.

Hero Wars/HeroQuest being too niche and not suitable for many old school RuneQuest players.

Erin mentions the “training wheels” for the Witcher system, and would like to see something similar for RuneQuest.

Diana proselytizes by “grabbing random people from the internet”.

Erin tells how she got drawn into the game: “Just for one night!”.

Print version of Cups of Clearwine

The elf-skin version of Cups of Clearwine makes our guests quite chuffed.

Jallupel Goodwind – The Whirling Moon

Myth of the Month Vol 2 issue 8 by Diana writing for Austin Conrad/Akhelas, including a scenario.

Preview of the Battle rules in the White Bull campaign

Use of passions, but also lots of rolls on the Battle skill.

Jeff Richard’s previews on Sartar Campaign material on Facebook

Erin learning stories and background, Jeff’s posts on Facebook.

Main Topic: Writing Adventures

Dom tells about his cooperation with Diana to create the interim scenario in their main campaign as guest GMs.

Erin talks about disappearing into those deep rabbit holes of research, and that writing game scenarios is somewhat different from writing stories.

Dom shares his (complete) notes from which he meant to run that scenario – about seven hand-written lines covering half an A4 sheet.

Diana tells how her lack of familiarity with GMing RuneQuest led her to pre-write a large range of tasks and challenges, and how that happened to be quite close to Chaosium’s submission guidelines.

Ludo points out investigative methods (like John Tynes’ concept of the Investigative Sandbox).

Nudging players rather than imposing railroad.

Diana talks about player characters working their way up from followers towards the movers and shakers.

Dom thinks in terms of cool scenes that he wants to inflict on the players which strangely are going to happen where the player characters walk.

Foreshadowing, plot hooks, or red herrings?

Introducing minor things that become useful hints later.

Red herrings created by players may be turned into plot hooks.

Prophecies – heroes fighting against one another, a test of strength of truths.


Adventures vs. arcs. Personal arcs and passions.

Lethality in the game

NPC stats.

Adjusting opponent ability, numbers and smartness to the player party.

Resurrection is always an option, both for departed player characters and NPCs.

Playing NPCs smart.

Creating NPCs as communities.

How much does the past reach into the design process. How much archaeology?

Finding something old (e.g. in Clearwine, which has history and pre-history), as items, or as shards and in middens.

Populating houses in Clearwine drawing a terrible map and then using “RuneQuest Cities” results as inspiration. (RQ Cities is really a reprint of Midkemia Press’ “Cities“, which is still available in all its OSR glory).

Pre-defining tension between the NPCs like in Dregs of Clearwine.

Erin foreshadows another Clearwine book.

Researching ancient technologies – charcoal-making, glass-making.

Family structures in Bronze Age society – multi-generation households rather than core families.

Researching Bronze Age

Erin riffs about how writing game material offers her an opportunity to make stuff up rather than sticking to facts (and citing all the sources).

(If you don’t know it, The Motel of the Mysteries is a book about creative interpretation of archaeological finds. The pdf linked is a very short version for educational purposes)

Suggested reading lists cut, and Dom’s woes GMing for experts in their fields playing characters with those skill sets.

Erin plugs Ritual In Early Bronze Age Grave Goods by John Hunter as one of her inspirations.

Dom talks about his role as the Glorantha grognard in the Beer With Teeth collective.

Cave walls with bronze bands – “yes, you are walking in the body of a dead god here”.

Glorantha is about magic, myth and belief, and conflicting truths may be tested against one another.

As the Game Master, your presentation of Glorantha defines the setting for your campaign. Your Glorantha will vary, possibly between campaigns you run.

The sense of community, manifest as the wyter entity, is a unique trait of the setting.

Use of Runes as hooks to pull player characters in

Runes creating personalities that lead to motivations, e.g. in The Gifts of Prax.

Horses with character (expressed as runes, though not with magic associated).

Making a campaign unique by changing one (major) feature in the setting for that campaign, like e.g. “Argrath is dead”.

Kallyr survives the Battle of Queen in the Beer With Teeth campaign, and the potential for story and conflict inherent in this.



The intro music is “The Warbird” by Try-Tachion. Other music includes “Cinder and Smoke” and “Skyspeak“.

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 a little late releasing Episode 4 of the podcast, and for this we apologize! Well, actually no, we don’t apologize. We are the Zzaburi, we answer to no one, not even the Gods!

However, we do have to answer to our spouses and the chaotic obligations of the tumultuous time known as “back-to-school”. Oh well. The audio editing is almost done, and the episode should be playing in your ear in the next couple days.

Chaosium News

Here are this week’s Chaosium news!

The White Bull Season Two Concludes

The Chaosium “house campaign” gamemastered by Jeff Richard concludes its second season as the party returns to Prax by way of Caravan Alley and Biggle Stone, where the Adventurers (re)visit the Morokanths. They make a stop at the Paps, and finally head up to New Pavis where their patron, Argrath, still resides. He might be interested in all the news, loot, and severed dragon heads they bring with them… or maybe not.

After D&D: RuneQuest!

Chaosium’s Jeff Richard is the inaugural guest for Eliza Lambert’s After D&D YouTube channel, which will interview designers of games that D&D players might try when they want a break from rolling D20s.

In the interview Jeff goes over what makes RuneQuest great, what are the similarities and differences between RuneQuest and D&D, and so on.

One seemingly small difference (not mentioned in the video) is that RuneQuest uses percentile dice with which you want to roll low. For the longest time I thought dice and rolls didn’t matter much (my early gaming years mix Cyberpunk’s D10, Vampire’s dice pools, Call of Cthulhu’s D100, and many more), but more recently I found a whole section of the internet that is apparently genuinely confused by the idea of rolling low instead of high… go figure.

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!

Black Spear

© 2021 Nick Brooke, Mike O’Connor, and Chaosium Inc.

Nick Brooke’s marketing machine was already in first gear, but now I expect it to go into overdrive, with the release of his long promised and awaited Black Spear campaign!

The 180 pages of content will take you through the early Hero Wars, following Nick’s Duel at Dangerford, which is recommended but not required to play as a prequel. As always with a Nick Brooke book, expect songs and poetry, and lots and lots of wackiness. Disco balls and Muppet Show wackiness. It may help to drink some alcohol before picking up the PDF.

Jallupel Goodwind

© 2021 Akhelas and Chaosium Inc.

The new Monster of the Month features a collaboration between two of the most unstoppable authors of the Jonstown Compendium: Austin Conrad and Diana Probst! They have a short adventure for us with a really cool main protagonist: the mingled ghost of a Lunar Hero and a Wind Lord, who died while battling each other. And, as is usual for the series, a bunch of smaller goodies!

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.

Temples and Godly Presence

Jeff tells us about the difference between most Lunar temples and most other Dragon Pass temples:

Almost all of the Lunar temples outside of the Lunar Heartlands are unusual in that they do not have a ready connection with the history or mythological landscape of the area. When Dragon Pass was resettled, the settlers knew that Orlanth, Ernalda, the Lightbringers, Yelmalio, etc. all “resided there”. In many cases, temples were built on the old temples from before Dragonkill. Boldhome was built in a valley sacred to the Orlanth cult since First Age. Clearwine Earth Temple had been an active place of Earth worship since the Second Age at least, and the Shaker Temple has been the home of Maran Gor since before the Dawn. The physical structures might be new, but the place has been connected to the god since forever.

The Lunar temples outside of the Heartlands don’t get this kind of connection with the Red Goddess, because she doesn’t “reside there”. So, interestingly, it looks to me like the Lunars use the Seven Mothers cult not just for proselytizing, but also for establishing some kind of divine “base layer” upon which the Red Goddess can expand her influence:

The Red Goddess lived in Time and her myth-creating deeds were all in the Lunar Heartlands. The Seven Mothers get temples first, and they conceptually relate to the Seven Lightbringers – but they were mortals in Time. Their temples are places where the Red Moon (visible in the sky) can be contacted, not necessarily where the Seven did anything in Time or mythology.

This is tied to the whole God Time paradox of the Red Goddess cult. Go to the God Time and you aren’t going to see the Red Moon – it isn’t there! But you can go to the Red Moon in the Hero Plane through secret paths Lunar heroquesters have discovered/made. And even stranger, sometimes the Red Goddess herself is encountered in the Hero Plane – even though she didn’t exist then!

This is why the Red Goddess is so interesting, because she messes with what we think we understand about Glorantha’s mythical landscape. Also, note that although the Red Moon didn’t exist in the God Time, the other moons (like the blue moon) did exist… but it was killed, and it fell.

© 2021 Chaosium Inc.

It requires a mystical Illumination to get it – but that is not an urbane thing (the Red Goddess herself was from a village in the sticks).

Her Myth-Self does not properly sit with how the God Learners theorised how the God Time functions. It slices through it at a right angle like Pluto’s orbit.

This is important, pay attention!

This is fantastically disturbing to anyone who is not Illuminated. Most Lunar apologists and scribes don’t get this either – being unilluminated themselves. And so they rely on the tropes of “superior knowledge”, “secret wisdom”, “more civilized”, and “world-conquering empire” – much to the disgust of actual Red Goddess Illuminates.

There’s a reason that the bulk of the Lunar religion consists of more practical and prosaic cults like the Seven Mothers, Hon-eel, and Hwarin Dalthippa. You can get to the Red Goddess from there, but the path is difficult and arduous – but that is fine you don’t have to!

From the outside, almost everybody, from the Malkioni to the Orlanthi and the Uz and the Praxians, just see it all as “embracing Chaos”:

All of these religions conclude that the Red Goddess used Chaos to achieve Goddesshood and that her presence between Time and the God Time threatens the cosmos.

Boldhome Lunar Treasury

During the occupation, Jeff tells us that Boldhome was the administrative centre for the Lunar occupation. The Temple of the Reaching Moon (destroyed during the Dragonrise) was only to be the magical and religious centre. Figuring out how the Sartarite province worked is important to know about the financial state of the realm after the Lunars were defeated.

The Provincial Governor of Dragon Pass (Euglyptus, Fazzur, and Tatius) served as the Red Emperor’s proxy in that province, and was overseen by the Provincial Overseer. The provincial governor combined military, religious, and civil functions and was assisted by personal staff. The primary responsibility of the Provincial Governor was to secure and expand Lunar power in Dragon Pass and beyond.

This Provincial Governor was expected to keep their province independent enough though tax collection and tolls, for instance. This was used to pay the roughly 15,000 Lunar soliders in Dragon Pass (circa 1625), and for building the Temple of the Reaching Moon in the first place (at 10 hectares, it was “about the same size as the Upper City of Jonstown“).

This meant that not only was the Provincial Governor collecting money from merchants, tribal leaders, temples, cities, etc., but was receiving regular infusions of silver from Glamour. Several treasuries were set up. The first was in Boldhome. In 1622, construction of the Temple of the Reaching Moon had progressed far enough that a second treasury was established there. A third treasury was established in New Pavis, for the Lunar Prax province. These treasuries stored silver, minted coins, and a small army of scribes tracked receipts and expenditures.

The treasury in the Temple of the Reaching Moon was lost in the Dragonrise, although it may have fallen into the chasm left behind by the dragon, if your players are adventurous… or very greedy… But both the Boldhome treasury and New Pavis treasury were well stocked when Kallyr Starbrow and Argrath respectively reconquered those cities in 1624 and 1625. They suddenly were sitting on a whole pike of Lunar money! So it’s with that money that Kallyr funded her Lightbringers’ Quest in 1626… that might have jinxed it…

In the mix, Jeff even gives a good world-building tip:

And this is a question I ponder any time I write about a temple complex or a magnificent city structure – who built it and how were they paid? Same thing with armies – how are they fed and how are they paid. Sometimes the answer is a cheat – who built Boldhome? The dwarves! How were they paid? Only Sartar knows! But even that “cheat” explains a lot.

The Temple of the Reaching Moon

Speaking of the Lunar temples, Jeff shared a sketch by Greg Stafford of a “typical” Temple of the Reaching Moon!

© 2021 Chaosium Inc.

The top box is an enlarged view of the northern and largest temple. The complex is centered on an Inner Court, which is surrounded by numerous temples to the Lunar deities. Beyond that is the Outer court of the gods. Processional ways form axis from the Inner Court. Yara Aranis lives here, guards the temple, and anchors her webs at each temple, thereby expanding the Glowline.

Jeff suggests that we look at the mortuary temple to Hatshepshut (a Pharaoh in the 15th century BCE) for a good reference. The picture below shows the main part of the temple:

Photo by Ian Lloyd

The Kheldon Tribe

© 2021 Chaosium Inc.

You might know the Kheldon tribe from its most famous king, the rebel leader Kallyr Starbrow. Jeff has some notes about the tribe:

The Kheldon or “Red-Haired” tribe came into Dragon Pass circa 1400, as part of the Second Wave of settlement. They were led by the Red Haired Women and settled in the Killard Vale, the sacred valley where the demigod Heort was born. They were originally called the Black Rock clan and got their name from a black stone that Orlanth hurled from the heavens and gave to the Red Haired Women as a weapon.

Huh, the Vingans have some big black rock they can throw at people to crush them? Sounds like someone should make a new Rune Spell… anyway, Jeff imagines the Killard Vale a bit like Estes Park in Colorado:

© 2021 Go Colorado

The clans are Black Rock clan (“led by the Vinga cult and its Red-Haired women“), Deer clan, Vanstali clan, and Heran clan.

The write-ups for the clans and tribe continue to use the new “format”, i.e. about a third of children, counting of free and non-free adults separately, listing major, minor, and shrine temples, and so on. This is incredibly useful for Gamemasters to bring an area to life. I especially like the inclusion of notable spirit cults of each region in those write-ups. I don’t know if these spirits will be detailed in the Sartar Homeland books, but the names are evocative enough to bring all kinds of things to mind already. For instance, the Kheldon tribe’s notable spirit cults are Crow, Golden Lamb, Quivin, Silver Deer, and Wilms.

The Culbrea Tribe

© 2021 Chaosium Inc.

Another tribal write-up preview, this time concerning the Culbrea tribe. The clans are the Elk Clan, Blue Spruce clan (led by Elmalandti, Kallyr’s Orlanth Thunderous priest), Barlamani (lef by King Ranulf), Lorthing, Mathiording, Orlamani, Owl clan, Red Vireo, and Jotarin (a.k.a. Two Pine clan).

A lot of these clans are pretty small, between 300 and 500 people each for most of them. Jeff explains it so:

Several of them are less than a decade old and are likely little more than warrior-initiatory societies than have been living in the hills and raiding like Orlanth Adventurous.

The Barlamani came out of the Lorthing, the Blue Spruce came out of the Mathiording and Red Vireo clans, and the Orlmanni came out of the Owl clan.

These clans are therefore basically a bunch of bandits:

The Culbrea are best known for their control of the Hill of Orlanth Victorious, an important Orlanthi sacred place. The Culbrea are centered on the Lorthing and Moaning Vales. They are a comparatively small and poor tribe, but have more warrior societies than other tribes. The tribe receives much of its revenue from its control over several important sacred places and through war and brigandage. They consider themselves the “Free Tribe” but others call them the “Bandit Tribe.”

A couple clans are redeeming the rest of the bunch, being mostly farmers or pastorialists. My guess is that you want to stay in the valley when you cross their lands…

The recent history of the Culbrea is well known to anybody how has played or read through the HeroQuest Glorantha material:

For some 70 years, the Culbrea were led by Hofstaring Treeleaper, a heroic figure with a magical leaping ability and a spear that could fight on its own. He reluctantly led the tribe in the rebellion later called Starbrow’s Rebellion, and was killed by the Lunars. In punishment for their role in Starbrow’s Rebellion, the Culbrea lost two clans to the Cinsina tribe, and one clan to the Aranwyth. A fourth clan went to the Aranwyth after a short war. The current king, Ranulf, led the tribe to successfully rebel against the Lunar Occupation. During the rebellion, several warrior societies formed into small clans, who survived in the hills through war and banditry.

This shows how the Lunar Occupation can change the make-up of Sartarite tribes, and that in a post-1625 Dragon Pass, you should feel free to change a few things on the map to keep your players on their toes!

Community Roundup

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

The Glass Cannon’s Starter Set Finale

This is part 3 of the Glass Cannon’s playthrough of one of the adventures in the RuneQuest Starter Set! Scorpionmen and other Chaos creatures, criticals and fumbles, augments and magic spells, this is RuneQuest alright.

RuneQuest is Complicated

Watching an entire group of newbies take on RuneQuest like this reinforces my thinking that Chaosium should do a big simplification and unification pass on the rules, the way they did for Call of Cthulhu 7th edition — the most popular edition of Call of Cthulhu and BRP by far, by the way.

As far as I can tell, Chaosium’s opinion that “newbies do fine with RuneQuest” is biased by the fact that it’s often an experienced RuneQuest gamemaster leading the game (either one of Chaosium’s own employees, or some long time members of the Cult of Chaos). Watching Troy struggle with system doubt, and seeing players misunderstanding rules reminds me of how I myself struggled with RuneQuest’s rules at the beginning.

Anecdotally, it’s not uncommon to see posts on social media where people hesitate to run RuneQuest despite their curiosity about Glorantha, or people who crashed and burned after their first RuneQuest session and hesitate to pick it up again. As far as I can tell, RuneQuest’s rules are as much an obstacle to playing in Glorantha than it is the intimidating amount of lore.

Well, that’s my hot take of the week anyway. You know where to find me!

Andrew Logan Montgomery Reviews the Starter Set

© 2021 Chaosium Inc.

Well, speaking of new Gamemasters having trouble getting started with RuneQuest, Andrew Logan Montgomery (author of Six Seasons in Sartar and The Company of the Dragon, among other things) reviews the RuneQuest Starter Set on his blog, stating that it is indeed the solution:

If only there were a single, streamlined product we could point new players to, a concise entry point that explained the rules, introduced the setting, and made it all effortless to learn and play. Something that showcased what makes this fantasy RPG unique.

Oh wait, now there is… 

Andrew then goes on to detail what exactly we find in the box, with the occasional nugget of clarity I’ve come to love from his writings:

Over the last four decades art for Glorantha has been all over the place, something curiously at odds with a game that has such well defined cultures. There has been a real effort in the Runequest line since 2018 to be consistent in the depiction of these cultures, and to make them look unique (as opposed to, say, just fantasy Greeks or Celts or Vikings).

Anyway, read the rest of the review if you’re curious about the Starter Set — it’s an excellent overview.

Skull Dixon’s Review of The Smoking Ruin

© 2021 Chaosium Inc.

If you’re on the fence about buying or playing Chaosium’s first adventure book for the latest RuneQuest edition, Skull Dixon has a comprehensive review for you. More than a review, it’s also an in-depth look at the adventure, with some advice to deal with some of the difficult bits. This general comment in the article’s intro echoes a criticism I’ve heard a few times about the titular scenario:

As much as I like this adventure, I found this one particularly difficult to run. I read the adventure more than I normally read through any adventure. At the most, I normally read through an adventure twice. I read through The Smoking Ruinsadventure four times and did some additional skimming before each game session to remind myself of key info for that week’s session. I’m a minimalistic GM when it comes to prep, so it was very much outside my comfort zone to reread this adventure this many times.

Thankfully, Skull Dixon breaks it down for you, which may come in handy when you decide to run The Smoking Ruin. In particular, check the last section of the review, with suggested changes or additions to the adventure. If you’ve read the author’s previous adventure reviews, you should be familiar with those, and how useful they can be.

More Ducks!

© 2021 Skull Dixon and Chaosium Inc.

Speaking of Skull Dixon, you might remember that he was drawing some cool Gloranthan ducks a couple weeks ago. Well, apparently it’s so fun he kept going!

© 2021 Skull Dixon and Chaosium Inc.

You can find all of his illustrations so far on his Behance portfolio, including the awesome Chaotic Duck seen above. He (Skull Dixon, not the duck) suggested that these drawings might get collected one day for a Jonstown Compendium thing…

Exploring Glorantha Episode 11: The Chaos Pantheon

The content has been flagged as mature theme because Chaos can be quite gruesome.

Evan and JM are joined by Becca, a regular on the Thirteenth Age Iconic Podcast, to present and discuss some of the most important cults and monsters of Chaos in Glorantha. You may want to be warned that the hosts are using RQ3’s more “gruesome” (or “cringy”, depending on your take) write-ups for some of these Cults of Terror (for instance, Thed’s myth doesn’t include rape in the original RQ2). This is all handled and discussed with tact as far as I can tell (including some interesting anecdote about introducing Broos to male and female players), but there’s a reason why Evan and JM flagged the video as “mature”, so consider this a content warning.

The video comes, as always, with a very handy list of time stamps that allow you to jump to a specific cult or creature.

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.

Don’t Offend the Sky Gods

© 2021 The Authors, Scientific Reports, and NASA Langley Research Center Atmospheric Science Data Center

It looks like historians now think that the city of Tall el-Hammam, a Bronze Age city in the Southern Jordan Valley, was destroyed by a “cosmic air burst”. That is: a meteor exploded in the skies above upon atmospheric entry, and that sent an air burst powerful enough to flatten entire buildings.

The proposed airburst was larger than the 1908 explosion over Tunguska, Russia, where a ~ 50-m-wide bolide detonated with ~ 1000× more energy than the Hiroshima atomic bomb. A city-wide ~ 1.5-m-thick carbon-and-ash-rich destruction layer contains peak concentrations of shocked quartz (~ 5–10 GPa); melted pottery and mudbricks; diamond-like carbon; soot; Fe- and Si-rich spherules; CaCO3 spherules from melted plaster; and melted platinum, iridium, nickel, gold, silver, zircon, chromite, and quartz. Heating experiments indicate temperatures exceeded 2000 °C.

The most famous meteor air burst you may have heard about was the Tunguska event, which featured a 12 megaton explosion. I’ll let y’all debate whether this is caused by Lunar sorcery (meteors!), Yelmic intervention (explosions in the sky!), or so Orlanthi shenanigans (there is no meteor, just a big ass air burst!).

Thanks to Martin Heldson for the link!

Thank you for reading

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

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

Chaosium News

Here are this week’s Chaosium news!

More Battle of Queens Aftermath

The Chaosium “house campaign” continues (and concludes) the immediate aftermath of the Battle of Queens. This is a pretty uneventful session, with some spider worship and sacrifice (hidden behind some “line and veil” to not disturb the arachnophobic players), some Sartarite politics in the background, and a great example of having a character’s Passions change during play (you may want to listen to our last podcast episode on this topic if you haven’t already!).

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!


© 2021 JK Revell and Chaosium Inc.

Jamie Revell continues to look at the western Genertela with a short sourcebook on the Rathori, the “werebears” of Glorantha. Bearwalkers describes the titular people’s culture, society, religion, magic, and mythology. It has some material to create Rathori characters, useful for both RuneQuest and QuestWorlds. It also has a gazeteer of Rathorela.

Cups of Clearwine in Softcover

© 2021 Beer With Teeth and Chaosium Inc.

Beer With Teeth’s upper-class follow-up to Dregs of Clearwine is now available in print-on-demand! Cups of Clearwine describes a neighborhood of the Colymar tribal center in detail, with everything you can expect from such a sourcebook: NPCs and their households, maps and plot hooks, shops and more!

More Teasing for The Black Spear

Art by Mike O’Connor © 2021 Nick Brooke and Chaosium Inc.

Nick Brooke continues to threaten us with releasing his gonzo communist Hero Wars saga called The Black Spear on the Jonstown Compendium. It sounds like it might happen next month, and it sounds like it’s going to be a pretty sizable book! My money is ready.

Community Roundup

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

The Glass Cannon Plays RuneQuest, Part 2

I found this session a lot better than the first one, probably because all the players are getting in the groove of the difficult system that is RuneQuest. There is some good roleplaying happening, especially around magic and Passions, Joh Mith (of Griffin Mountain fame) gets a cameo, and the scent of Chaos is in the air. I’m looking forward to the third and final session to what looks to be the first scenario of the RuneQuest starter set!

RPG Imaginings’ Starter Set Unboxing

RPG Imaginings gives us a nice little surprise in these trying times with a (sponsored) unboxing video of the upcoming RuneQuest Starter Set! We already had seen quite a few pictures of its contents so there aren’t any big surprises here, but we do get glimpses of some occasional original art, NPC portrait, or whatever. I agree with the host that it’s really nice that Chaosium included a “What’s Not In the Box” blurb in the introduction sheet!

If you’re wondering how spoiler-free the video is, note that the SoloQuest and Adventure booklets are skipped except for the first couple pages, so you’re pretty safe, except maybe for the Rainbow Mounds player map near the end. The rules and setting booklets are flipped through so we see a few major Jonstown NPCs, locations, and items, but I don’t think any of these would qualify as spoilers. The rest of the running time is spent looking at the new gorgeous pre-generated character folios, accessories like the Strike Rank tracker, and the Northern Sartar Map.

Jess McDonell’s Starter Set Unboxing

If you want a much shorter video, you can also check out Jess McDonell’s own quick unboxing here! This is only a minute and a half though so you’ll only see very quick glimpses of the contents, but Jess says she’ll “hopefully” play this on her channel very soon.

A New Griselda Story is Coming

© 2021 The Kraken

It looks like Fabian Küchler is currently editing and laying out a new Griselda story written, as usual, by Oliver Dickinson! We don’t know much about this story besides the title, and the fact that it may be longer than all the previous stories.

You can get all the original Griselda stories in PDF from Chaosium. There were a few other Griselda stories published as Kraken Chapbooks (like this upcoming one) that were also available from Chaosium, but they seem to have been taken down as part of the HeroQuest branding apocalypse. As far as I can tell, they are currently not available anywhere, but we can assume they will come back once the QuestWorlds rebranding has happened.

A List of Gloranthan Free-forms

Our own God Learner librarian has started a list of all the Glorantha “freeforms” known to have been played. We should really have an episode about those freeforms at some point, and especially what they are in the first place. I’m going to trigger Joerg into bumping that up the schedule by saying: as far as I know, they’re just another term for LARP. Let’s see if that motivates him…

If you have information that’s missing from the list, please comment on the RPGGeek page, or contact us directly.

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.

Undead Centaur, and Other Skeletons

© 2021 Morgue Miniatures

Morgue Miniatures is running a Kickstarter for a variety of skeleton figurines, including an undead centaur which, apparently, is inspired by the RuneQuest adventure The Smoking Ruin.

On Shamanism in the Real World

This TEDx talk by Phil Borges talks briefly about real-world shamans, which is interesting to Gloranthaphiles for obvious reasons. Sadly, the audio mixing is horrible (check out the second highest comment under the video!). If you can’t stand it, there is a roughly equivalent text interview of Borges here. Thanks to Andrew Logan Montgomery and Jeff DE Luna for the links.

Making, Trading, and Consuming Phoenician Wine

Art by O. Bruderer, © 2021 Tell el-Burak Archaeological Project

This in-depth article will tell everything you need about wine in the Ancient World to spice up your game with cool details! For instance:

In antiquity, wine could be consumed unmixed, diluted with water or with the addition of other ingredients such as honey, spices, herbs or tree resins, which seasoned, enhanced and changed the taste of wines, improving their conservation, flavour, and psychoactive properties.

Maybe it’s time to check back on that Issaries trader interview document we found not too long ago in our tower… Thanks to Jeff Richard for the link.

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.

GenCon News

This week, all gaming news are taken over by the big sacred festival of GenCon, which is happening simultaneously in some Great Temple in Indianapolis, and in the Spirit World of the Internet.

This high point in the annual convention calendar has seen quite a few game sessions hosted on site as much as online. Did you participate in any Gloranthan gaming there? Please share your experience!

RuneQuest at GenCon

© 2021 Chaosium Inc.

While we are still waiting for Chaosium’s distribution centers around the world to be stocked with the RuneQuest Starter Set, a few boxes made their way to GenCon and were sold there. If you’re part of the lucky customers, please post some nice pictures on social media so that the rest of us can jealously drool over our screens!

© 2021 Chaosium Inc.

Otherwise, you can watch Jeff Richard, interviewed by Ben Riggs, hold one of these coveted boxes below:

We also have one more sneak peek at Matt Ryan’s cartography work for the Sartar Homeland boxed set:

© 2021 Chaosium Inc.

Chaosium didn’t have much presence in the ENNIE awards (more on this below), so I’m happy about Free League winning a bunch of categories this year. I really like their games and their Year Zero Engine system, and with the high quality of their product lines they really deserved the “Fan Favourite Publisher” award.

The Lunars Won

Art by Dario Corallo © 2021 Brooke, Gidlow, Hagen, Chaosium Inc.

As GenCon is in full swing (at the time of writing), the ENNIES award ceremony happened: we’re happy for Nick Brooke, Chris Gidlow, Mike Hagen, and all their collaborators for winning the Gold Award in the “community content” category (which, for historical reasons, is called “Best Organized Play”), with the Lunar-focused sourcebook A Rough Guide to Glamour. Congratulations to the team, some of whom were guests in episode 4 of Wind Words, providing us insights in the making of that book. And also, singing.

Nick Brooke recorded an acceptance speech that you can view, in all of its musical glory, here:

Art by Mark Smylie © 2021 Gidlow, Chaosium Inc.

Chris Gidlow even wins a second award, since his Citizens of the Lunar Empire also won the Bronze Award. Congratulations again, and a wonderful showing of talent for the Glorantha fan community. I wonder if we live in an alternate Glorantha where the Lunars win the HeroWars… (I’m sure Nick will retort that this is the main timeline, and the one where Argrath wins is the alternate one, and who am I to argue with an Illuminate?)

If you’re wondering who won the Silver Award, well that still goes to a Chaosium fan community, with Hand of Glory, a scenario by Allan Carey (of TYPE40 fame and excellence!) for Call of Cthulhu’s community content program, the Miskatonic Repository.

All Rolled Up’s Gloranthan Accessories

© 2021 All Rolled Up and Chaosium Inc.

All Rolled Up, known for their many gaming and gaming-related accessories (including the original titular “All Rolled Up” bundle bag) is running a sale for GenCon, with the coupon code “GENCANT10”. Hurry up, the code expires on Monday (tomorrow). You can find all of Chaosium’s related products on this page.

Chaosium News

Here are this week’s Chaosium news!

Design Diary for the Starter Set

© 2021 Chaosium Inc.

We already knew that the upcoming RuneQuest Starter Set would contain a solo adventure as a way to introduce the world and mechanics to a future Gamemaster. In fact, not only does the existing Call of Cthulhu Starter Set also use this wonderful trick to ease a new player into the game, but RuneQuest also has some history with these so-called SoloQuests.

© 2021 Chaosium Inc.

Well, a new “design diary” entry on Chaosium’s blog takes us briefly behind the scenes of the production of this booklet.

For example, one thing we already knew informally is that this SoloQuest will be focused on Vasana, as opposed to allow any protagonist, or, as in the case of the Call of Cthulhu Starter Set, build the character from scratch as part of the adventure’s introduction. One reason was that RuneQuest’s character creation is much more involved that Call of Cthulhu’s, and the Starter Set actually does not feature these rules in its contents. As far as I know, there was simply no room in the box, so the creative team instead opted for packing the box with enough pre-generated characters that the players should find something they like. The other reason was that they wanted the “fixed” choices of the text adventure to go hand in hand with the specific strengths and weaknesses of Vasana, so that players really experience the system the way it’s meant to.

© 2021 Chaosium Inc.

By the way, I love the Warhammer-style folio character sheets (pictured above) that are in the Starter Set. We’ve been told that blank versions will be available in PDF for printing.

© 2021 Chaosium Inc.

The next entry in Chaosium’s design diary series has the writers give us their perspective. One of the SoloQuest authors is James Coquillat who handles the designer interviews on the Chaosium YouTube channel.

As Vasana navigates the conflict, the reader will learn crucial RuneQuest mechanics like drawing inspiration, using rune magic, striking, parrying, and planning manoeuvres. They’ll have the opportunity to choose their own route through the conflict and, depending on Vasana’s actions and success, the Battle of Dangerford’s outcome could be very different.

From what James tells us, the SoloQuest might have some good replayability, with the chance to learn more about the Crimson Bat, go into Spirit Combat, and stand before the Judge of the Dead, among other optional things. A custom system called “Battle Result Total”, which tallies up Vasana’s victories and defeats along the story, affects the outcome of the central event of the book, the Battle of Dangerford. Based on the total, the reader will experience several different outcomes, which sounds exciting!

Each playthrough will give different results and although set pieces will be revisited, they’ll never be quite the same.

Munchkinery in Times of War

The Chaosium house campaign continues, as the adventurers charge the Lunars’ Granite Phalanx hoplites with impressive rules munchkinery and lucky rolls! Plus: Gina pisses off an important ghost.

Jonstown Compendium

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

The Backstory of Six Seasons in Sartar

© 2021 Andrew Logan Montgomery and Chaosium Inc.

Andrew Logan Montgomery blogs about how Six Seasons in Sartar came to be in its latest incarnation, a best selling title on the Jonstown Compedium:

Every time I posted a session, the blog numbers shot up. Sure, reviews generally attracted more readers (the reviews of occult books far larger than games, actually), but people were writing to me more. They were reading about the Haraborn, about the campaign, and writing to tell me how invested they were in it. I still remember the first email suggesting I publish it. I think I laughed. Then came the second. The third. And so on. Something was in the air.

Designer Notes on The Bad Winds

© 2021 Akhelas & Chaosium Inc.

Monster of the Month series author Austin Conrad has some designer notes on his blog about the latest entry, The Bad Winds.

The Bad Winds started life as one antagonist in a disease-oriented adventure I spent time on last year, The Fouled Earth. I’ve mentioned that adventure in passing during last year’s wrap-up blog, but basically I ran into writer’s block, and scrapped the project. This issue of MOTM repackages that antagonist with the myth that adventure was exploring, “Kolat Vanquishes the Bad Winds,” and further adds rules for propitiating these spirits, so that they’ll stay away from your community.

Community Roundup

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

The Glass Cannon Plays RuneQuest

The Glass Cannon, a network of RPG streams and video channels, plays a scenario out of the RuneQuest Starter Set with some gaming-famous guests! The actual play features a few exclusive looks at the much awaited Starter Set such as illustrations, characters, and maps.

As expected, the Gamemaster and players struggle a bit through all the crunchy bits of RuneQuest such as multiplications, Strike Ranks, and other things that in my humble opinion should have been “modernized out of the system” (I’m sure this opinion is going to cause me some trouble but that’s fine!).

Unboxing in the Nook

It’s been a while since we featured the inhumanly prolific Pookie in these parts. But it seems like he received a little package of HeroQuest Glorantha books:

These books are now out of print, at least until they get rebranded as QuestWorlds (this is because the HeroQuest trademark went back to Hasbro last year).

What Cult Should You Join?

What do you get when you cross some Facebook personality quizz with Glorantha? Well, you get this, a personality quizz that tells you what cult you should join. I don’t imagine that Russian state hackers would be able to manipulate western elections with this, so I can only assume that it is harmless… unless, that is, the Lunars somehow made great strides in electronic surveillance and internet-based propaganda… And it may very well be the case: I got Irippi Ontor!

Stormraven’s RuneQuest Glorantha Reading

RPG.net forum user Stormraven, who has done multiple “read along” threads in the past, is now just starting to read the latest RuneQuest rulebook.

Not much to report so far, but these threads are often an opportunity to chime in with extra context and help confused new readers. And we know there’s a lot that a new reader may be confused about with Glorantha and RuneQuest! I hope things will stay civil when someone (possibly the OP) will inevitably voice negative opinions about the book. Remember that not everybody likes everything! Who am I kidding, though, this is an internet nerd forum… But thankfully the RPG.net forum is heavily moderated, so keep that in mind too.

Newt Newport’s Opinion on RuneQuest Glorantha

Newt Newport, who is no stranger to Glorantha and RuneQuest (he’s the author of two Gloranthan fanzines and a popular RuneQuest system fork, among other things), has posted a short article on his new Gloranthan blog about RuneQuest’s latest edition. Spoilers:

RuneQuest Glorantha? I’ve come to the conclusion I like it.

Newt goes on to explain his position and I’m pretty much in the same moon boat: there’s a bunch of things that annoy me with RuneQuest as a system, with fiddly bits and unnecessary crunch and editing issues and inconsistencies and all that, but overall it’s nice and it works well for Gloranthan gaming. I like it (although there’s quite a few systems I like a lot more).

Thank you for reading

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