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.

And:

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!

Wilmskirk

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!

Korolstead

© 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!

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!

Bearwalkers

© 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!

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

Chaosium News

Here are this week’s Chaosium news!

The RuneQuest Starter Set is Almost Here

© 2021 Chaosium Inc.

Chaosium has setup a sign-up page if you want to be notified as soon as the much awaited RuneQuest Starter Set is ready to ship from their warehouses. As far as I understand, if you register at the link above, you will be notified before the news spread to Chaosium’s usual channels, so it’s worth doing if you’re really looking forward to order on day one.

Learn a Setting FAST

Jason Durall, who has been involved with many deep and complex settings besides Glorantha, shared with us his process for learning about a new setting with the perspective of gaming in it or contributing to it. While the video is called “Learn a Setting FAST“, I wouldn’t call Jason’s process “FAST” given that it involves, say, reading a book twice, catching up with the fandom, and following up on the bibliography and sources of the IP’s authors… but towards the end of the video, Jason does go into advice for quickly finding useful material online.

The video won’t really answer the age-old question of “how do I teach Glorantha to new players in 15min or less?” (which has arguably also been answered as many times as it has been asked), but it does point to useful resources nonetheless!

The Battle of Queens Continues

Jeff Richard’s group goes through the aftermath of their first turn of battle! See last Journal issue for detailed notes on this preview of the battle rules.

The characters who were blasted with Lunar Madness see their Passions and Runes possibly affected by the experience, as the Gamemaster discusses what it meant for them with their respective players (a nice example of the kind of stuff we talked about on our last podcast episode!).

The party has to survive a volley of missile attacks as they charge the Silver Shields, while Jeff has a few “frank” words for those who disparage Yelmalio’s magic. The Battle of Queen’s climax is reached, and my questions from last week are answered: the events of the Battle seem indeed scripted and set in stone, and the player’s agency is focused on “what are you going to do about it?“. Well, what they do about is roll the absolute biggest Orate roll I’ve ever seen! Although my follow-up question is now whether this will really change things in any meaningful way: Nisk prevented a whole chunk of the Sartarite army from running away, and I’m looking forward to see how that matters.

By the way, you can check out an earlier draft of Jeff’s “playbook” for the Battle of Queens on BRP Central. It features some example of Battle encounter tables, and a round-by-round break-down of the conflict’s important events.

Fantasy Grounds RuneQuest Update

© 2021 Chaosium Inc.

It looks like NPCs are getting imported into the system!

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!

Comparing Premium and Standard Print of The Company of the Dragon

© 2021 Andrew Logan Montgomery and Chaosium Inc.

Andrew Logan Montgomery, author of the best-selling Six Seasons in Sartar and The Company of the Dragon, has posted comparison photos of the Premium and Standard Print versions of his latest book.

For starters the covers are identical, the binding is the same, and the paper weight is identical. The Standard lays flat like the Premium and the paper is just as heavy.

What I see, side by side, is that the Standard looks just a bit faded and a lot more flat. The colors do not seem as deep. And the Premium is glossier. It seems most noticeable to me with the maps and the blue colored chapter plates. All in all I gotta say both are very attractive books, and I am pleasantly surprised how well standard matches up.

Photo by Andrew Logan Montgomery

Andrew adds that “you really see the difference more under fluorescent lighting“.

You can see more comparison pictures in the original Facebook post, or in Chaosium’s reposting on their blog.

The Black Spear is Coming

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

Nick Brooke has been teasing us with a few illustrations by Mike O’Connor lately, for his new Jonstown Compendium work is coming “next month” (supposedly… that’s quite bold of him to, like, announce release dates and all).

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.

On Small Sartarite Clans

Jeff posted a quite note about “small” Sartarite clans. The Culbrea tribe, for instance, has four “stable” clans (Elk, Jotaring, Lorthing, and Mathiording) with a sizable population of around 750 people. However:

Then there are five clans that have an average of 300 members each – too few to be a stable organisation. They are hunters, raiding bands, or religious orders more than stable social groups. They include the Barlamani, Blue Spruce, Orlamani, Owl, and Red Vireo Clans, and most are little more than a leader, his entourage, and their followers and supporters. For example, the Blue Spruce are the entourage of Elmalandti the Priest and household, while the Barlamani clan are now little more than the household warriors of King Ranulf. Unless things change dramatically, in the next few years I expect that at least two or three of these small clans to either disband or merge into other clans in order to survive.

This, still according to Jeff, is “an example of a Sartarite tribe under considerable distress as a result of the Lunar Occupation and Rebellion“.

The distressed clans occupy contested or marginal lands:

-Barlamani: Elendra’s Graze
-Blue Spruce: around Jarolar Keep (which they occupy)
-Orlamanni: between Hill of Orlanth Victorious and the Finger
-Owl: along the Owl Flight Crest
-Red Vireo: along the Old Saint’s Road

Gorangian Bronzeguts

Art by Anna Orlova © 2021 Chaosium Inc.

This nice chap pictured above is none other than the chief librarian of the Jonstown Knowledge Temple.

One thing I love about this is that Gorangian is not a particular heroic figure, but is an example of an important member of Sartarite society who is not part of the martial aristocracy or the Earth temples. Not only that, Gorangian is originally from Esrolia – an example of the ties between Sartar and that ancient Queendom.

If you’re curious about Gorangian’s nickname, Jason Durall gave us a clue by mentioning Didymus Chalcenterus, an Ancient Greek scholar.

Scribes are of course quite important, because they are the ones who literally make history:

This is tied into Sartar’s position as a center of trade. The wealth generated by trade supports scribes in each of the cities (with the most being in Boldhome). This in turn means that there are scribes recording poems, histories, myths, mathematics, philosophy, wisdom literature, drama, and even prose fiction! There are nearly 1500 Lhankor Mhy initiates in Sartar (400 in Boldhome alone!), which means there is likely an impressive output of writing in Sartar.

That is indeed a lot of scribes and philosophers! But I imagine that 90% of them are just taking care of the business of priests, merchants, and nobles, and are all procrastinating about that epic poem they told everyone they would publish one day…

Note that since scribes are mostly supported by the confederation, city, or tribe, they mostly live in urban centres, leaving very few Lhankor Mhy initiates living in rural clans:

I expect most people who want to be scribes go to the cities, where they have the temples, libraries, patrons, etc. Which is totally normal – just look at many Greek scholars who originally came from rural Greece, but ended up in Athens, Alexandria, Pergamon, etc.

We can expect this to be another so-called “change of tone” in the upcoming Sartar Homeland boxed set, in addition to the new editorial focus on road trade and inns:

So when you all imagine Sartar, remember also that this is also a kingdom of scribes, of texts, and of libraries. Nochet may have the equivalent of the Library of Alexandria, but Sartar then is Pergamon, with its great collection of texts and manuscripts.

Jeff concludes:

So I can completely imagine a Sartarite Herodotus who has traveled from Boldhome to Glamour, spent years in the Holy Country and Handra, and perhaps even sailed to Seshnela, Teshnos, or Jrustela, and is now composing their Histories. In fact, this would make a GREAT Lhankor Mhy character!

Don’t Stop Here, It’s Lightbringers Country

Jeff tells us about the importance of all the Lightbringers cults (not just Orlanth and Ernalda but also Chalana Arroy, Eurmal, Issaries, and Lhankor Mhy) around Dragon Pass an the Holy Country:

These six cults are the foundation of Orlanthi society and religion. Between two-thirds and three-fourths of all adults are initiated into at least one of these cults.

In rural areas, Orlanth and Ernalda overwhelmingly predominate, but in the cities, there are nearly as many initiates of Chalana Arroy, Eurmal, Issaries, and Lhankor Mhy collectively as there are Orlanth and Ernalda.

Jeff summarizes this as: “The Orlanthi are polytheistic, not henotheistic“.

Themes of the Hero Wars

We know that the many campaign frameworks for Glorantha are set in Dragon Pass because that’s where the Hero Wars are going to happen, like… any time now. Next year, or something.

While books like the Guide to Glorantha and King of Sartar give us the events of the Hero Wars, Jeff tells us what the Hero Wars are about. He encourages Gamemasters to first anchor the players and their characters in a community by depicting what their everyday life is, from the clan politics to the tribal feuds to dealing with raiding trolls and owed favours and sick family members. Once the adventurers are “grounded”, show how changes in the world are affecting their lives and their community, accelerating, gaining scale, requiring hard choices and shifting priorities. Arguably, this is what was already attempted in the old Hero Wars “Sartar Rising” campaign books. But Jeff then goes further:

The Hero Wars initially appears to be a simple conflict between the expansionist Lunar Empire and traditional Orlanthi in Sartar. Such initial understandings are deceptive – the Hero Wars are a many-faceted conflict between the gods and Chaos, between two antagonists who are their respective Shadows, between the Elder Races and humanity, and a renewal of the ancient wars between Nysalor-Gbaji and Arkat. Sworn enemies will find themselves fighting side-by-side against former friends. Long-held sacred truths will be exposed to be untrue, and new truths unveiled.

This complexity might only reveal itself after many sessions of play.

This is where things get tricky: the Gamemaster should ideally show that the Hero Wars aren’t just happening between mortals, but also on the cosmic levels of Glorantha:

Everyone in Glorantha has associations which cause influence between the individual and the gods and these influences are always acting. The Glorantha Runes are one way of understanding this maxim. Thus, a feud between two tribes may echo ancient conflicts between gods, and peace between individuals may require re-enacting an ancient myth.

Similarly, conflicts between communities may parallel and embody the larger conflicts of the Hero Wars.

Finally, the Gamemaster should also ideally introduce the “shadow” of the characters, that is the “unconscious part of ourselves that remains with us although we consciously reject it“.

During the course of the campaign, traditionalist Orlanthi may find themselves accepting Illumination and working with Lunar deities, and devout Lunars may find themselves working with rebel Orlanthi to destroy the Red Moon itself.

The Lunars and Chaos

The Red Goddess is a Chaos deity, pure and simple:

She has the Runes of Moon, Chaos, and Life. This paradox is a source of her power, but also the source of the unwavering antagonism with the Storm Gods (Orlanth, Storm Bull, Humakt, and even the more peaceable Lightbringers) and their cults. It is also the source of her antagonism with the cults of Darkness (Kyger Litor, Zorak Zoran especially). The mastery of the Crimson Bat is a constant reminder of this connection.

The Seven Mothers however are not tainted by Chaos, even though they “helped bring her into existence“. They also extend her influence in places and situations where she doesn’t have power.

Most Lunars believed that the Red Goddess shall free the world from bondage and liberate the minds and souls of all. This is her promise and much of the appeal of the Lunar Religion even in places like Sartar.

Most Orlanthi believed the Red Goddess is one of the Lords of Terror, Gbaji reborn, and the harbinger of a new Gods War. This is why she is hated and feared and even rival gods are willing to cooperate against her.

Both view points are likely true. Once the Lunar Way came into direct conflict with the Orlanthi, perhaps the Hero Wars were inevitable.

Notes on Lunar Cities

Furthest was founded around the same time as Boldhome, and settled by “folk from the Lunar Heartlands who followed Hon-eel to Dragon Pass“:

Furthest is not a Tarshite city so much as a Lunar city, and it operates somewhat outside the network of clans and traditional kinship groups that characterize most Orlanthi cities (although it has those too). A good real world point of comparison is Alexandria Eschate – aka “Alexandria the Furthest”.

Glamour is the “cultural, religious, and political center of the Lunar Empire“. Jeff refers us to Antioch during the Roman Empire, or Baghdad under the Seljuks as a point of reference.

Antioch by Jean-Claude Golvin

Between Furthest and Glamour are the Dara Happan Tripolis (well, two of the three – Alkoth and Raibanth), the beautiful artistic center that is Jillaro-on-the-Green with its Daughter’s Roads, and Saird. Mirin’s Cross by all accounts a city of administrative rather culture importance – like Mediolanum or Nicomedia under Diocletian.

Jeff concludes:

It is important not to think of the Lunar Empire as a monolithic thing. It is as much a network of cities and tribes, held together by Glamour and the Lunar Way (and the resources those two can muster) and by the position of the Red Emperor as both Dara Happan emperor and Carmanian shah.

The Red Emperor asserts to be more than merely the ruler of a place or peoples – many of his titles are universal in nature. He is Moonson, Lord of the Four Quarters, Staff and Pillar of God, Leader of the Egi, Shah of Shahs, and the Bright and Illustrious Emperor of Dara Happa.

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.

Glorantha, Meaning, and Mythology

Andrew Logan Montgomery (which we talked about above), has a new good post on his blog about the role of myths in the real world and in Glorantha:

[…] a lot of Glorantha fans get lost in the minutia of the mythology and all the apparent discrepancies. They want to know whether Orlanth has four arms or two, whether Yelmalio is really Elmal, whether Humakt brought death by killing Grandfather Mortal or Rebellus Terminus did by killing Murharzarm, whether Vinga is Orlanth or Orlanth’s daughter, etc. They want to know the chemical composition of the sun rather than why American children draw it with a yellow crayon while Japanese draw it with red.

But myth will not give you facts, only meanings.

Andrew then goes into some commentary on exactly that: Yelmalio and Elmal, the Death of the First Emperor, the origin of Vinga, and so on.

If you regard a god as simply a being with super-powers and longevity, switching from worshipping Elmal to worshipping Yelmalio seems like switching between two different people. If you view gods as expressions of the numinous, on the other hand, as Gloranthans do, there is no confusion.

The conclusion gets surprisingly and nicely practical, as Andrew outlines four suggestions for “mental adjustments” that may help a player or Gamemaster better grasp the complexities of the setting. If you’re in a hurry, just scroll to the bottom and read that part!

Thirsty Sword Vingans

If you’re already familiar with Thirsty Sword Lesbians, Evil Hat’s Powered by the Apocalypse game featuring queer flirting and sword-fighting, you know where this is going… if not, well, imagine a Powered by the Apocalypse game featuring queer flirting and sword-fighting IN GLORANTHA!

© 2021 Evil Hat Productions

The Burn After Running blog has a few sparse notes for running such a game, and I love this idea, even though I’m generally not a fan of the PbtA system. This could be great for introducing Glorantha to a new and diverse audience! What other crazy Gloranthan mashups can you think of?

The Trials of Great Sister

Eff, over at the generally Lunar-inclined Eight Arms and The Mask blog, tells us about the time when the Red Emperor was called “squirt” by Deneskerva, also known as “The Great Sister”, and a daugher of Sedenya the Red Goddess. This is a tale of older sibling responsibilities towards their little brothers, and how even the mighty Red Goddess has to arrange for child care, because it’s hard to be a working mom, you know.

Up Close with Oriflam’s RuneQuest

In the late 80s and early 90s, Oriflam produced the French version of RuneQuest 3rd edition. I know many of my fellow French people have very fond memories of these books, especially since they featured unique illustrations and layout, different from the original English versions from Avalon Hill.

Photos by WayneBooks © 2021 Oriflam and Chaosium Inc.

WayneBooks, who recently featured the German edition of RuneQuest, now provides us with many nice photos of this French edition, which is also, at the time of writing, available in their inventory.

If you want to know more about Oriflam’s entire line of products, Chaosium’s Well of Daliath has an exhaustive index, and Runeblogger has a relevant article (which you can translate in English if you don’t read Spanish thanks to the Google Translate button at the top).

Che Webster on Rules Anxiety

© 2021 Roleplay Rescue

I’m sad to hear about Roleplay Rescue‘s Che Webster’s mental health issues: in a recent frank blog post he details how contradictions in the RuneQuest rulebook can cause his (diagnosed) anxiety to flare up. This unfortunately might happen a lot, given how (in my opinion) this book is lacking some extra editing pass in many places… I’m sure most of us who complain about rules on BRP Central or elsewhere don’t have any excuse besides being entitled grognards, but if this is of interest or relevance to you, Che Webster followed up with another blog post about the ways that help him cope.

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.

The Real Rainbow Mounds

© 2021 Chaosium Inc.

The Rainbow Mounds are a classic adventure site featured in the even more classic Apple Lane scenario pack for RuneQuest. We know that this adventure will get revisited for the upcoming RuneQuest Starter Set, but to help you with the wait, here are a couple of places here on Earth that can be used as an alternative!

What you want in general is salt. Apparently, it makes things all colourful and pretty, especially when (as I suspect) you get a photographer who knows how to spice up the vibrancy of their pictures in Adobe Lightroom. Anyway, let’s start in Russia with the salt mine tunnels under Yekaterinburg:

Next, let’s go to southern Iran where we have a few choices in front of us. First, the Salt Caves of Qeshm:

I actually get the impression that there are several salt caves to visit in the same area… but maybe we’re tired of being underground? Let’s get some fresh air with the Salt Dome of Jashak:

And finally, you can’t get any better than the actual Rainbow Mountains (and Valley) of Hormuz island, with is actually right next to Qeshm:

Those Damn Cheating Merchants

© 2021 Eliyahu Yanai/City of David

This article from the Jerusalem Post talks about a recent discovery of a possibly fraudulent weight from the 8th century BCE, which is great inspiration if you are playing a less-than-honest Issaries merchant in a Gloranthan campaign. And frankly, who would play a totally-by-the-book trader?

Historical References from the Saint Louis Art Museum

© 2021 Saint Louis Art Museum

I don’t know about you, but I’m always happy to look at some pictures of historical objects. The Saint Louis Art Museum has a bunch of those available online! Here, for example, is a link to their collection of objects dating from 8000 BCE to 1 CE. The picture above in particular is an Egyptian Apis Bull, dating from 664–332 BCE.

Achaemenid Persian Art

© 2021 Luis Argerich

The wonderful blog Digital Maps of the Ancient World has a short but sweet post on Achaemenid Persian Art, which can be used for inspiration for… errr… I don’t know, Gloranthan correspondences to the real world are always so tricky. The Lunar Provinces maybe? Anyway, just look at the pretty pictures!

Applied Geometry with the Babylonians

Photo by UNSW Sidney

We apparently now have some evidence that the Babylonians (20th to 17th century BCE) were even better at math than we previously thought! Some recently discovered tablets show the use of Pythagorean triples dating back to a thousand years before Pythagoras… Your Lhankor Mhy sage should therefore be able to compute distances with angles and give you bonuses to your ranged ballistic attacks!

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.

Apologies for being late this week: up here in western Fronela, we are in the middle of the “back to school” rush, and I still have to buy scrolls and crystals for my kids.

God Learner Sorcery

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

Episode 3: Passions in RuneQuest

The latest episode of our podcast was released last week, and deals with “personality mechanics” in RuneQuest. In this longer-than-usual episode, we welcome the wonderful David Scott from Chaosium, who filled our air-time with many wonderful historical game design facts, gaming anecdotes, and Gamemaster tips! If you haven’t yet, please subscribe to the God Learners podcast in your app of choice (see this guide if you’re not sure how) and listen to some Gloranthan goodness while you walk the dog or clean the house!

Conventions

The Owlbear and Wizard’s Staff convention is back to meat-space this year in the UK, but they are keeping an online component as well. There are Gloranthan games on the schedule, and last I looked, a couple of them still had some space!

Chaosium News

Here are this week’s Chaosium news!

The Battle of Queens Rages On

The White Bull Campaign (a.k.a “the Chaosium house campaign”) is now fighting the Lunar armies near Old Top.

Besides watching Jeff Richard choking on a peanut, this is mainly our first look at the mass combat rules, which are actually a bit crunchier than I expected. This is mostly a good thing though.

Notes on the Battle Rules Preview

As far as I can tell, the battle rules work as follow:

  1. The GM prepares a list of the different units and notable NPCs that make up the opposing army. In this case, Jeff describes various groups such as Lunar provincial militias, Tarshite Cavalry, Silver Shields, Antelope Lancers, Granite Phalanx, Lunar Magicians, etc. Rough army sizes are also provided at this point. This is the kind of information we’ll see, I assume, in the upcoming “Dragon Pass Campaign” book. The thing I appreciate here is that, as far as I can tell, this is the only bit of preparation the Gamemaster needs to do to run a battle (and a good Gamemaster equipped with some books of NPC stats can even improvise that easily). The rest of the battle can be made-up on the spot.
  2. The players declare what kind of preparations they go through before battle. This includes ritual practices to get a magical bonus in combat, casting Rune Magic with Extension (some protection like Shield is a good idea here!), and so on.
  3. The players nominate a “band leader” or “unit leader” for their group. This group may include many companion NPCs, or be limited to the Adventurers’ party. I’m not sure how NPCs are handled, though.
  4. The army leaders on each side roll their Battle skill, modified by various factors such as difference in army sizes, unit power levels (militia vs professional warriors), homeland advantage, having scouts and spies to provide up-to-date information, and so on. It’s not clear what this opposed roll means, but I get the impression that it drives what the leaders decide in terms of strategy for the next turn of battle (in this case, Kallyr decides to charge the Lunars). Since Jeff is very much philosophically opposed to rolling against himself, he has one of the players rolling Kallyr’s Battle skill.
  5. The first turn of battle starts with a Battle skill roll from each player. Each player who succeeds their roll can “nominate” an encounter out of the list of units the Gamemaster prepared ahead of the game (see step 1). Once all the votes are in, the band leader (see step 3) decides which encounter the group will aim for. I assume that most leaders will pick the encounter that received the most votes. The Gamemaster chooses another encounter, to be possibly used as a drop-in replacement (see below). In this case, the players choose to fight some Lunar Magicians, while Jeff picks the Silver Shields peltast unit.
  6. The band leader rolls against the “intensity” of the battle. The more intensive a battle is, the harder it is to steer the group to the specific enemy unit the players picked as their encounter. This is an opposed roll between the Battle skill of the band leader and some unspecified score representing this “intensity”. I’m not a fan of the back-to-back Battle skill rolls (there are more coming in the following steps!), but I’ll reserve judgment until the official rules are published, of course.
  7. On a success against the battle intensity, the band leader gets the encounter they wanted. Arguably, things could go a different way if they lose in this opposed roll, or if the Gamemaster got some Special or Critical Success in step 4, which would have let them “force” an encounter onto the players. It sounds like most encounters are things like “2D6 Lunar Magicians”, so this is also where someone rolls for that.
  8. Different encounters and actions on the battlefield require spending points from a “Guiding Passion”. That is, to lead troops into combat you need them motivated with something like a Loyalty (Sartar) or Hate (Lunar Empire) Passion, and as long as they are motivated you can keep fighting. A higher Guiding Passion would, I suppose, let you fight longer, take more risks, and so on. It sounds like there are also requirements for minimum Guiding Passion scores for certain actions. In this case, the players take off -20% from their Guiding Passion (which, I think, is a Loyalty one) and manage to traverse the battlefield to reach the Lunar Magicians. As far as I can tell, there is one Guiding Passion for the group, and it’s probably the lowest score of all the individual members’ Passion score, or something like that.
  9. Now the players choose their “stance”, which is how they approach the encounter. It goes from Reckless to Brave to Cautious to Cowardly. With a Reckless stance, the players have to fight a minimum of three combat rounds and may get a chance to increase their Guiding Passion. A Brave stance requires at least two combat rounds. A Cautious stance only requires a minimum of one melee round. A Cowardly stance lets you run away, which could happen if the Gamemaster manages to drop-in their choice of encounter in an early step, and the players realize they are going to face some enemies they are not prepared for. I assume that such a retreat comes with a drawback, but Jeff didn’t specify any. Different players can pick different stances for their characters. I didn’t really notice what other pros/cons exist for different stances, but I assume they exist — probably some different Reputation and Guiding Passion rewards.
  10. The Adventurers are now charging towards the Lunar Magicians! There is yet again a Battle roll (ugh) by the band leader to determine how many rounds the Adventurers must endure offensive spells being cast on them before they can close into melee. In this case, the Adventurers’ charge will last two rounds. I suppose that this step would also determine how long the Adventurers must run under a volley of arrows and javelins if they were facing a unit equipped with missile weapons. As with any other roll, the leader can get augments from their companions, but Jeff notes that there can only be one Passion augment per day of battle, and one skill augment per turn of battle.
  11. During the charge, the Lunar Magicians and Adventurers cast various magic spells — offensive and/or defensive. One cool thing is that because the Adventurers previously awakened their “Hero Soul” during a heroquest, they get bonus points to resist offensive magic: however many Hero Points they have gets added to their POW, in the same way that a shaman’s Fetch’s POW also gets added for resistance rolls.
  12. Some Adventurers fall to the Lunars’ Madness spells during the charge. Others manage to close with the Lunar Magicians and, even though their enemies have iron armor, hefty magical protection, and allied spirits, they spill some good amount of their blood onto the battlefield. Arachne Solara’s webbing magic is also very effective to quickly render some enemy useless!
  13. At the end of the first battle turn, Adventurers gain some reputation (between 1D3% and 1D6% in this case) and choose whether they want to pursue another encounter or move to the rear to recover. Doing the latter lets the Adventurer loot fallen enemies, regain Guiding Passion points, and, I assume, get healing from support units.

Take this with a pinch of salt: I could be misremembering or misunderstanding things, Jeff might be using house rules or spot rulings in places to manage the pace, and these rules might still be a work in progress. But at least we get a general idea of how they work, and that’s pretty nice!

Overall, I like what I’m seeing, except for the repeated Battle rolls, as I mentioned. I love the idea that Passions are used as meta-currency to push a unit into combat, but I didn’t get a good idea of how it works in practice from this first turn of battle. I’m curious how different the rules are when the players adopt defensive positions and they are the ones showering a charging enemy with missile weapons and ranged magic. And I wonder how the rules manage point attrition with the Adventurers, who may be out of spirit and Rune magic after only half a day of battle.

Finally, I’m looking forward to the outcome of the battle in terms of player agency and rewards. Most, if not all, of Jeff’s players very well know how the Battle of Queens ends, and Jeff has been clear that he doesn’t believe in leaving that kind of thing up to random dice rolls. But I wonder how much Gamemaster fiat goes into the details — for example, if the players decide to form a defensive cordon around Kallyr, or attack Pharandros directly, and get very, very lucky. If I remember correctly, Jeff has said that only a handful of NPCs are important for the Hero Wars storyline (Argrath, Harrek, Jar-eel, the Red Emperor, maybe another one or two), so only those few have “plot armor”, if any. I suppose it’s entirely possible that other NPCs like Kallyr or Leika may survive or die in ways that makes the “meta-plot” diverge slightly, but this divergence should be manageable and, potentially quite fun to run.

All The World’s Monsters

It’s expected that, on occasion, Chaosium president Rick Meints will come out with some surprising bit of obscure Chaosium history. What’s unexpected is that this comes with some (for purchase) PDFs of the aforementioned obscure products! Well, I think those are new PDFs. I’m not sure, but I had never noticed them before… but first things first!

© 2021 Chaosium Inc.

Over on the Chaosium blog, Rick talks about what might be the very first monsters’ manual for D&D, dating back to Fall 1977:

Between Christmas and New Years Eve of 1977, TSR released its first hardcover 112-page RPG book, the Monster Manual by Gary Gygax. Many hailed it as the first compendium of RPG monster stats. What many people did not realize back then – and still might not realize today – is that the Monster Manual was, at best, the third compendium of monsters with D&D stats ever published. […]

The first Steve Perrin project for The Chaosium debuted in the Fall of 1977. It was only the ninth product produced by the fledgling company. This was the 120-page All the Worlds’ Monsters, edited by Jeff Pimper and Steve Perrin. 

Steve Perrin later of course became the main game designer behind RuneQuest. And if Jeff Pimper’s name is familiar to you Gloranthaphiles, it’s because, like many things around Dragon Pass and Prax, Greg Stafford used his friends to name places on the map.

All three volumes of the venerable monster books have PDF scans available from Chaosium (Volume 1, Volume 2, and Volume 3).

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 Bad Winds

A new month means a new monster, and Austin Conrad has released The Bad Winds! I’m sure there’s an obvious fart joke here, but this is a professional publication and we won’t go down that hole.

Anyway, Bad Winds are air elementals corrupted by Mallia, the goddess of disease, and which you can spring upon your players when they fumble their Summon Cult Spirit spell! Not only do you get some description of the titular spirits, but you also get a lot of material to incorporate these things into your games, including a short Kolat myth.

Houses of Teshnos Get Bigger

Paul Baker recently added more than 40 pages of content to his sourcebook on Teshnos. You can refer to Nick Brooke’s Jonstown Compendium Index for information on what exactly has been added.

Jeff’s Notes

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

The Geography of Sartar

Jeff shares a “little blurb” on the geography of Sartar which happens to be two pages long (although that’s on Facebook’s very narrow column formatting). The first thing to remember is that Sartar is a seismically active region, which is why Maran Gor’s cult is a thing, especially around Kero Fin.

The Earthquake Goddess is offered propitiatory worship throughout Sartar, even if her number of initiates is small.

Elevations range from 700m (Duck Point) to 3120m (Quivin Mountain’s peak).

Much of this area is a karst landscape covered by a dissected plateau of limestone and sandstone, created when the oceans covered the land in the Lesser Darkness. During the Gods War, the original limestone and sandstone rocks were folded into troughs by igneous intrusions of granite and quartz. Rampaging storm gods wore this down to rolling hills, buttes, and mesas, exposed the granite cores, and left a rugged and strikingly beautiful landscape. Creeks and rivers have carved out twisting but fertile valleys.

I first read this too fast and thought it said “much of this area is krarsht landscape”! I would love to see Kallyr’s face if she realized that her entire homeland was the back of some giant Chaos God… and, I mean, that would explain why the Lunars want to get control of it so badly!

The text, which I assume is from the upcoming Sartar Homeland boxed set, goes over the geological nature of the main handful of locations in Sartar, but this bit on the Quivin Mountain stuck out for me:

The Quivin Mountains are plutonic masses of granite that thrust through the surrounding limestone during the Gods War. They are sons and daughters of Lodril, the great Fire God beneath the earth, and of Kero Fin, the Mother of Mountains.

The reason it stuck out is that (in my opinion) the Quivin Mountains have an exceptionally small area for their height, so it makes sense to give them some interesting backstory. I wonder if the dwarves who built Boldhome are tapping into this geothermal energy to power and heat parts of the city. This is similar to how the chaparral plains of Prax, so close to the fertile lands of Sartar, also make more sense when you give them some kind of mythical origin:

Prax was beloved of Eiritha and was fertile and pleasant, but its essence she gave to aid the Storm Bull against the Devil. The surface of the land is now hard clay and sand, underlay by limestone.

Back to Sartar, here’s an example of the kind of hills where Sartarite have their sheep and cattle herds grazing:

© 2021 Jeff Richard

Now, for some information on the riverbeds:

The Creek-Stream River drains most of Sartar and the Far Point. From its source at Skyfall Lake to the Choralinthor Bay at Nochet, the river is 700 kilometers long. For much of its length, the river is usually between three and four meters deep and from 100 to 200 meters wide, sometimes growing much larger during the spring floods.

That’s surprisingly shallow. That explains why there’s not much river traffic in Sartar except for the occasional duck and newtling boats. Between this and the Closing of the Seas, you have to wonder what Greg Stafford had against the waters!

If you’re into geology, you might get a kick out of this old map from Andreas Pittelkow:

© 2021 Andreas Pittelkow and Chaosium Inc.

There’s no legend, but Jeff has some notes for us:

The “bricked” areas are limestone strata formed during the Storm Age (when those lands were submerged). The “dotted” areas are sandstone strata. The “xxs” are bedrock – granite formations. The lined areas are gravel and sand left from the glaciers. The little triangles are volcanic areas.

The map is at a low level of detail, for example the Quivin Mountains should be there with xx’s, and the Indigo Mountains and Pelanda should also have volcanic activity, etc. But it is still interesting and useful. And done by an actual geologist.

Chalana Arroy Precepts

Jeff replied to some questions about Chalana Arroy and her cultists over on BRP Central.

Her cultists swear an oath to total non-violence. They refuse to cause more damage to a wounded world. In the Holy Country and Dragon Pass, the cult is divided between Sweepers and Keepers

Based on some preview text from the upcoming Cults book, the “sweepers” tradition comes from the Holy Country’s healing temples, where initiates, lay members, or volunteers sweep the ground of insects and other animals so the healers can tread without harming anything. The “keepers” were born from philosophical differences among the cult:

This began to trouble the respected Healer of Arroin, the venerable Nambasa. He said he preferred to simply watch his step and leave insects, animals and in fact all living things unmolested and in peace. He and his small band of followers became known as the “Keepers”, in opposition to the “Sweepers.”

This is what for me is interesting with Chalana Arroy’s precepts: it’s easy to wonder how far they go, and how to interpret them. This is great for roleplaying! As with the real world, not all members of the cult will have the same interpretation, and good stories might arise from these differences.

But playing a Chalana Arroy initiate is tricky. Unless the character has their own practical and philosophical differences with their temple, they are forbidden from any type of fighting. This means that they don’t even use a shield… they can only negotiate or dodge. They are vegetarians, because of course they are.

The worship of a passive deity is a luxury which few can afford. Not many wish to throw themselves at the mercy of the world when times are troubled. Thus, worship of her has been restricted to the most devout individuals or the most advanced civilizations.

The Cult of Eurmal the Trickster

Probably even harder to play than a Chalana Arroy initiate is an Eurmal initiate! I’ve seen many Gloranthaphiles either ignore tricksters in their worldbuilding, or even actively chase them off. But Jeff tells us again that they are an important part of Orlanthi society:

The Orlanthi hold that clowns and tricksters are essential in contact with the sacred. Laughter and humor are a part of every ceremony, even the most serious, because laughter opens and frees one from rigid preconception. Tricksters are needed in the most sacred ceremonies because the sacred comes through upset, reversal, and surprise. Orlanthi gods and heroes can be foolish in one tale and wise in the next, helpful and then villains.

All of the Orlanthi gods have a touch of trickster when they act foolishly. This is quite appropriate because based on my many years of roleplaying, the Player Characters will often act like big goofballs too!

Art by Agathe Pitie, © 2021 Chaosium Inc.

This may be tough to grasp with our Western ethics and morality, but the Orlanthi are perhaps more open to life’s multiplicity and paradoxes than we are. The sacred is both wondrous and terrible, and heroes like Arkat and Argrath represent both.

While some aspects of the trickster life may indeed elude us, one thing has at least grown in awareness over the past decade in Western countries, and that is non-binary genders. Tricksters, who reject or live outside of mainstream social norms, are often non-gendered, gender-fluid, or other (or at least act like it). And while I’m sure there are trans, intersex, non-binary, etc. people in any cult (not just Heler or Vinga or whatever, that’s just wrong), the particularity of playing an Eurmal initiate is that you can actively have fun with it: you are socially expected to mock others, disrupt their gendered rituals, and generally speaking shove people’s boring cis-ness in their face. And you get to dress in weird, original, and cool ways that make you stand out more than a baboon shaman in a Dayzatar priest’s funeral. At least, this is for the tricksters who actively take on the role of “the Clown” in their community:

[They] can get away with almost any social disruption and trouble because of the useful functions they provide through showing what is serious, absurd, baffling, or wrong, fearful or comical about life and the cosmos. The Orlanthi recognize this as powerful magic that both disrupts and helps to maintain the cosmos.

The downside is that these “Clowns” also act as scapegoats any time the clan or tribe needs to pin something on someone. In that case they are outlawed and driven out. In rare cases, they are killed…. this is the harsh life of the comedian: you have to keep being funny and/or insightful, but sooner or later you’ll cross a line and get cancelled!

Jeff also shares some good ideas to include tricksters in your games:

Clowns sometimes appear—usually without invitation—at the ceremonies of other Orlanthi cults and mock them along with other attendees. At other public ceremonies, clowns may dance out of step, sing out of tune, and imitate cult and other societal leaders. They beg food, throw food away, or are gluttons. They even use magical regalia in inappropriate ways, engage in foolish, silly, or even obscene side-shows, often with respected members of the 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.

Runeblogger Reviews Cults of Prax

© 2021 Chaosium Inc.

Regular Gloranthan blogger and appropriately named Runeblogger has a new review up, this time on Cults of Prax, a very influential sourcebook of the early days of the hobby, and arguably the very first “splatbook” ever.

[…] Cults of Prax is a true classic. It showed that a roleplaying setting could handle religion and mythology as defining and central aspects of a culture. The cults are original and appealing, and their rich level of detail makes them feel real. Not only that, but they also explain the origin of magic and generate adventures with the clash of their different philosophies. Most of all, the cults of Prax demonstrate that Gloranthan adventurers are not isolated from society as in other games, but they belong to groups of other people that can offer help in exchange for some duties and responsibilities. That is the main reason why it was so influential in its time, and remained so for a long time after its publication.

A great bit of both game design and worldbuilding was the inclusion of Biturian Varosh’s adventures in sidebars scattered through the book. Each chapter in the titular character’s journey matches the cult being described on the same page, which extend that cult’s write-up with in-world narration:

Moreover, the travels of Biturian Varosh are a source for scenes and ideas for adventures, but first and foremost, it is an entertaining way of finding out about the “real” Glorantha, the one that varies because it ignores it is actually a setting described in books.

Back when we were called “Wind Words”, we started following the iconic travels of Biturian Varosh from the book’s margins. Part 1 is here, and Part 2 is here.

Cults of Prax is available in Print-on-Demand and PDF at Chaosium’s online store.

Roleplay Rescue on RuneQuest Glorantha

Che Webster, from the Roleplay Rescue blog and podcast, has some short advice for RuneQuest-curious newbies based on his own experience approaching this sometimes intimidating game:

Among other things I’ve been re-reading the core RQG rulebook and getting my head around the world – the first additional source being The Glorantha Sourcebook.

His tips? Read Vasana’s story, roll-up a character, and read slowly. I totally agree: Vasana’s story not only serves as examples but also as great and effective flavour for what Glorantha might look like, and I’ve myself been bit several times because I read a rule too fast and mixed in my own assumptions.

Nicholas Bielik on Glorantha

Occasional RPG YouTuber Nicholas Bielik recorded this general presentation of Glorantha, which then quickly dives into why he likes the setting, and why (according to him) it has this appeal and originality that sets it apart from other fantasy settings:

VTT Map: Ernalda’s Garden

© 2021 SkullDixon

SkullDixon, from who we previously featured some nice duck pics (don’t read that too fast!), has also a VTT map for “Ernalda’s Garden”, for possible use with the Smoking Ruin adventure.

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.

Healer Society Mask

This west-African mask is from the 20th century, but it still provides some cool ideas for fantasy gaming:

© 2021 Princeton University Art Museum

Use that with a new Chalana Arroy initiate:

This striking work features the broad, curved horns of the buffalo, a principal insignia of Nyikaryi, an elite society of healers. The society’s members were herbalists and physicians held in high esteem, and they wore headdresses like this for secret initiations and healing rites.

It doesn’t take too much work to imagine a similar headdress in Bronze Age times either, since it reminded Joerg of the Hallstatt-era “Celtic Prince of Glauberg“:

Thanks to SkullDixon for the original link.

Action Figures in Ancient Times

What kind of toys do your Gloranthan kids play with? What about action figures? While not quite Bronze Age either, the Mayans famously had some cool figurines with removable helmets:

© Kenneth Garrett

Several others have been found, like this king with his spirit animal companion:

© Ricky Lopez

For more information about where these figurines were found (along with more pictures) you can read this article. And for a thorough and academic take, Cambridge has this online publication titled “Maya Sacred Play” about the relationship between toys and rituals.

Thanks to David Scott for the links.

Thank you for reading

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

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

God Learner Sorcery

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

Runic Rants: Opposed Rolls Ties

Our Runic Rants column expands with a big article on the dreaded “unresolved situation” outcome from opposed rolls.

These situations can be hard to picture in practice: what is the Gamemaster supposed to do with a “temporarily unresolved” situation? How is that different from an actual “tie”, which occurs when two critical successes are rolled? And how are these two different from both participants failing their rolls and “not achieving their goals”?

I hope that the many examples and practical suggestions in this article will be helpful!

Chaosium News

Here are this week’s Chaosium news!

Pendragon Design Journal #1

Not many official news of Chaosium this week, but I think this Pendragon-related blog post on the Chaosium website will be of some interest even to RuneQuest or QuestWorlds players, because it deals with Greg Stafford’s early brainstorming of Pendragon’s famous “personality traits” system, which was included in the latest edition of RuneQuest as “Passions”.

Picture by David Zeeman, © 2021 Chaosium Inc.
Picture by David Zeeman , © 2021 Chaosium Inc.

As Greg was working on the mechanics of Pendragon, he went through the entire two-volume set of Mallory’s Le Morte d’Arthur and annotated every single event in the story with a mention of what ability roll was made by a character, what combat outcome happened, and so on. That’s dedication! And it’s a wonderful look into the creative process of a landmark of game design.

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!

QAD: Pimper’s Block

© 2021 Drew Baker and Chaosium Inc.

Drew Baker has produced a compilation of all the “Quick and Dirty” series to date in a giant 2000 pages (yes you read that right) PDF. This includes detailed characters, “mook” NPC squads, and notes on various related topics such as occupations and cultures, for all the homelands in the RuneQuest rulebook.

Now whenever player characters encounter someone, just punch in a random page number in your PDF reader and make whatever you see on the page attack your players! Super easy! Wait, what? That’s not what Gamemasters are supposed to do? What do you mean?!

No More Valley of Plenty

Art by Tom Symonds, © 2021 Troupe Games LLC and Chaosium Inc.

Sad news from Troupe Games, who have just announced that they’re dropping their plans to release the sequel to Valley of Plenty:

We’ve decided that our efforts are best directed at creating our own rules and setting rather than content for Glorantha. Valley of Plenty isn’t for sale now. We don’t want to disappoint those who purchase it expecting to see the rest of the saga developed.

Valley of Plenty’s print version was pulled from DriveThruRPG after the premium color price increase a month ago, and now the PDF version is gone too.

As far as I remember, Troupe Games was working on some original standalone game based on the QuestWorld SRD. Whatever they’re up to, we wish them good luck! Keep an eye on their website!

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.

“Has Anyone Ever Talked to […] Penta?”

Good question by Scott Martin after Nick Brooke posted a home-made map of Genertela on the RuneQuest Facebook group. This map features the main names mentioned in the first few pages of the Glorantha Sourcebook:

Cartography by Nick Brooke after the Cults of Terror map © 2021 Nick Brooke and Chaosium Inc.

According to the Glorantha Sourcebook, these lands are where the main seven Earth goddesses settled in the early days of existence. They were daughters of the continental deity Genert (who gives its name to Genertela), who died in the Gods War. So we have Frona who lied down in the north-west where the region of Fronela is, and Seshna made her home in the south-west where the region of Seshnela is, and so on. Ralia, Ernalda, Pelora, Kralora, and Teshna make up the rest of the sisters.

The term Ernaldela isn’t much used anymore, and most people know that land as “The Holy Country” or “Kethaela”. Jeff Richard says:

Ernaldela appears in some of Greg’s earliest materials, initially as Ernaldi. You get a reference to it in the old Argan Argar cult writeup, but it generally was replaced by Holy Country (and Kethaela) and Maniria in later books. But since it helps anchor the Land Goddess mythology (and provides more context for Ernalda), I used in the Sourcebook and Cults Book.

About Kralora, he adds:

Krala or Kralora was very important in the Second Age. In the Third Age, her cult has been somewhat submerged into that of Miyo.

Genert’s Wastes is where Genert’s Garden was, but it never recovered after the god’s demise.

So what about Pent then? Is there a goddess named Penta? Jeff Richard tells us what’s up:

According to Zzabur’s fabulous mythological maps, Pent was once part of Genert’s Gardens. Which means no Penta.

Well, that was a surprisingly simple answer for Gloranthan lore!

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.

Vingan Casting Thunderbolt

Prolific Gloranthan artist Katrin Dirim has shared this nice picture of a Hiording Vingan thane casting a Thunderbolt spell!

Art by Katrin Dirim, © 2021 Katrin Dirim and Chaosium Inc.

You can tell she’s from the Hiording clan, aka “the Swan clan”, based on the, well… it should be obvious based on that clan nickname!

SkullDixon’s Ducks

Glorantha fan, RPG artist, and Discord regular SkullDixon has made a bunch of cool ducks!

Art by SkullDixon, © 2021 SkullDixon and Chaosium Inc.

You can find more of his art on his website, and even buy books with more cute critters in them there.

German RuneQuest Close-up

Photo by WayneBooks, © 2021 Welt der Spiele and Chaosium Inc.

Wayne Books, purveyor of fine second-hand games, is giving us a very close look at the German version of RuneQuest 3rd edition. Is this making Joerg all nostalgic yet? Maybe not… he can probably just turn around and grab the real thing from his shelves…

That edition sold all 1500 copies (into stores at least) and was followed by a reprint as softcover, same illustration, blue cardboard.

Photo by Sebastian Dietz, © 2021 Welt der Spiele and Chaosium Inc.

Joerg can raise you an “Apfelallee” (RQ3 Apple Lane) with one of the least topical cover illustrations ever (see above), and a “Glorantha: Die Götter” Box (RQ3 Gods of Glorantha). The Bestiary (from the Deluxe Box) is currently AWOL.

More interesting would be the two German language only RQ3 scenario books set in Sartar, Schatten in den Hügeln and Ort ohne Wiederkehr (Shadows in the Hills and Town Without Return).

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.

Babylonian Multiplication

Here’s how Babylonians apparently did math in 2000 BCE! It’s a bit convoluted for modern sensibilities, but stay until the end of the video to see how that’s advantageous for small under-powered devices like an old Gameboy!

Bronze Age Copper Mining

Here’s a video on The Great Orme, a well-known copper mine in Wales (UK), and the largest prehistoric mine discovered to date. It’s not the most exciting video to watch, but they pull a large amount of video and photo archives and provide a fairly complete picture of mining in Neolithic and Bronze Age periods.

Thank you for reading

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

Opposed Rolls in RuneQuest are pretty simple. It takes only a couple paragraphs on page 142 of the rulebook to explain the process: the adventurer and opponent each make an ability roll and whoever achieved the greater success “wins”. Achieving a “greater success” in this case means “greater” on the scale of ability roll results: critical success beats special success, special success beats success, success beats failure, and failure beats fumble.

But the list of outcomes on page 144 can easily stump the reader. More specifically the second and third bullet points:

Tie: A tie (where both participants achieve the same type of success) means the situation is temporarily unresolved. If both participants rolled a critical success, the result is a tie.

Two Losers: Both participants fail their roll. Neither party achieves their intended goal.

These situations can be hard to picture in practice: what is the Gamemaster supposed to do with a “temporarily unresolved” situation? How is that different from an actual “tie”, which occurs when two critical successes are rolled? And how are these two different from both participants failing their rolls and “not achieving their goals”?

To figure this out, we will look at three classic situations:

  • Sneaking: Rurik the Loud is trying to sneak past Earwax the Deaf. This will be represented by a Move Quietly roll opposed by a Listen or Scan roll (even maybe the latter augmented by the former!)
  • Bullshitting: Rurik the Loud is making a scene at the market, trying to guest past Mikeva the Mean, the bodyguard of a priestess Rurik wants to talk to. This will be a Fast-Talk roll opposed by a Loyalty or Insight roll (or, again, maybe the latter augmented by the former!).
  • Racing: Rurik the Loud has made bold claims about his equestrian skills, and has been challenged by Larhast the Quick to a horse race. This will be a good old Ride (Horse) skill contest.

The cop-out solution

The easy solution is to introduce some house rules stolen from another BRP game: Pendragon. This is a popular house rule, in which the Gamemaster rarely has to think about ties and unresolved situations:

  • If one roll is better than the other (on the fumble to critical scale), then the winner and loser are clearly defined, and the rules-as-written can be applied.
  • If both rolls have achieved the same level of success, the one who rolled the highest number is the actual winner.

This rule was in fact present in some of RuneQuest’s early drafts. It even features in the RuneQuest Quickstart (see page 6). It does make things simpler for the Gamemaster, but it should be noted that the designers eventually opted against it by the time the RuneQuest rulebook was released. The reason was that they didn’t want to mix rolling high and rolling low, especially since there are no other situations in RuneQuest for which a player would want to roll high on a D100. They got rid of this rule to preserve flavour and consistency.

This rule also doesn’t completely eliminate the problem: two players could still roll the exact same number. There is also the situation where both rolls fail — some people still apply the “highest rolled number is the winner” house rule, with one contestant “failing more” than the other, but I think I prefer to have both contestants actually fail… assuming we figure out what that means.

A Detour to Narrative Games

I think a key to figuring out what to do in these cases is to take a little detour to the world of narrative games such as HeroQuest/QuestWorlds or FATE.

In these games, a roll doesn’t represent the simulation of an action being undertaken by a character — that is, in these games, you don’t make an “Athletics” roll to specifically jump from the back of your flying hippogriff onto the charging Tusk Riders below, applying modifiers to account for differences in speed, reduced visibility from the dust rising from the Tuskers’ galloping hooves, and the fact that you’re holding a sword in each hand. Nope. In these games, you roll to figure out the outcome of a scene in which you use your athletic prowess to move the action to the back of a Tusk Rider’s mount. How it happens specifically (jumping from your hippogriff or dangling underneath it or whatever) isn’t relevant to the roll itself because these are still the same original situation and desired outcome: you were on a hippogrhiff, and now you’re on a Tusker, fighting its rider.

The difference between those two approaches is outside the scope of this article and, depending on what kind of RuneQuest Gamemaster you played with, it could be a revelatory paradigm shift or splitting hairs… my main point here is that narrative games often use rolls to advance the story from one beat or scene to another, as opposed to using rolls to model a specific physical action. Let’s keep that in mind.

Unresolved Situations

Okay, let’s come back to our simulationist RuneQuest system and look back at the example situations while keeping in mind what narrative games tell us about rolls.

I think that the main difference between an “Unresolved Situation” and the other outcomes is that all other outcomes are, well, resolved, in the sense that the story moves on to the next beat or scene: trying to sneak past Earwax the Deaf, trying to get past Mikeva the Mean, and trying to race Larhast the Quick have all been resolved. Whether Rurik succeed or failed or whatever is another question, but the question of “is this scene over?” has an answer, and it’s “yes“.

In comparison, an “Unresolved Situation” means that the scene is not over. More rolls are needed. Why?

  • Sneaking: Rurik is stealthy (he succeeded his Move Quietly roll) but hasn’t found a good opportunity to get past Earwax. Earwax has seen something move (he succeeded his Scan roll) but he’s not sure if it was just an animal, so he stays alert. The scene isn’t over.
  • Bullshitting: Rurik has some good arguments for seeing the priestess (he succeeded his Fast-Talk roll), but Mikeva has a hunch he just wants to scam her with a shady business deal (she succeeded her Insight roll). Still, Rurik has a little bit of time for another roll before Mikeva loses her patience and lifts her axe. The scene isn’t over.
  • Racing: Rurik and Larhast are neck and neck after the first lap of the racing track (they both made their Ride rolls). Instead of a small scene where the hero wins the race, this turns into a suspenseful set piece!

Of course, the laziest way to continue the scene and, hopefully, resolve it, is to make both players roll again. That’s obviously boring: two people roll their Ride skill until one fails. And with every roll, the Gamemaster and players wonder how they’re going to describe anything interesting and different compared the previous roll, and so they just roll in turns. Bleh.

Again, let’s think about this narratively. Why is the situation unresolved? Well, I mentioned it above with the horse race: maybe it’s because things are getting suspenseful. The stakes have been raised, the wind is turning, another of the priestess’ bodyguards shows up to ask what’s going on, a crowd is gathering by the race track, and so on. The following is entirely optional, but here are some ways to add tension to the situation:

  • Sneaking: The stakes are raised when Earwax calls upon another guard to come check out this shadowy figure he glimpsed. Later, maybe an actual wild animal shows up, which can be a distraction that Rurik can benefit from, or an additional bit of danger he needs to deal with!
  • Bullshitting: The stakes are raised when other market goers come up to Rurik, saying that they’ve been waiting to speak to the priestess for the past two hours, so why should he skip the line? Shortly after, maybe the priestess comes out and asks who is making all this ruckus in front of her tent!
  • Racing: The stakes are raised when the City Rex appears in the tribune, after people told him that two excellent racers were competing in the arena. Bystanders who are now betting on Rurik and Larhast are throwing vegetables and sandals at the contestants, hoping to give the advantage to whoever they are cheering for!

Regardless of whether the Gamemaster is indeed describing these scene changes or not, it’s clear that the two characters’ skills are evenly matched so far, and therefore something else has to set them apart, or something else has to happen. For instance:

  • Your spirit sets you apart: you can roll the same ability again, but you have to augment it first with a Passion or Rune. If you already augmented the previous roll, find another augment.
  • Your ingenuity sets you apart: you have to roll a different ability to show how you’re doing things differently and get a head.
  • Your ability to adapt to change sets you apart: the situation has changed (see above) and you’re using this to your advantage by rolling a different, relevant ability.

The Gamemaster can optionally set some limit on the first option (“you will only be able to re-roll the same ability once again only in the entire scene“), or even forbid it completely (“we’ve established that both characters are quite evenly matched, so you can’t re-roll that ability anymore“).

Going back to our examples:

  • Sneaking: Rurik rolls Move Quietly again, but augments with the Movement or Darkness Rune, or with the Scan skill to look for good spots to hide into. If Rurik has to roll something else, he can roll Climb as he uses the verticality of the environment to his advantage, or Animal Lore to lure the wild animal that showed up towards Earwax, or Jump to take a risky shortcut over an obstacle towards his goal!
  • Bullshitting: Rurik rolls Fast-Talk again, but augments with the Earth Rune, or with Charm. If Rurik has to roll something else, maybe he makes the risky move to lace his words with threats, rolling for Intimidate. A safer move might be to roll for Gossip or Homeland Lore to know a few things about the priestess that will convince Mikeva that Rurik has her best interests in mind, or Orate to speak to the angry crowd about these unacceptable wait times!
  • Racing: Rurik rolls Ride (Horse) again but augments with the Movement or Beast Rune, or a Passion related to the stakes of the race (maybe a Hate Passion for the opponent’s tribe). If Rurik has to roll something else, he can roll Animal Lore to better handle his mount, or Intimidate to taunt Larhast into making a mistake! He could also roll Dodge to avoid the rain of rotten tomatoes and radishes coming down on the track!

Based on these new rolls, the Gamemaster and players can weave a growing narrative of this scene, and this in turn will inform them about new rolls they can make if there is once again an “Unresolved Situation” outcome. For instance, in the Racing situation, after Rurik sees that bystanders are cheering and throwing vegetables, the third round of rolls could be Sing or Orate to get his side of the crowd to rally behind a taunting chant that will make their aim better, and will sink Larhast’s spirits!

By diversifying rolls like this, the Gamemaster can not only greatly reduce the chances of a continued need to keep rolling, but also make the outcome much greater than the players’ original goals. Again, in the Racing situation, Rurik would come out not only victorious, but Larhast would be humiliated, covered in rotten produce, and a whole chanting crowd would be gathering around Rurik. Follow the dice, run with the story, and you may end up in interesting places!

It’s possible that both characters are exceptionally good at a lot of things. Rurik and Larhast could have 80% or more in Ride, Animal Lore, Dodge, Orate, and Sing! Or the players could be exceptionally lucky, succeeding even with rolls under 30% skills! Both are highly unlikely but hey, weirder things have happened at the table. In that case, the scene could still be playing out after three or four rounds of rolls. What to do then?

  • If the players and Gamemaster are engaged and having fun: Nothing! What may have been an anecdotal scene is suddenly becoming a suspenseful and exciting part of the characters’ story! The players may remember this for months or years. The Gamemaster should lean into it and, especially, make sure that the outcome matches the suspense. Just getting past Earwax, meeting Mikeva’s boss, or beating Larhast in a race and never mentioning it again might feel anticlimactic. It may be better to have some lasting consequences to these scenes, such as Earwax hunting Rurik personally through the wilderness, Mikeva investigating Rurik’s business and associates, or Larhast coming back angry and drunk with a handful of friends, accusing Rurik of cheating.
  • If the players are not engaged, or the Gamemaster is in a hurry: Set a limit. Declare that this scene is over after a certain amount of rolls (three seems appropriate to me), and that if the contest is unresolved by the end, it is treated as a tie. If the Gamemaster doesn’t want to derail the current adventure with the creation of a whole new sub-plot and the introduction of a new secondary NPC, she can even state that there’s only one roll, and that it will end in a tie unless there’s a clear winner.

This last bit is a great segue into the next segment!

Ties

Ties are sometimes easier to handle, and sometimes harder to handle than unresolved situations. The problem arises from situations that are hardly compatible with the idea of a tie.

For instance, Racing is a clear example where a tie is possible and easy to grasp: Rurik and Larhast crossed the finish line at the same time, and have to agree that they are just as good as the other one at riding horses.

It’s harder for Sneaking or Bullshitting, though. The best I can think of is:

  • Sneaking: Rurik has successfully moved past Earwax, but Earwax has successfully spotted him. So now Rurik is inside the Lunar camp, but Earwax is ringing the alarm. How is that different from a failure of Rurik’s roll, you ask? Well, with a failure, I would have ruled that Rurik gets spotted before he makes it into the camp. See: a failure means Rurik doesn’t achieve his goal, which was to get past Earwax. Here, he did succeed. But so did Earwax.
  • Bullshitting: Rurik has successfully gone past Mikeva and is now talking to the priestess, but Mikeva is on to him and will stand next to her boss during the conversation. Mikeva might interrupt Rurik on a regular basis, and might even jump on him when he wants to take something out of his bag. Again, the difference with a failure is that Rurik achieved his goal of talking to the priestess, but Mikeva achieved hers to get in the way.

This isn’t perfect, and it is potentially hard to come up with on the fly during a game, but it’s a start. If you can’t think of a good way to handle a tie in a given situation, I think it’s perfectly reasonable to fall back to the “Unresolved Situation” outcome above, and ask for a new round of rolls, raising the stakes, etc. That is, unless the players can think of something. Don’t forget: when in doubt, always ask your players! Not only does the Gamemaster not have to always have all the answers, but also often the players will give you all the rope you need to hang them!

Failures

And now, for the last outcome: both opponents have failed their rolls. This is like a tie (above) but with failure instead of success. Again, it’s very useful to approach this with a narrative game mindset, i.e. keep in mind that failure here means that the players did not achieve their goals.

  • Sneaking: Rurik didn’t find a good way to get past the guard. It doesn’t necessarily mean he was seen or heard, however. Remember: Move Quietly is an approach Rurik took to achieve his goal of getting past Earwax (as opposed to attacking Earwax or charming Earwax or whatever). Failing a Move Quietly roll means he didn’t achieve that goal. It may be because he was spotted by Earwax, but it may also be for other reasons such as not finding enough dark spots to hide in, or realizing his armour is making too much noise, and turning back. Since we’re in the “Failure” outcome, Earwax actually failed to spot Rurik, so it’s probably one of the latter.
  • Bullshitting: Rurik fails to convince Mikeva to let him speak to the priestess. Mikeva failed her Insight roll so she doesn’t have any concrete reasons to distrust Rurik, so maybe she’s in a bad mood, or maybe the priestess happens to be busy and has instructed her bodyguards to refuse any visitors. And this is another lesson from narrative games: don’t hesitate to slightly change the “reality” of the game world to explain the outcome of a scene. Maybe the priestess was previously suggested to be available to visitors, but after these rolls, it turns out she isn’t. The Gamemaster can introduce a visitor currently talking to her, which Rurik can spot through the opening of the priestess’ tent, for instance.
  • Racing: Rurik and Larhast fail to finish the race because they crashed their chariots or lost control of their mounts. Maybe they actually finish the race, but they tired their mounts so much that it’s a disappointing finish, and anybody who had any bets going on, or any interest in the outcome, have left and gone back to other better things.

Hopefully, reframing rolls as narrative ways to resolve a scene and achieve a goal, along with all the examples sprinkled through this article, have given you some good food for thought! I can only hope it may even help you run better games… At least, organizing my thoughts by writing them down here has definitely helped me clarify things that were previously merely gut feelings. I have anecdotes from my own Gamemastering of contest scenes that worked well, and others that didn’t work so well, and now I better understand what was involved.

Until the next rant, may the stakes be ever risen against you!

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