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

This is another late issue because not only was I pretty busy last week, but also… well, you’ll understand when you get to the Jeff’s Notes section.

Chaosium News

Here are this week’s Chaosium news!

RuneQuest Starter Stream Episode 6

The wonderful RuneQuest Starter Stream continues, as James leads his players through the final act of “A Fire in Darkness”, the second adventure of the boxed set. However, this is the final episode: they are not going to play through the Rainbow Mounds (the third adventure), or otherwise continue the campaign.

Pendragon Design Journal on the Battle System

The 6th edition of Pendragon is just around the corner, and given the history of exchange of mechanics and ideas between it and RuneQuest, I found David Larkins’ latest “Design Journal” article interesting. It talks about the upcoming new mass battle rules. You might recognize a lot of stuff that was also mentioned about the upcoming mass battle rules for RuneQuest.

An early work-in-progress version of the battle rules was seen in Jeff’s house campaign with the Battle of Queens (and I annotated it heavily in issue #12 of the Journal). There’s a good chance the rules have been tweaked and improved since then, but you can refer to that video to see them in action.

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!

Bonus Content for Bad Day at Duck Rock

Peter Hart has updated Bad Day at Duck Rock with some bonus content featuring “Rill the Naiad”.

Some Art from the Periplus

Martin Helsdon’s next project is, I think, a Jonstown Compendium friendly version of his “Periplus of Central Genertela”, which lets the reader sail around the Holy Country and beyond. It looks like he’s investing in some high quality art! Here are two illustrations that will be in the book. The first one by Mark Smylie depicts Wolf Pirates, and the second by Katrin Dirim is an Esrolian mural of Nochet.

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.

Modern Pavis

Jeff has some thoughts on Pavis circa 1625-1626, which is the Pavis of the new RuneQuest Glorantha product line:

As we all know, New Pavis now has a king – Argrath Whitebull – who is backed up by the White Bull cult, a new Pavis Royal Guard, and many Sartarite and Wolf Pirate adventurers and mercenaries. The new king’s main source of wealth is the treasure he took from the Lunars when he took the city from them (who in turn took much of it from the Rubble).

The previous RuneQuest and HeroQuest lines were set a few years before the Dragonrise, so all these books described a Lunar-occupied Pavis. If you’re lucky, maybe you played one of these “Sartarite adventurers and mercenaries” who helped liberate Pavis… and if you were really lucky, you played one of the Wolf Pirate ones!

Jeff also added in a comment that the Lunar treasury used to pay these mercenaries was probably sizable “given that it was hoarded by the impecunious Halcyon”.

Think of this as Samarkand or Balkh, with a ruler backed by the nomadic tribes. Of course this changes the nomadic dynamic as well – as New Pavis is now a source of prestige goods for the nomadic khans. Orlanth, Storm Bull, and Waha are in ascendancy as are the Bison and Impala Tribe, while the Sable Tribe have much to prove to the fellow nomads.

Samarkand is a city in modern-day Uzbekistan that dates back to the 8th century BCE. It got conquered and occupied multiple times during its long history — it became Greek when Alexander the Great sacked it, became Persian later, then ruled by nomadic tribes from Central Asia, some Islamic Caliphates, and even Genghis Khan’s Mongols.

Balkh is a city in modern-day Afghanistan that was settled sometime between the 21st and 16th century BCE (although this is apparently based on very recent archaeological discoveries… until then it was thought to have been settled in sometime between the 6th and 4th century BCE). It was sitting on the silk road so it might have been quite wealthy and very cosmopolitan. In fact, it’s considered to have been an important place for the development of religions like Buddhism and Zoroastrianism, or for the birth of some traditions like Nowruz, a sort of Persian New-Year celebration as far as I understand. It was no doubt equally important for sciences and philosophy. It’s interesting to consider where in Glorantha you would put a city where new philosophies and cults might evolve… anyway, just as with Samarkand, it was conquered and occupied multiple times, and by the same usual suspects in roughly the same order.

The reason the Sable Tribe has “much to prove” is of course because they had sided with the Lunars during their invasion and occupation of Prax.

The next generation will be an era of much change for the Praxians. Many Praxians will fight for the White Bull in Dragon Pass and Peloria, and many will never return to Prax. New cults appear, some old cults will decline (at least comparatively) and others will gain a new ascendancy. Praxian khans will serve as companions and advisors to an Orlanthi Prince, and the Lightbringers and the Praxians become associated to an extent not seen since the First Age.

Somewhat related: how does Argrath, a Sartarite kid who was captured and enslaved by Praxian nomads, manage to claim the throne of Pavis?

Argrath’s right to the title of “King” likely rests on –

Acclamation by the Orlanth cult as “Rex”;
Acknowledgement by the Pavis cult;
Descent from Sartar (and thus distant kinship with Dorasar)
And of course, by right of taking New Pavis from the Lunar Empire.

Note that Dorasar is the founder of Pavis, and a grandson of Sartar. That’s convenient, isn’t it, that you can claim both thrones in one go?

Argrath’s motivation for liberating Pavis is a combination of:

1. it was his home for many years and he has allies and friends there,
2. he needed to take Pavis to cement the support of the Praxian tribes,
3. He couldn’t leave a Lunar stronghold in his rear,
4. It makes a good springboard for Dragon Pass.

Dendara’s Cult

Jeff writes about Dendara, the “good wife of Yelm”, and a fairly common cult in Peloria and similar Solar-worshipping lands:

In history, Dendara’s cult has remained important as the primary Pelorian and Pentan women’s goddess. She was revered by the Suns of the Son and the Pure Horse People, and called La-ungariant, First Wife of the Imperial Sun and goddess of women. Hers was one of the Ten Priesthoods established in the First Age by the first Dara Happan emperors and one of the Twenty deities recognized by name in the Second Age. In the modern Lunar Empire, her cult upholds both old tradition and the new ways of the Red Goddess. As the cult teaches, “there is great value to some of the Old Ways, for some things never change, even in New Times.”

The “Ten Priesthoods” were Dayzatar, Antirius, Lodril, Dendara, Shargash, Polaris, Naveria, Oslira, Buserian, Lokarnos, and Ourania. A nice mix of every sort of deity you need to rule a nation. And of course, a patriarchal society like the Dara Happans are going to tell the Dendara-worshipping women to stay in their place and respect “tradition”, eh?

She was the La-ungariant described in the Grazers chapter of the Composite History of Dragon Pass. However the Feathered Horse Queen revealed that there is more to her than just that, and that La-ungariant is a title of the Earth Goddess of Ernaldela – Ernalda.

The “Composite History of Dragon Pass” refers to a chapter of King of Sartar, if you haven’t read this, err, let’s say “academic” book.

Glorantha has a long history of people “revealing” that this or that deity is really this other deity. Did anybody do that in their game, with player characters heroquesting into an established cult to “reveal” that it’s something bigger or different? This might be an interesting story arc for an epic campaign… mmmh.

This radically changed Grazer society, and is why they no longer really resemble the Pure Horse People of Pent (or of Second Age Prax).

We have discussed the Feathered Horse Queen’s influence upon the Pure Horse People in past issues of the Journal (issue 33 and issue 40, for instance). But at this point it gets a bit confusing. I think that the La-ungariant of the Grazers was thought to be Dendara, but really La-ungariant being just a title, it turns out it was Ernalda behind it? Or something? Because Dendara and Ernalda are not the same goddess. The God Learners thought they were, but both Ernalda and Dendara “stubbornly rejected that”.

The God Learners were convinced that Dendara and Ernalda were the same entity, and even managed to transpose worshipers with no ill effects. But they never succeeded in getting either goddess to admit identity with the other.

The “Goddess Switch”, as it’s called, was an experiment by the God Learners conducted in 849, where they indeed switched worships of Dendara and Ernalda around different parts of Maniria. I had indeed no ill effects at first… but after a three or four years things started going bad: numerous recent marriages disintegrated, crops failed, fruits stopped growing, and famine ensued.

But hey, this is science, people. You try stuff, and sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. The key is to gather more data points after that. Who wants to try and switch Humakt and Eurmal? I can almost guarantee they are the same.

The Three Types of Magic

Glorantha, and RuneQuest in particular, famously has three types of magic:

Arguably the oldest is Rune Magic, whereby mortals can wield the power of the gods. In most cosmologies, the gods created mortals to serve or aid them. Mortals were descended from the gods that created them (as a form of very weak srvuali and burtae) or who mated with their ancestors (think the Vingkotlings, descended from Orlanth and a mortal woman).

Oh my, look at these casually thrown around terms like “srvuali” and “burtae”. I have now idea what the hell that is, but I have seen them used before. One answer is in the Xeotam Dialogues, a sort of Socratic dialogue thing that also exists in Glorantha with the Malkioni. The Xeotam Dialogues are in the Glorantha Sourcebook, but you can also read them here.

It’s not super important here but the Srvuali are, I think, the gods that exist as a part of an original Elemental god. They are more specialized and have more personality than the “pure” entity that embodies an Element. Therefore, it seems like Malkioni wizards prefer to use these Srvuali because they’re easier to negotiate with or to bind, and more effective to use. The Burtae are entities that are offsprings of Elementals and/or Srvuali… but the Burtae can then also create other Srvuali so… I don’t know? Let’s just say these are the demeaning terms Malkioni wizards use to talk about gods and their offspring.

Rune Magic requires a link between the god and mortal, where the mortal can draw upon the God Time power of the god. Initially this was easy – Orlanth was your great-grandfather and could show you how. But with the Greater Darkness and the coming of Time, that link requires initiation into the secrets of the god. And this initiation requires others to pass on those secrets and initiate new generations. It also requires sacrifice to maintain that link – sacrifice of magic points, food, and other treasures – as well as specialists supported by the rest of the community. Rune cults require community surplus, and thus tends to require settled agrarian or pastoral societies.

Next, spirit magic:

Spirit magic is perhaps inevitable in a world where spirits are everywhere. Although most shamans are trained through an apprentice-master system, others are self-initiated. Spirit magic is ubiquitous in Glorantha – taught by shamans, Rune cults, and long-lasting spirit cults. It is the magic of everyone, and the easiest to gain access to. But it is ultimately less powerful than Rune magic, and many times we have seen the progression from shaman to spirit cult to Rune cult in Gloranthan history.

Unlike Rune magic, spirit magic doesn’t require much of a social or economic infrastructure beyond a shaman. Hunter-gather bands, or other bands can have extensive access to spirit magic comparable to that of larger settled or pastoral societies.

I guess this is how, in RuneQuest, some powerful spirit societies actually provide a Rune spell or two, as opposed to just access to spirit magic.

As far as I can tell, sometimes it’s because the spirit being worshipped is powerful enough to be considered a minor deity, but other times I think it could be because a widespread type of spirit is being collectively worshipped in many places under a sort of “archetypal spirit figure”. This is the case with, say, river horses, who are water elementals associated with an archetypal River Horse entity who jumped around the world during the Great Darkness to escape Chaos monsters (it’s all explained in the Glorantha Bestiary by the way). This River Horse (capital R and capital H) might have existed, and might be the ancestor of all river horse elementals, but frankly it might have not “really” existed (for whatever that’s worth when you talk about the God Time) and it’s just an aggregation of all river horse stories. Maybe someone should do some heroquesting experiments… just saying… it’s for science, people!

Finally there is sorcery. Sorcery is intellectual and rational – a materialist approach to command the magic of Glorantha through mortal will alone. It can be as powerful as Rune magic, although it is certainly not as easy or quick to cast – but makes up for that with its range of possibilities.

Sorcery is more “expensive” than Rune magic, requiring a many years of dedicated study by specialists in order to learn. Most sorcery-using societies are built around the rest of society developing and supporting these specialists. Literacy or very long lives are needed to teach new specialists, and nearly all sorcerous societies are settled, literate, and urban.

Jeff then adds a few additional notes. For instance, the reason why RuneQuest has some mechanics to have spirit magic and sorcery mutually exclusive:

One other thing – the mental approach involved in spirit magic is antithetical towards the materialist will to power involved in sorcery. Sorcerers tend to eschew spirit magic and treat it as beneath notice.

So when we think of the personal risks associated with magic, spirit magic poses the least personal risk. The spirit rarely ask much from those they aid, other than to be treated with respect and given sufficient mana to work with.

Rune magic allows the user to wield the power of a god, and there lies the danger. The initiate must maintain the link between mortal and god, and thereby becomes the gods agent in Time. Generally we initiate to gods that we find useful and benevolent, but on a macro-scale this continues the conflicts of the Gods War in the world of Time. And the gods often make demands on their followers that can restrict actions and compel behaviour in order to maintain that link.

Sorcery poses the opposite danger. Sorcerers are subject to only their will and imagination. Their schools may teach otherwise, and many societies have means of coercion to keep sorcerers in line (indeed this is core to Rokarism), but the God Learners showed us the dangers of sorcerous hubris.

Let’s now go back to spirit magic.

One thing I’m really sad about with the RuneQuest core rulebook is that it doesn’t quite explain what spirit magic is really. When I first read it, I was wondering what it means to “learn” and “forget” a spell, and why CHA is the limiting factor (instead of POW or INT for instance).

As far as I can tell, spirit magic basically involves merging spirits into yourself. These spirits are extremely basic, and serve one function. Some might help you make your blade better (Bladesharp) while some help mend wounds (Heal). But you “wear” those spirits the way you wear a belt with sharpening tools and a first aid kit. It’s like allied or bound spirits, only they’re totally dumb and only do one thing. That’s why CHA is the limiting factor: you still need your tools to like you enough to stay. This is consistent with CHA being the limit for your bound spirits.

There are countless spirits beyond those described in the Bestiary. Spirits are EVERYWHERE in Glorantha. Every stone, every leaf, every plant, every insect has spirit and potentially “personhood”. It is perhaps easiest to think of it as the caster simply awakens the spirit of the thing and has it do its thing and then it becomes quiescent again.

It is meaningless to treat these momentary manifestations of personhood as something with POW or CHA. They are just moments that the localized Life Force of Glorantha is awakened to cause an effect. This is why spirit casters need that focus – it helps them awaken the spirit to do its deed and then become quiescent again.

That’s how Greg described it to me and is the approach I took in RQG. But given that there are many paths to animism, I don’t think too much description is useful.

And that in a nutshell is also why animist spirit magic and materialist sorcery end up being mutually incompatible ways of thinking about the world.

Notes About Esrolia

Oooh boy, as if last week’s Glorantha Art series wasn’t enough, Jeff is doing a four part series on Esrolia (part 1, part 2, part 3, and part 4).

Ernaldela

When we think of Esrolia, we need to remember that unlike Sartar or even Pavis, it is an ancient land. Esrolia has a consistent history of being a settled and civilized land that goes before Dawn. Its ancient mundane history is almost pointless, likely just a few story cycles between Ernaldela and the Silver Age Heroes.

Ernaldela – that’s our real point of origin. Ernaldela is the home of the Earth Goddesses. It is a garden, populated by friendly reptiles and mammals, nymphs and dryads. Think yakshini beneath flowering trees.

Creative Commons photo

That picture is indeed a Yakshi under some flowering asoka tree. The Yakshini are a family of nature spirits in mainstream Asian religions.

I often wondered why Esrolia is so big on Earth deities in general, when it’s supposedly the land of Esrola specifically, but I guess it makes sense if that was all the Earth deities’ home and she just inherited it at some point in the God Time.

On the Hero Plane, Nochet roughly corresponds to the location of the Earth Lady – the residence of the Earth Queen. Ezel strongly corresponds to the Womb of Gata – which is the source of Life. The Hearth (another location in mythic Ernaldela) corresponds to anything specific or it exists simultaneously at every sacred hearth fire. Flamal the Lord of Trees is not far away, and is associated with the Old Woods. There are plenty of other correspondences as well, but what really matters is that if we pierce the mundane veil in Esrolia we can see Ernaldela. Don’t worry or bother trying to name all the nymphs, dryads, and other godlings of Earth+Life+something else that reside here. What matters is that they are here and numerous.

This is nice information for world-building in Esrolia, as it gives us some basic “theme” for a few places around the area. In particular, Ezel as the womb gives a whole new picture of the great temple there where, supposedly, Ten Thousand Goddesses are actively worshipped. That’s a lot of eggs in Gata’s womb… although not as much as some ocean goddess, maybe.

So even though Esrolia is densely populated, it is not unusual for a dryad (without elves usually) to live in a grove near a village or town. Think like the sacred groves in India – small little enclaves of woods and flowers that are untouched by the local farmers, where logging and hunting are taboo. The villagers know her, offer her gifts and keep her happy so she might bless the fields or orchards. Other nymphs are the guardians of the treasures hidden in the earth, and so on. It is perhaps worthwhile to consult the list of thirty six yakshinis given in the Uddamareshvara Tantra for ideas about the various local nymphs and dryads in Esroia […]

I’m not going to copy the entire list of 36 Yakshini but you can read it here. Incidentally, this is a great list to get ideas for nature spirits in your game!

We obviously don’t use these names, but the titles give you an idea what they might be. Obviously many are very sex and pleasure oriented – these are fertility deities after all! Others are flowers, but some are skulls, and some are even terrifying – perhaps a “nymph” of the Gors!

I’m not sure what the “Gors” refers to here. It might refer to the Gors of Maran and Babeester? Or it’s the Welsh for a marsh or a bog, a term that John Hughes uses a lot in his description of the Far Place lands?

The Jolly Fat Man might appear at feasts and celebrations to bring intoxication to all. After all, wine, beer, and mead are all children of Ernalda and the Flowing Waters, or Ernalda and Flamal (in the case of wine). This proximity between Esrolia and Ernaldela has always been present, but it is nearer thanks to Belintar and the Tournament of the Masters of Luck and Death. The Hero Plane is easy to access throughout the Holy Country – hence the annual pilgrimage of the Dead from Necropolis to Nochet.

We reported previously (in issue #30 among others) how the Tournament of the Masters of Luck and Death helped maintain a thing called a Proximate Holy Realm around the Holy Country, which made it easier to heroquest.

And so Ernaldela is the mythic realm just on the other side of Esrolia, and easiest to access from there. Many of the early stories in the Entekosiad can also found there, but deeper, broader, and with more paths. The Earth goddesses are a substrata throughout much of Gloranthan myth, but in Esrolia they remained visible and powerful enough for the husband-protectors to acknowledge their sovereignty (in contrast with the Pelandan Brightface story, the Esrolians have Orlanth’s murder of Yelm as the goddess-willed response to Brightface’s attempted usurpation of the goddesses’ rights).

I think Brightface is some other name for Yelm, or other manifestation of the Sun in God Time myths… I don’t know, I haven’t read the Entekiosad! But hey, we get the general idea.

Silver Age Heroes

This section is pretty long but at least (thankfully) pretty self-explanatory even for Glorantha newbies. Plus, I don’t have much time left to annotate anyway…

During the Lesser Darkness, Ernaldela was ruled by a tribe of Air demigods (the Vingkotlings), who protected the goddesses of the land but also fought with trolls, sky people, dwarves, elves, and of course each other. Their rule was inherently unstable and when the Vingkotlings fought their own Mahabharata, the royal line was wiped out. And so the Esrolian Grandmothers seized power for their own protection and established the earliest framework of Esrolian society – rule by the priestesses of the Earth cults.

However, the Grandmothers enabled survival, not recovery. Recovery came from the Silver Age heroes.

The Silver Age heroes straddle the period between the Greater Darkness and the Dawn and helped knit the world back together. The most widely recognized Silver Age heroes include: Queen Merngala of Nochet, who was called daughter of Ernalda; King Heort, who fought the Unity Battle and founded the Heortling peoples; Vogarth, who was often called simply the Strong Man; Kalops the Sacrificial King; Tessele the True, who relit the fires that warm the earth; Aram ya-Udram, who conquered the pig demon, Gouger; Panaxles the Builder, credited with many of the ancient structures; and Sestarto the Artist, who first depicted the gods in sculpture and painting.

The Silver Age heroes are known throughout Dragon Pass and the Holy Country. Every Sartarite knows their stories, just as every Esrolian does. But they are perhaps more important to the identity of the Esrolians.

NOTE: few if any of these Silver Age heroes have independent cults. Their worship has long since been incorporated into larger cults, such as Ernalda, Orlanth, or Caladra and Aurelion.

There are only a couple names I know from that list of heroes but Jeff describes them below in more detail than what you can find in, say, the Glorantha Sourcebook. This is good stuff, again, for world-building and campaign development. Note that the description below is from a Third Age perspective:

Merngala the Great Queen

The greatest queen of Esrolia, Queen Merngala was the daughter of Esrola. She wielded awesome Earth powers, gained when her goddess mother retired to the Land of Sleep. Her main residence was a palace on Lake Bakan where her army guarded the bodies of the dead. The site is now simply called the Necropolis. With the Dawn, Merngala invited the Lightbringers back to Nochet.

Merngala was a mighty priestess with many husbands and is the model to which all Esrolian queens are compared. Some husbands were rivals for her at times, even murdering each other, as Heort did to Panaxles, or were boon companions, as were Aram ya-Udram and Vathmai Entrulsson. Even the Only Old One was her husband. She had Panaxles and the Strong Man build the great walls around Nochet and invited the Waertagi to set up piers for the dragonships. Merngala had Sestarto decorate the city and temples with countless sculptures inhabited by the gods. She allied with King Heort but did not join his kingdom. Merngala is worshiped as the founder goddess of Nochet.

The Necropolis is an important site in Esrolia. There’s even a special holy day where the dead go on a procession from there to Nochet, and I’m sure it’s scary and awesome.

Heort

Founder of the Heortling people, Heort was born in the Greater Darkness and spent his youth in hiding as the forces of Chaos destroyed the world. When all the world was gone, and every man was alone, Heort went out upon the world. There, at the edge of the world, he met with the Second Son, who told him of his great and terrible battle. The Second Son showed Heort his wounds, and the secret of the Star Heart, and told him the secrets of the I Fought We Won Battle.

Heort remembered that fight and went on past the Second Son, to the edge of the world. There he met the evil of his world and won. He made his way to Dragon Pass where he found others to resist the encroaching Chaos, and he made friends to fight the Unity Battle. King Heort supported the Only Old One to create the Unity Council.

Heort was one of the husbands of Queen Merngala, a bountiful woman of great fame, who is elsewhere recorded as the object of many Silver Age rivals. Another famous wife was Ivarne, who founded several dynasties in Dragon Pass. Heort fought several famous battles and duels.

At the Dawn, King Heort reestablished worship of Orlanth and the Lightbringers throughout his lands. When he died, Heort was burned sitting upright upon his throne, atop a colossal bier surrounded by his treasures. A huge wind rose and carried all away in a maelstrom of fire. Afterwards, people everywhere in his land worshiped him.

The whole thing about meeting the Second Son and learning the secrets of the I Fought We Won Battle is the core of some of the most common Orlanthi adulthood initiation rites. This is described by Greg Stafford here.

Vogarth

Vogarth was the Strong Man. He was huge, powerful, and generally kind, but he was noted for his dull mind as well as his great power; he was the strongest man in the world.

He did many great deeds. The Strong Man was always ready to engage in challenges of strength. A huge stone giant once came and threatened the Only Old One, who called for Vogarth’s help. He came running and cracked the stone giant with his hammer and saved the Only Old One. He threw a dragonship onto the Palace of Black Glass, and the trolls ate the Waertagi. Another time he challenged Jeri Babo, called the Immovable Person, and pushed him off his chosen place. Another time, he carried the wondrous Living Stone Tree from the Footprint to Queen Merngala’s palace. She took him as her husband for a while and had him build the walls around her city.

Kalops

Kalops was the Sacrificial King. He gave his very life to animate the Victory Spirit that inspired the troops at the Battle of Henerel, where the dog men were defeated and destroyed to the last creature.

Tessele the True

Tessele, a mortal child of Aurelion, was one of the first Twin Priests. When her Soul-Sibling was trapped and sacrificed by the Priests of Thed, her subsequent quest for vengeance made her the first hero of the cult.

In those troubled God Times, Tessele set off on impossible tasks that she performed through the efforts of miracles and willpower, eventually even succeeding in reconstructing and resurrecting her lost partner.

Aram ya-Udram

Aram ya-Udram was a great hero in the early Dawn Age. Aram was a civilized statesman, experienced general, and a religious leader of the Orlanth Adventurous cult. His most famous deed was defeating Gouger the God-Child, a divine boar. He took Gouger’s great tusks and made the Ivory Plinth, gaining control over the wild boars of the region.

Aram ya-Udram was a great friend of King Heort, and one of the husbands of Queen Merngala, but his boon companion was Vathmai Entrulsson. Together, Aram ya-Udram and Vathmai defeated the Pralori, and Vathmai founded the first ruling dynasty of Slontos.

At the Dawn, Aram ya-Udram was chosen to represent humanity on the World Council of Friends. Aram ya-Udram lived over two hundred years. When he died in 178 S.T., he was burnt at the Ivory Plinth, finally retiring to the Other Side. Aram ya-Udram had always worn a necklace of diamonds, which he named Uleria’s Necklace. At his funeral, the Goddess appeared and proclaimed a contest to win it. The winner of this contest was chosen to speak for humanity on the World Council of Friends, although the custom ended soon after when the council became the High Council of Genertela.

Of course, Aram ya-Udram’s legacy was tarnished, to say the least… his people at the Ivory Plinth later became the twisted and ugly Tusk Riders.

Panaxles the Architect

Panaxles was descended from the Stone-Souled builders and was thus related to the dwarfs. His mothers were the Tilntae, who were prevalent and important in the early ages of the world. Panaxles lived atop the slopes of the Spike before the Great Darkness. When the Spike was destroyed by Chaos, Panaxles managed to land in the place known as the Broken Arms. He was captured by trolls and made for them the Shadow Plateau to protect their Palace of Black Glass as a fortress against Chaos. The Only Old One set Panaxles free, who then wandered throughout Kethaela during the Silver Age.

Panaxles was the great builder of the period. He built the oldest sections of the temple at Ezel; the walls of Nochet; the palace of Queen Merngala; Whitewall; and many other famous buildings. Panaxles became a rival of King Heort over the affections of Queen Merngala and built for her the great sewers that drain the city of Nochet. It is said that King Heort met Panaxles upon the day the sewers were completed and the first waters rushed through it. Panaxles mentioned his contentment with his creation; Heort agreed, yet added, “It is a shame it is so ugly.” Thus began one of the most famous feuds of the Silver Age.

Sestarto the Artist

Sestarto the Artist shaped the landscape to create Ageless Beauty. He made the Farfalls, the Needle, and the sculptures that populate Ezel and the temples of Nochet. His sculptures became more and more realistic as he worked. Once, he made a sculpture in human shape. That was Ahrela, the Most Wanted, the Desired. The statue is still worshiped as an incarnation of Uleria, for everyone who sees it is seduced by it.

Remember that these heroes mostly existed before Time, so their stories can have multiple versions:

The Silver Age heroes are the great mythical figures of song and story. Everyone has stories about Queen Merngala and her many husbands – some are always mentioned (like Heort), but others appear in just one story. The Silver Age cycles contradict each other in chronology – and there are likely many different Lhankor Mhy attempts to put them in order, but new stories are continually told, and each true. Their deeds are in the God Time, not mundane Time.

The Shadowlands

Shadowlands – the Only Old One was the son of Argan Argar and Esrola, born in the Lesser Darkness. Argan Argar, a powerful Darkness deity and one of the commanders of the forces of Darkness on the Surface World, set up a camp atop Esrola, and the goddess went to him to plead mercy. Argan Argar told her to stand proud, for he would rather have her friendship than her fear. He became her lover and protector, and their child was the Only Old One, who was made king of the land.

The “camp atop Esrola” is the Shadow Plateau, which you can easily spot on a map of Dragon Pass.

Lodril was a spiteful and powerful god, and he attacked this place of darkness, but he was captured and subdued by Argan Argar and forced to work for that god of night. Lodril was forced to build the great Palace of Black Glass, wherein lived the Only Old One and his minions. It was a huge metropolis with tall slender spirals rising over spiked turrets of sharp obsidian. Its basement reached the Underworld, and its tallest tower reached to the sky’s zenith until it was broken by the Sun in the Dawning.

For millennia, Esrolia was protected by the Only Old One. Now the Only Old One was both benevolent AND malevolent. He was a troll after all (or was he?). He strictly followed his bargains, but the terms of those bargains could be cruel and merciless. The Only Old One endured for over a thousand years. He was the offspring of Argan Argar and Esrola, but also in some means a mortal or demigod rather than a full god subject to the constraints of the Compromise. He regularly acted in Time, but is thought to have had several incarnations. He definitely did not require something like the Tournament – instead it would appear that his connection to the divine realm was his Palace of Black Glass (aka the Palace of Night) that enabled him to directly access the Underworld.

The Only Old One’s influence can still be seen in Esrolia: There are still places of shadow and darkness (the Necropolis is perhaps the most important, but there are many others). Many secrets are kept in the shadows – for example Lanbril lurks in the shadows. Yelmalio (by whatever name we call him) is a much smaller cult in Esrolia than in other Orlanthi lands.

Argan Argar is a powerful and fearsome deity, capable of defeating Lodril and forcing him to make the Palace of Night. Argan Argar is still one of the most important cults in Esrolia – think of him like a fearsome asura who is nonetheless worshiped because he is the husband of Esrola (who is just a guise of Ernalda after all).

Creative Commons photo

The picture here is one of Rahu, a shadow deity associated with a major celestial body in Hinduism. He’s depicted here with his wife Karali who I think (but hey don’t quote me on this) is the destructive aspect of Durga, the mother goddess. Who is also maybe an aspect of Mahadevi depending on how you go about it. I don’t know. It’s aspects all the way down. Hinduism is complicated, and it’s Monday. But hey, at least you have some starting point to do your own research now.

The Shadowlands era casts a long shadow (ha ha!) over modern Esrolia. It is an era with both benevolence and cruelty. It is not just (as Belintar is), but it is pragmatic and bargained for. An Equal Exchange – I feed you so that you do not feed upon me. But in return, you agree to protect me. Of course, if I do not feed you, then not only do you not protect me, but you likely feed upon me.

This affects how the Esrolians view the Darkness. Not as evil or a source of fear, but as something dangerous that can be bargained with.

One way of thinking about the Only Old One is like how the Ozians viewed the Terrible Wizard of Oz. He was a fearsome and dangerous being, who also could give good advice and generally kept the peace. But don’t bother him with trivial disputes or treat him with disrespect lest he devour you!

I did not have “Wizard of Oz” on my Gloranthan bingo card.

The fabled pragmatism of the Esrolians perhaps comes from this. The Only Old One is an ally because 1. he is useful, 2. he is too powerful to afford as an enemy, and 3. his demands are affordable. This is not an ideological alliance – that’s not really the Esrolian way. It is pure pragmatism.

And of course, Belintar made a much better offer as we will see soon.

It is worth keeping in mind that the Shadowlands were darkest in the Dawn Age, interrupted by the Broken Council for a generation, and then the shadows grew again throughout the Second Age. But never quite so dark, as the dragons pierced the Only Old One’s darkness from time to time. But the shadow was not lifted over Esrolia until 1318.

In all of Esrolia, there are some 70k Argan Argar cultists! A huge number – and it is the third largest cult in Esrolia (but dwarfed by number one and number two – Ernalda and Orlanth). The cult of the Lord of the Night is powerful, and we can imagine all sorts of nocturnal rituals in Nochet!

The Holy Country

Okay now we’re up to the time of Belintar the God-King:

For the last three centuries, Esrolia has been ruled by the God-King. Now I have written a ton about Belintar and the Masters of Luck and Death, but the short version is that Belintar and the Tournament of the Masters of Luck and Death keep Esrolia (and the rest of the Holy Country) in close proximity to the Hero Plane. So we get to regularly interact with Ernaldela, instead of having to go through the collected stories of generations of interlocutors. This also means that all the stuff in Land of 10,000 Goddesses is less important to us now. Roughly every generation we all get to experience Ernaldela, and some of us even wander through it. Of course this works both ways, and it is not uncommon for nymphs, dryads, and other magical beings to wander through the “mundane” Holy Country, experiencing that world.

Jeff indeed talked about Belintar in the past, and we’ve covered that for instance in issue #34, where I also explained what the “Sixths” (see below) are, with a nice helpful map.

The mention to “Land of 10,000 Goddesses” is about this Stafford Library book. Reminder: the Stafford Library is a bunch of random notes from Greg and it best used for picking crazy ideas and cool-sounding names, rather than used as “canon material”.

The Sixths of the Holy Country correspond to the Six Realms of the Hero Plane. Esrolia is self-consciously the realm of Earth, just as Heortland is self-consciously the realm of Air. The Tournament of the Masters of Luck and Death brings a regular infusion of comparative perspective into our mythic understanding. Earth regularly interacts with Air, Water, Fire, Darkness, and (emptiness). All of these realms work together to collectively form a whole – the Holy Country is the great cosmic dance of the elements.

In Belintar’s Holy Country, most places governed themselves, but were blessed by and disputes were resolved by Belintar. Belintar aided the Opening, showed the Magic Roads that allow people to travel through the Holy Country via the Hero Plane, and created the Fish Roads. Belintar rarely got directly involved in governing the mundane affairs of the peoples of the Holy Country. Each of the Sixths more or less followed their traditional ways – of course those traditions were changed by the very presence and role of Belintar. When a cult’s leaders might refuse to accept Belintar or reject his advice, Belintar was known to bring the cult’s own god into the discussion! But Belintar’s demands were few and always reasonable, and it was usually quite easy for cults and tribes to accept what he had to say.

Fish Roads are fun: they were magical roads that connected several landmarks of the Holy Country’s shoreline together, joining up at the City of Wonders. On Fish Roads, both land walkers and water dwellers could travel, so you could walk over the Mirrorsea Bay and cross paths with underwater beings merrily swimming alongside.

As a result, what never really developed around Belintar was the sort of court administration as you see in Glamour. Instead, Belintar surrounded himself with philosophers, mystics, magical individuals, adventurers, and vacationing gods.

So in Esrolia, the Earth Temples remain the owners of land, and were the sources of fertility and blessing. The Earth Priestesses are priest-queens, with the high priestesses having paramount authority. They have their associated cults – Orlanth, Esrola, Babeester Gor, Chalana Arroy, Lodril, Magasta, Flamal, Maran Gor, Voria, Asrelia. Ty Kora Tek, and Argan Argar (and others), all of whom are sworn to support or protect the Goddess. There is no specialized subcult of rulership – this is just social organization by the Earth Temple.

There are also plenty of important cults that are outside that Earth Goddess-centered system – Dormal, Issaries, Lhankor Mhy, Humakt, etc, and the Earth priestesses have to negotiate their relationship (although Ernalda’s ties to Orlanth helps with many of these cults). But power needs to be used with more subtlety in Esrolia than in Sartar – even the Queen of Nochet has less direct authority than a standard tribal king, let alone the Prince of Sartar.

About recent politics in Nochet:

For the last century or so, the Queendom of Esrolia has been held by the Queen of Nochet, and a descendent of Queen Bruvala. Bruvala married 15 men and at one time maintained 5 husbands. She had 23 children, of which 8 were daughters and fifteen were males, including three future queens and one winner of the Tournament of the Masters of Luck and Death. That son forced her to retire in 1510, but she continued to dominate Esrolian politics for an other generation in retirement as the “Reverend Grandmother.”

The role of the Reverend Grandmother was something like the Fujiwara kampaku in the Heian period. The titular queen would be trapped in ceremony, marriages, and fertility rites, while the grandmother would actually run mundane affairs, the treasury, make deals, etc. However, the most recent two queens (Hendira and Samastina) have ruled without Reverend Grandmothers.

The Esrolian Queens list in the Glorantha Sourcebook is a fascinating document and provides tantalising hints into the power struggles within that sacred dynasty.

The Queens List is also available on the Well of Daliath.

Now there is an interesting parallel of the Reverend Grandmothers with the Tharkalists, that group of daughter-lovers around the Red Emperor, who some claim are the real rulers of the Lunar Empire. However, the parallel is limited – all Reverend Grandmothers served as Queen of Esrolia, while obviously none of the Tharkalists were ever Red Emperor.

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.

Exploring Glorantha: The Mostali

JM and Evan continue their explorations by taking a look at the Mostali, the weird dwarves of Glorantha.

Snakepipe Hollow Walkthrough

D R has a new video up with more real-time 3D featuring Gloranthan caves!

A Tale of Two Covers

GROGNARDIA takes a look at both the US and UK covers for RuneQuest 2nd edition. Above left is the original American version from Chaosium, and above right is the version published by Games Workshop.

Never having owned the GW version, I don’t know the name of the UK cover artist (please enlighten me in the comments). Whoever he is, there’s no question he’s more technically proficient than Luise Perrin. Compare the reptilian monster in each version and you’ll quickly see what I mean. The warrior woman’s pose from the GW cover likewise shows a greater command of human anatomy. Yet, somehow, even leaving aside the issue of the UK version’s cheesecake, I find Perrin’s version vastly more compelling to me. There’s a mythic, dream-like quality to it that I think better suits the tone and content of RuneQuest. 

I completely agree with the sentiment and couldn’t have put it better than that. The chain-mail bikini has been largely regarded as embarrassing (at best) for quite a while now, but even then, Luise’s version has a quality that is hard to pinpoint, even for someone like me who has zero nostalgia for it.

Pookie Reviews RQ Adventures Fanzine #1

Pookie, from the unmissable Reviews From R’lyeh, takes a look at this old Runequest fanzine from the 1990s.

Really Dicey Reviews the Weapons & Equipment Guide

I haven’t seen it yet, and probably won’t watch it until I’m done writing my own, but here you go in case you’re still on the fence about the book!

This Week’s Miniatures

Let’s put all the nice miniatures photos in the same section… and what’s a better way to start off than with a preview of the upcoming MadKnight Castings Kickstarter?

Photo by Andrew Taylor

According to Andrew Taylor this is Kargan Bar, Aranea Spider Master. The Kickstarter is scheduled for “early April”.

Peter James has a nice collection of Uz:

Photo by Peter James

Felix Miniature Painting has, as always, some great photos. These are MadKnight Castings’ Sable Riders, Newtlings, Blessed Daughters, Dragonewts, and Danfive Xaron Penitents.

MadKnight Available From Rapier

Andrew Taylor alerted us that MadKnight miniatures are now available for purchase from Rapier Miniatures website! Check them out here. Note that Rapier has a few other 28mm Gloranthan miniatures, plus a line of 6mm Gloranthan miniatures, if you’re into large-scale wargaming.

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.

Geomorphological Landscapes

This Instagram account has quite a few “exceptional” geographical spots from around the Earth. When you’re trying to make a magical setting like Glorantha, it’s good to be reminded how weird and crazy the real-world can be, so you know you can go even wierder and crazier.

Here is Mount Maelifell in Iceland:

Photo by h0rdur

The Rock of Guatape in Columbia:

Photo by Jake Guzman

The badlands of Hingol National Park in Pakistan:

Photo by Tehsin Razi

Here are some natural sand sculptures at Mono Lake in the USA:

Photo by Derek Ryan Mathewson

The Stanislav Grand Canyon in Ukraine looks like somebody put too many Rune Points into a Fissure spell:

Photo by Sergiy Stepanenko

A lake in Japan that is most likely sacred to Uleria:

Photo by Hiroki Nose

Here’s Hauser Spire in Switzerland… most probably where Earth Shield was used during the Gods War:

Photo by Juerg Hostettler

There is way too much to share here so check out the Geomorphological Landscapes profile here. They even have many videos of weird stuff, like, say, ice balls, a dragon’s eye, some cool sea caves, a surprise for your adventurers when they ford a river, or a crazy-ass mountain-top fort for the most devout Orlanth initiates.

Bronze Age Copper Mine of Great Orm

Guest entry by Jörg

This video describes the Bronze Age coppermine of Great Orm in northern Wales, and while Gloranthan mining mostly goes for nuggets and dust of native metal rather than ores that need smelting, the information on underground lighting and spelunking activity certainly is pertinent to any Gloranthan spelunking, and offers a rather primitive type of oil lamp to drop and spill. (Where the “dropped oil lamp table” is the RuneQuest equivalent to Hollywood igniting every car that rolls down a cliff… spilled fuel cools down quickly, and without the heat of the wick won’t keep the fire going.)

Another Dan Davis video with some relevance to Bronze Age life

Thank you for reading

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

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

This issue of the Journal is coming in a bit late because of Jeff’s massive “Gloranthan art” series, which required a bunch of research, and then I ran out of time this week-end. You may be interested (or not) to know that I really simply time-box these things: I do research until I’m satisfied, or until I run out of whatever time I’m comfortable spending on a free newsletter. Anyway, without further ado, here are your Gloranthan news for this week!

God Learner Sorcery

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

Glorantha Initiation Episode 5

This month we interview Steinar, also known as Coffeemancer on the BRP Central forums, where his illustrations became famous. As always with the Initiation Series, we discuss how the guest’s recent discovery of Glorantha happened, what was good, what was bad, and what was fun.

Chaosium News

Here are this week’s Chaosium news!

RuneQuest Starter Stream Episode 05

I’m still catching up, but James has already started the second adventure from the RuneQuest Starter Set! Aaaagh! But as I catch up (I’m up to episode 3 right now), I really like that James is taking the time to let the story unfold: the adventure, the characters, the relationships, and so on. Plus, sort of learning the system as they go and not pretending to know every inch of the giant pile of rules that is RuneQuest. It makes me feel less bad for running equally slow-moving game sessions, and hand-waving many rules!

Leather Map Bundle from Studio DeadCrows

French RuneQuest licensee Studio DeadCrows is showing off this leather bundle to store your fancy Gloranthan maps!

This is one of the stretch goals for the Smoking Ruin and Pegasus Plateau French edition crowdfunding campaign.

If you want to know what’s different in the main French slipcase, I wrote an article about that!

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!

New Glorantha Settlement and Area Maps

The Jonstown Compendium is pretty quiet at the moment except for Mikael Mansen churning out more fancy maps!

There are a couple more generic settlement maps (Settlement 13, Settlement 14, although I might have missed a couple since last time), plus maps of Talastar and Erigia.

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.

During the Windstop

Jeff answered a question about the Windstop on BRP Central and then posted about it on Facebook. The Windstop is the year (more or less) during which Orlanth and Ernalda were effectively dead for a whole chunk of Genertela, courtesy of Lunar heroquesting (see the affected area below):

© 2022 Chaosium Inc.

Most of 1621 and 1622 was one long winter in Dragon Pass, and Air and Earth magic didn’t work much or at all, with the epicentre of this tragedy at Whitewall, where the last Orlanthi resistance fell to the Red Emperor’s forces. Kallyr Starbrow and King Broyan eventually fixed the problem with some heroquesting of their own. This all happened a few years before the start of RuneQuest Glorantha’s official timeline, but for those who play in the more “classic” timeline of occupied Sartar, the Windstop is an interesting challenge.

During the Windstop, initiates of Orlanth and Ernalda within the affected area could not use their Rune Point pools to those gods and subcults of those gods. That includes Orlanth Adventurous, Rex, Thunderous, and Vinga.

Tatius the Bright expected that it would cause the Orlanth cult to collapse, but instead, Orlanth’s associates stepped into the gap. Chalana Arroy, Eurmal, Issaries, Lhankor Mhy, Storm Bull, Maran Gor, Babeester Gor, Grain Goddesses, and many others (including friendly cults such as Humakt) took on a greater social and magical prominence during that year. When the Windstop ended, the respect for the Orlanth and Ernalda cults actually rose as their importance in maintaining the cosmos was made more vivid.

Tatius the Bright was the General of the Lunar Provincial Army at the time.

Now part of the reason the default setting is moved to after the Dragonrise is that the Windstop is IMO better handled in retrospective. We didn’t think the default campaign path should be to make up a character in either of the two most popular player character cults and shortly after be told, “Sorry, none of your magic works.” And then keep that up for another three seasons or so. Obviously, if you want to play that, do it. But we concluded it was a far better idea to put that and the Dragonrise in the near past, and move forward from there.

As far as I’m concerned, that is perfectly sound reasoning. That, plus the fact that among the many old-school RuneQuest fan, a fair share of them might have grown tired of the Lunar occupation years…

Grazelanders Again

We had some notes about Grazelanders in previous issues of the Journal, but Jeff shared a summary:

So when thinking about the Grazelanders, it is perhaps best to think of them as a duopoly headed by the Feathered Horse Queen. That means two groups:

Semi-nomadic horse herders. These folk call themselves the Pure Horse People but would be barely recognizable to their distant kin in Pent and Erigia. Others call them the Pony Breeders. They raise and defend their horses, moving them around from pasture to pasture, supplemented by hay grown by the farmers. They are provided with additional foodstuffs, crafted goods, and so forth from the towns and villages, but in amounts set by the Feathered Horse Queen and acceptable to both groups. They worship Yelm and Ernalda.

Farmers and townsfolk. These folk are Orlanthi farmers, crafters, and merchants. They also include the Humakt cultists, who are the ferociously loyal bodyguards of the Feathered Horse Queen. They farm their fields, make craft goods, and run the markets – and give a percentage to the Feathered Horse Queen and to the Pony Breeders. They worship Orlanth Thunderous/Barntar and Ernalda, as well as the other Lightbringers and Humakt. Many have commercial or even kinship ties with Tarsh and Sartar.

This sort of co-dependence between farmers and nomads was pretty common in the real world. Farmers cannot easily become Pony Breeders, but are not slaves either. Disputes between the two groups are resolved by the Feathered Horse Queen who is above both groups, as the living incarnation of the Earth Goddess. The Feathered Horse Queen dynasty is closely related to the Sartar Dynasty and since 1605 or so to the Tarsh Dynasty in Furthest.

This is an important bit of information for anybody used to the older material where the Grazelanders are described as having Vendref “slaves” (I’m reading the HeroWars books at the moment and that word is used all the time in this context!) This new version of the setting seems more interesting and plausible to me so I like that this was changed.

The Feathered Horse Queen is very much the ruler. And she protects the farmers from the Pony Breeders AND the Pony Breeders from the farmers! The local Humakt cult is pledged to her service (likely as part of their initiation rites), and she controls the fertility of the lands and the herds. Life served by Death.

It is also worth keeping in mind that Grazeland society has been half Orlanthi farmer and half Yelmite horse herder for over a century or more. Both cults compete for the favour of Ernalda (the Feathered Horse Queen).

Finally, some numbers to get an idea of the group dynamics:

There are in total about 40k people in the Grazelands. 18k are Pony Breeders, 18k are farmers, and 4k are urban townspeople.

Reading Recommendations for Heroquesters

This is what Jeff recommends you take a look at:

When thinking about heroquests, I strongly recommend reading Jung’s “Red Book” aka the Liber Novus. That and “Inanna’s Descent into the Underworld”. And Gene Wolfe’s “Soldier of the Mist.” Those three books combined with “King of Sartar” and “Glorantha Companion [sic]” and you are much of the way.

By “Glorantha Companion”, Jeff actually mean “Glorantha Sourcebook“. Well, I’ve read 3 out of 5, so not too bad.

The above little diagram that Jeff shared with his note is “a map of part of the Hero Plane associated with the Aroka Quest.” So instead of organizing a heroquest as a linear list of “stations” as described in the old HeroWars supplements, Jeff seems to do a more classic sandbox of scenes, the way you might organize a normal adventure.

Gloranthan Art Series

Jeff has posted a five part series on Facebook about Glorantha art through the ages (part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5). Let’s get started, it might take a while!

Dawn Age

At the Dawn, there were basically two cultural centers – Dragon Pass (also known as the Theyalans or the Unity Council) and the Peloria lowlands ruled by the Horse Lords.

The Theyalans had a tradition of “realistic” art thanks to the Silver Age heroes called the Architect and the Artist (both of whom were active in Kethaela). Moreover, they had access to dwarf crafters, dragonewts and elves. And to surviving pre-Time relics. It followed geometric patterns of proportion and composition, and mortals and gods alike were depicted nude. This “Theyalan style” got spread all over the place, but also was probably really diverse. Individual artists did things in individual ways.

Example: Stravulstead, 1st Century, thought to be Heort

Creative Commons image

The reference for this statue is the New York Kouros, a life-sized marble statue representing a young Greek man. The statue was carved in Attica in the 6th century BCE.

Stravulstead was one of the settlements that existed at the Dawn in Dragon Pass. There are many of them (there’s a map in the Guide to Glorantha), but that particular one was in the heart of the Theyalan culture, just west of Dwarf Mine and near Grizzly Peak.

Heort is of course the founder of the Heortlings, and an early hero Orlanthi hero who participated in the I Fought We Won battle during the Gods War.

Meanwhile in Peloria, you start with court art that is intended to appeal to the Sons of the Sun. Lots of gold, horses, sun disks, etc. And it contrasts with Theyalan art by not being realistic or naturalistic. So very formal, very precise and almost abstracted at times.

Hey, there’s a reason why the Fire/Sky Rune is tied to the INT characteristic in RuneQuest. This kind of art is for intellectuals!

When Dara Happa is formed, the new empire takes some of the ideas of the Theyalans and starts making sculptures of important gods and rulers (who are the same thing).

And they look at the Gods Wall for style. Because of course there are Pre-Dawn relics. Just like in Dragon Pass – we have relics from ancient times. Broken statues of unknown gods.

The Dara Happan Empire was, I think, something that existed in the God Time under the Sun Gods. It wasn’t much of a thing anymore at the Dawn (as you might expected after the Great Darkness of the Gods War), but it was “re-established” in 221. It didn’t fare very well in Time, being defeated and occupied by their western Carmanian Empire neighbour, and then absorbed into the nascent Lunar Empire in the beginning of the Third Age. Remember that, since we’re going to reach that point soon.

The Gods Wall is that thing you can see on the RuneQuest Gamemaster Screen:

© 2022 Chaosium Inc.

There’s a detailed appendix on it in the Guide to Glorantha, but you can also get it in a puzzle triptych!

We also start getting more and more concentrated wealth in the later First Age. Temples spend substantial resources commissioning artists.

By the 3rd century, the Dara Happan Empire and the High Council were in contact with each other and began to influence each other. The Theyalan Orlanth was identified with the Dara Happan Umatum and Rebellus Terminus, and Yelm with the Theyalan Emperor. Once the Dara Happan Empire joined the High Council of the Lands of Genertela in the later 4th century, this influence became pervasive and the mythologies were fused. This also influenced art, as artisan went among Dragon Pass to Dorastor to Dara Happa. A rich Yelm temple might hire artists, only for them to later work for a Heortling king or Orlanth temple. This results in a cross-pollination of symbols and style from Ralios to the Redlands, Peloria, Dragon Pass, and Maniria. Regional differences, but also common influences. The later First Age is a shared language of mythology, art, and culture.

You can thank the God Learners of the Second Age for not having to deal with all these different names for similar deities! Real-world archeologists and historians have to deal with that, but that’s really just overly complicated and confusing for a make-believe fun-times roleplaying game.

Second Age

This unified culture collapses in the Gbaji Wars at the end of the First Age. War and poverty. A collapse, which in turn leads to reduction in complexity in artwork. A Dark Age from about 450 to 600 or so.

In Dragon Pass, you end up with a vibrant civilization around 700. But they don’t have the dwarfs around to help them. And a lot more trollish influences.

Sculpture became less “realistic” and powerfully primitive. Basic shapes, essentially. But done with lots of wealth.

This is people working off copies of copies, without the skills to do it.

Creative Commons image

This reference is a statue of the Mesopotamian-Aramean storm god Haddad. You can see it in Pergamon museum in Berlin… the satue, that is. Not the storm god himself. Although frankly I’m half expecting someone to pop up and say “come on, Ludovic, in Glorantha, of course both are the same!

Around 800 things change. The Dragon Pass kingdom gets extremely wealthy and obsessed with esoteric symbolism. And is in contact with the Middle Sea Empire. Things get sensuous and baroque. This is the formation of what we call the Esrolian style.

The reference picture that Jeff shared at this point was very low-resolution so I’m having trouble finding where it comes from… but it looks to me like a Hindu high-relief sculpture like this one, from the Brahmeshvara temple in Kikkeri:

Creative Commons image

This piece is described as “Vishnu and Lakshmi under a Vesara aedicule” and if you’re like me, maybe the only words you understood there are “and”, “under”, and “a”.

Ok, I’m being a bit facetious because I have a vague idea who Vishnu is. He’s one of the principal deities in Hinduism, and he’s sometimes depicted as a… hold on… a blue guy with four arms? He “creates, transforms, and protects” the universe? He “restores the cosmic order” when the universe is “threatened by Chaos”? Oh hey, that reminds me of someone…

Lakshmi is Vishnu’s consort, although from the looks of it she doesn’t map as directly to Ernalda. She seems a bit more like Dendara (Yelm’s very respectable wife), with some Asrelia for the “wealth” aspect, and a few other things thrown in.

A Vesara is a specific architectural type of Hindu temple, and an aedicule is a type of shrine typically built as a niche with one or more statues inside. Huh. Oh well, those are my new English words of the week.

Anyway, the point is: art budgets are increasing thanks to trade money, so artists have more time to add more overly symbolic and detailed necklaces on everybody, a few extra arms for good measure, and complicated patterns all around the thing.

Whereas the Middle Sea Empire is more Hellenistic baroque. Very idealized baroque work.

Photo by Carole Raddato

Jeff’s reference here is a detail of the (checks notes) gigantomachy frieze of the Pergamon Altar. What? Seriously, are people just inventing new words now? Ok, so the Gigantomachy is the name of the battle between the Giants and the Olympian Gods in Ancient Greek and Roman mythology.

These cool sculptures are again at Berlin’s Pergamon museum. It’s a massive exhibit, check it out:

Creative Commons image

This was built in the 2nd century BCE in Pergamon’s acropolis. This is another one of Ancient Greece’s many cities founded on the other side of the Aegian Sea, in modern day Turkey.

Where the EWF is going for Indian baroque, the Carmanian and Dara Happans are going for something more austere and idealized. More stylized and austere styles in the north, more “naturalistic” and descriptive art in the south. To put it roughly, the Pelorians evoke ideas, the Theyalans depict things.

Carmania establishes a much less baroque and more austere idealized style in Peloria. Which, in turn, echoes the divide that existed before the First Age too.

The next reference picture is, I think, from the “Lion Hunt of Ashurbanipal“. It’s a mural from one of the palaces in the Assyrian city of Nineveh, built in the mid-7th century BCE.

Creative Commons image

Here you can see him actually fighting the lion:

Creative Commons image

If you live in San Francisco, or if you like stupid internet memes like me, you might have already seen this guy wrestling that lion… the San Francisco statue below has been described as “…when you need to stop the cat from running outside while you’re getting that Amazon package“:

Creative Commons image

We are of course talking about the richer temples and rulers. Smaller temples are left behind. Villages shrines still do stuff like this:

This is a picture of an early 7th century BCE votive figure attributed to an Ancient Greek noble named Mantiklos. It was an offering to Apollo. We know this because it’s written on the figure’s legs: “Mantiklos dedicated me as a tithe to the Far Shooter, the bearer of the Silver Bow. You, Phoibos [Shining One], give something pleasing in return.” You can see this in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

In RuneQuest, that’s the kind of stuff your adventurers might leave at various temples to get those bonuses when replenishing Rune Points. You can even make it a full-on action figure, complete with accessories! Indeed, this Mantiklos votive figure has “…marks of attachment on the top of the head and a hole for attachment in the forehead. The hole in the left hand has been identified as support for a bow. It has been suggested also that the figure was a warrior, wearing a helmet and carrying a spear in the left hand and a shield on the right arm.

The Middle Sea Empire influences Esrolia – you get rich temples hiring crafters from across the Middle Sea Empire for technique skill. Esrolia is super cosmopolitan, and its artists might throw in weird references from Kralorela or Fonrit or Seshnela or whatever. So in Esrolia, you basically establish super-baroque. Great technique, lush symbolism, but very naturalistic and sensuous.

The reference picture for this part is some of the sculptures from Khajuraho temples in northern India.

These temples, built between the 9th and 11th centuries CE, are famous for their erotic sculptures. These only represent about 10% of the numerous sculptures decorating the site, but of course that’s what tourists come to see. And given what they look like, it seems obvious that it’s a great idea to take family pictures there. “Naturalistic and sensuous” might become a lot more hard-core in some select Kethaelan temples…

In Dragon Pass and South Peloria, it is as baroque, but less sensuous and more abstract and symbolic. Here the influence of the dragons is the greatest.

And in Peloria, it is more austere, idealised, and formal. Also they have the Gods Wall to go back on.

Now Jeff shows us various ways to depict Ernalda:

In Esrolia, she is depicted as this lush and sensual dancing woman, surrounded by a dazzling array of flowers, grains, husband protectors, worshipers, lesser goddesses. She overwhelms with splendor to the point where your senses can’t even take it all in.

Another northern India statue is used for reference here:

I think this is a sculpture of the goddess Kaumari, a war goddess who rides a peacock, carries a spear and axe, and has several cool powers. She is one of the Matrikas, which are also known as (checks notes) the Seven Mothers. Oh hey! Well, I’m not going to go deeper into that because it seems super complicated and deals with various sub-types of Hinduism, but that should be enough to whet you appetite — in particular, I’m totally going to have an Ernaldan or Babeester Gor NPC riding a peacock, now.

But anyway, if I’m still following Jeff, this would be one way to sculpt some representation of Ernalda. But there are others:

In Peloria, she is very formal and strict. She looks much like the other goddesses, just more so. Or maybe she is naked and the others are clothed.

Photo by Giraudon/Art Resource, New York

This is a sculpture of Asherah, a “mother Goddess” of ancient semitic religions. She was widely worshipped throughout the ancient Middle East, often as the consort of this or that god, like Ernalda is in Glorantha. And while Asherah was wed with various big deities in Caanite, Hittite, Assyrian, and other religions, her claim to modern fame is probably as a consort of Yahweh in Israelite religion.

In Dragon Pass, she is looser than Peloria, dancing like she is in Esrolian artwork. There are still goddesses, husbands and flowers around her, but there is also other stuff. Strange runes, which almost look like hers, but aren’t. The snakes around her look…odd, and not quite right. And some of the flowers do not look entirely real.

This is, I think, a picture of Nagaraja with his wife. Now I’m not clear on who Nagaraja is, because it might be less a person and more a group of persons. They are the kings of various types of serpents, although it seems like the Hindu texts mostly refer to three main kings. And yes, if you’re enough of a Gloranthaphile, seeing serpent kings with serpent legs should be firing all kinds of cylinders in your head.

But again, ignore my digressions: this is supposed to be how Ernalda might be depicted in Dragon Pass. She would be as liberated and sensual as in Esrolia, but with more weird draconic mysticism, I guess.

During the period from 878 to 910 that the EWF rules Dara Happa, elements of this style gets imposed along with traditional formalism.

Ah, finally a reference picture I can somewhat place: this is good old Marduk, a big shot Mesopotamian deity, and city-god of Babylon, no less. The drawing above is a depiction of the Statue of Marduk inside which the god was believed to reside.

So I suppose that Dara Happan traditional art style is augmented with weird bits about dragons and snakes, basically.

Then the seas Close. Esrolia is cut off from the Middle Sea Empire, and its art loses some of its technical brilliance, and gets even more baroque and less understandable.

Meanwhile in Peloria, the Carmanians react against the most obviously EWF stuff, but they are conquering and expanding, so they are hiring artists trained by the EWF but being told Be More Formal!

Third Age (Holy Country)

And then comes a long period of war that culminates in the Dragonkill War. Which divides the world into Kethaela and Peloria.

Kethaela starts with that late Second Age Esrolian style. Sensuous and baroque. Though regressed a bit and gets worse and worse at it. Since you don’t have the actual artisans present anymore.

Until Belintar shows up. And Belintar oversees a rich artistic renaissance. And he’s of course a thorough God Learner, with baroque references on top of baroque references. So the style remains mostly the same, but revitalized. Not “realistic” but symbolic and mythological.

And he draws on the Esrolians, the Heortlings, the Caladralanders, the God Forgotites, the trolls, and the dwarfs to create a visual melting point. And the Kethaelans get their technical skills back. The way the ornamentation and detailing is made is changed as a result of communication from the dwarfs of Gemborg. Intricate decoration.

At some point, the style is a reference to a reference to itself. So whereas the Second Age stuff was naturalistic verging on weird abstractions (like in the eyes and so on), under Belintar, temple architecture was naturalistic but not formalized.

This “plaque with female figure” dates back to the 1st century BCE in East India, and is housed in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. So while there are style similarities to the previous Indian pieces, this one is definitely less intricate and crazy-looking. In the real-world it’s because it’s an earlier piece using a different medium, but in Glorantha that would be because local artists have lost their EWF drug dealers.

Belintar tries to recreate that very spread out and universal First Age Style. And of course this just goes nuts with the Opening. Because the Holy Country is now stupid rich.

Now when Sartar gets settled, they bring this artistic tradition with them. Sartar and his heirs hire artists from the Holy Country. But Orlanth is the focus. It is not as baroque. It is more martial, more masculine. And somewhat technically cruder, except for the dwarf or Wilms-made stuff from Sartar’s time. Which is technically superb. More masculine, more martial, more violent. And even more individualistic.

Artists are very much encouraged to put their own spin on things. The overall style is there, of course, you can’t really escape it.

Creative Commons image

Jeff describes this picture as a “statue of a Sartarite Chieftain or King“. In the real world, it’s the Bharhut Yavana, from northern India in around 100 BCE. Indeed, less exhuberant detail and more serious.

This next reference is an “Ernalda cult image“. In the real world, it’s the Lady of Auxerre, currently housed in the Louvre Museum in Paris. It dates back to the 7th century BCE, and was probably related to some Ancient Greek goddess like Persephone. As always, we tend to see the past as monochrome, but this reconstruction shows how colourful it might have been:

Creative Commons image

Next, some reference for “Sartarite coin art“:

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In the real world, these are coins from the reign of Agothocles of Bactria, in the late 2nd century BCE. Apparently we don’t know much about the guy, but we know a LOT about his coins! Of note, these coins show a mix of Greek and Indian deities, so good on Agothocles for the multiculturalism here.

If you’ve seen the coin art in the RuneQuest rulebook or the Guide to Glorantha, the similarities are obvious. And remember that you can get real Glorantha coins, courtesy of Campaign Coins!

Creative Commons image

Finally, this is a reference for “King Tarkalor”, who was Prince of Sartar and King of Dragon Pass in the late 1500s before being killed by the Lunars at the Battle of Grizzly Peak.

The actual image is the 6th century BCE life-size statue of an unknown or unnamed hoplite warrior found in the temple of Hera in Samos, an island in the Aegean Sea. There’s more here, but again, this is very martial and, frankly, plain.

The Lunar Empire

But, in Peloria, things are different. The EWF style are gone. And we have a long dark age.

The Carmanians embrace a formal brutalism style. Them and their gods triumphing atop piles of dead. Think Assyrian palace style. Scenes of war and scenes of authority.

Jeff doesn’t share any reference here, but hey you come here for the useful annotations, right? Here’s what an Assyrian palace might have looked like during the height of Assyrian cities from, say, the 14th century BCE to the 7th century BCE:

Artist’s impression of Assyrian palaces from The Monuments of Nineveh by Sir Austen Henry Layard, 1853.

So not as brutalist as a 1960s communist monument, but still pretty concrete square looking. And here’s what the inside might have looked like:

Artist’s impression of a hall in an Assyrian palace from The Monuments of Nineveh by Sir Austen Henry Layard, 1853.

There are more pretty pictures and information here. Generally speaking, it seems like you can use Assyrian cities such as Assur, Nimrud, and Nineveh as inspiration for your Glorantha’s Dara Happan cities like Raibanth, Alkoth, and Yuthuppa.

The Lunar-Dara Happan revolt comes out of that tradition but tries to turn it upside down. With a naked goddess being the equal of a stern but benevolent Yelm. Standing on top of a pile of dead Carmanians and Pentans.

But also we start getting new esotericism. It could be that the Red Goddess was not even initially depicted as a deity. But just as a woman. Deliberately smaller than the gods and rulers. Naked and human, but superior to the immortal gods. And she is not depicted in a formal manner. Idealised yes, but relaxed and in dance. The Yelm cult takes its cues from here as well. Yelm gets less formalized, although continues to be idealized. Maybe even more idealized.

Sedenya is basically the girl next door that your worshippers told you you don’t need to worry about. But hey, what’s that? Your worshippers are now wearing Red Moon t-shirts? Uh oh.

As the Lunar Empire gets richer, the art gets better, and becomes what we now call the Old Lunar style.

We get a century and a half of this Old Lunar style. And then in 1375 the Pentans come. And for nearly a century, the Pentans reduce Peloria to grasslands. People are eating mud and each other. The Lunar Empire consists of the besieged center of Glamour, some barbaric kingdoms in the south, and the Western Reaches aka Old Carmania.

Lunar art becomes cruder, poorer, and more emphatic. There is now no difference between Lunar and Dara Happan. There is simply Lunar-Pentan-Slave. Empathic in subject and very removed from the concerns of the world. Because in the real world Sheng Seleris rules. Minor victories or stalemates against Sheng Seleris are monumental triumphs!

In a surprise, the Red Emperor defeats Sheng Seleris and confines him to a Lunar (ie mystical) hell. The Pentans collapse. And now the Lunar Empire is able to resettle the New Grasslands of Peloria. This is where Lunar art comes from. Restore and Rebuild. New towns need to be built. Old cities need to be rebuilt.

All quickly, all at the same time, and from the Oronin River to the Arcos. From the White Sea to the gates of Alkoth. Every town gets laid out more or less the same, with a temple complex to the Red Goddess, Yelm, Dendara, Lodril, and whoever else. All by the same architects and artists.

And although directly supervised by the Red Emperor, Great Sister, or Hon-eel, it is initially done fast and on the cheap. And some a lot better than others.

So we now have within the empire basically four styles. Three are old and can be found in:

1. Glamour and the Tripolis
2. Western Reaches
3. Jillaro
4. Everywhere else: The New Lunar style or the Lunar Heartland style.

Towns are built quick. And cheap. Art is initially easy to reproduce. Very stylized and formalized. But over the next century and a half, the empire gets richer and richer and richer. So this New Lunar style gets built upon, embellished, upgraded. More elaborate and more technically skilled. But it is still based off that original post-Sheng style.

But now rich Lunar priests demand that the artist display technical virtuosity and work in all sorts of Lunar motifs and esoteric references.

I guess that’s what happens when the upper crust of the Lunar society starts to accumulate many rich second generation assholes and crazy Illuminates.

During Sheng’s occupation, the shift towards more empathic and non-real world related themes in art also brings in another thing. The artwork starts to depict Yelm, Lodril, Dayzatar, and all the others as idealized and perfect. These almost calming presences in the world, a source of stability amongst the chaos and horror of Sheng’s rule.

Yelm is no longer that stiff, formal, restricted thing on the Gods Wall. He is still that yes, but to the masses he is also the benevolent sun god. And the Red Goddess’ divine father.

This reminds me of this theory about western genre movie production, where we supposedly get more dystopian stories when the economy is good, and more zombie and post-apocalyptic stories when the economy is bad.

As the occupation ends, as more art gets made and the more and more money gets pumped into it, this transforms.

The Seven Mothers, Etyries , Hon-eel, etc. are depicted in a sensual, loose and free style. They are beautiful and relatable.

The Celestial Gods meanwhile are beautiful, yet perfect. They are not sensual; they are not mere mortal things. They are the perfect geometry of the world, the cosmic order.

A depiction of Hon-eel or Jar-eel or Etyries shows you an idealized reflection of you, the mortal viewer.

They were born, they suffered, they transcended. Like the Goddess herself.

The depiction of Yelm shows you something else though. something still beautiful, but in a different way. It is the beauty of perfect harmony. The beauty of the cosmic order of the Golden Age.

So let’s move this forward a tiny bit more. By the 7th Wane, the Lunar Empire is ruled by Yelm illuminates of the Red Goddess cult. For generations. They are self-referential by now in the sense that their art needs to communicate with them and not so much other audiences. So in our magnificent great temple in Glamour, with gold and gems and glass, abstract depictions of Yelm and statues of Apollo, we have this crude little gold sun disk on a horse from the Dawn.

What Now?

Well, this was fun. I think all this pile of information might be interesting to use for environmental storytelling. The way the gamemaster describes a given relic, loot item, temple, ruin, or vision from the past could use this Gloranthan art history to give subtle hints about when and where it’s from.

Environmental storytelling is probably harder to do in a tabletop RPG than in, say, a movie or a video game, and it will probably fly right over the players’ heads, but it’s the kind of little easter egg that shows you care.

Community Roundup

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

RuneQuest Year Zero Concludes

Baz Stevens’ deep newbie dive into the RuneQuest Starter Set concludes with an epilogue featuring only call-ins from listeners (you might hear my voice in there). I heartily recommend the whole series to any RuneQuest grognard, and I hope Baz gets to actually play a game soon.

The Vintage RPG on Glorantha

Previously mentioned Vintage RPG podcast has released an episode on Glorantha. It’s a nice presentation of the setting where one of the hosts explains the most mythical bits to the other host. It’s short and fun so check it out!

JM on Glorantha and Other Cool Things

The Live From Pellam’s Wasteland YouTube channel welcomes JM, of Exploring Glorantha and Jackals fame, to talk about Glorantha and other cool things. I haven’t watched it yet but hey, here you go.

Thank you for reading

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

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

God Learner Sorcery

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

Episode 9: Nomad Gods (Part 1)

Episode 9 of our podcast is finally out! We welcome Chaosium’s David Scott again to talk about the 1977 board game Nomad Gods, after the usual news section where I do some marketing and Joerg gives some shout outs. Cited as a “foundational text” for Glorantha, we flip through the Nomad Gods rules booklet while David provides anecdotes, historical context, and revelations!

Chaosium News

Here are this week’s Chaosium news!

Runequest Starter Stream Episode 04

James and his players are wrapping up A Rough Landing! I’m behind by one episode so I’m still catching up, without anything interesting to write here.

Cults of Prax, One for the Ages…

It’s another one of Rick Meints’ “Out of the Suitcase” articles! I love those. This new one talks about Cults of Prax, its various printings, and some peek at production material, among other things. For instance, Chaosium’s archives apparently still contain the original art for the second printing:

Photo by Rick Meints © 2022 Chaosium Inc.

There’s quite a few nice archive photos, fun anecdotes, and interesting information in that post so definitely check it out. There will be a lot of similar information in Rick’s upcoming “Meints’ Index to Glorantha” 3rd edition, which is supposed to go on sale “soon”.

William Church, who did several of the iconic RQ2 maps (including the one above) is still alive and well, but Rick mentioned on Facebook that “he wasn’t much of a gamer back in the day, and still isn’t now.” Another bit of good news is that Chaosium has approval from Church to use his “Dark Troll Jokes” from Wyrms’ Footnotes for their Redbubble merchandise… although of course it doesn’t mean we will necessarily have these jokes on a t-shirt any time soon.

The Chaosium Con Auction Teaser

Speaking of Rick Meints and interesting artifacts, here’s Rick teasing the stuff we might see at the Chaosium Con action! Plus: what the “Chaosium archives” actually look like!

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.

Uncoling and Other Hsunchen

This bit about the Hsunchen is, I think, some new text, possibly from the upcoming Cults book:

“Through the Golden Age, most of the world had taken shape, especially the division between gods and lesser beings. The gods and spirits were able to change their form, but mortals were not. At first life was wonderful and perfect, but eventually many mortals lost contact with their animal selves, thereby losing touch with Nature and succumbing to the vices of agriculture, politics, war, priests, and wizards. Those people were doomed, for all those things proved useless in the Gods War.

When Death came into the world, the remaining people followed the Horned Man and found Hykim and Mikyh again in the Spirit World. Hykim and Mikyh taught their descendants how to survive in the world, how to be reborn again, and what new ceremonies were needed to preserve the world.”

Hykim and Mikyh are draconic figures who are considered as ancestors of all beasts. It’s unclear (on purpose) whether this couple really exists, or whether they’re one hermaphrodite entity with two gendered aspects. Any time you hear about some bestial deity, like Eiritha or Storm Bull, there’s a good chance Hykim or Mikyh show up in the lineage.

Anyway, we’re here to talk about the Hsunchen. These are generally speaking tribes of primitive people who are strongly associated with an animal spirit. They follow a sort of neolithic way of life, have some animal buddy (a “beast brother” or “beast sister”), some shapeshifting magic, and are big with nature spirit worship. The most fun Hsunchen in Dragon Pass are probably the Telmori, who are basically Chaos-tainted werewolves. I’m running a scenario about them for Chaosium Con! (hopefully I’ll get to write it down and publish it)

The Hsunchen believe that after death, their souls are reborn into their own tribe, failing to distinguish between the human and animal members. Death rituals reflect this belief but vary greatly from tribe to tribe.

From this point, Jeff uses the Uncoling to illustrate his points (and also reply to the original post):

That’s the key similarity among all the Hsunchen peoples – they do not distinguish between the human and the animal members of their tribe. An Uncoling herder recognises the reindeer he herds as members of the same tribe as him, distinct from all outsiders. Sure the reindeer has a different function within the tribe, different duties and expectations, but they are of the same family. The reindeer is kin in a way that the inhabitants of Easval or Zoria are not. When that herder dies, he expects he may be reborn as a reindeer.

The Uncoling are the “reindeer people”, obviously, mostly located in Fronela. You can also guess from context, but Easval and Zoria are neighbouring “civilized” region, respectively a province of Loskalm and a city in Central Fronela.

Now a Loskalmi scholar might look at the Uncoling as consisting of a bunch of humans and their reindeer herds, and on a material level they would be right. We have some 300,000 Uncolings between Loskalm and Rathorela. They survive as pastoral nomads who assemble for rituals and trade. And so on. That understanding is correct but limited.

The Uncoling know the full truth – they are the people who have remained in contact with their animal selves. They and the reindeer are the same people. The reindeer offer themselves for their kin – they agree that some number must be sacrificed so that the tribe may continue. When a reindeer is to be killed, its kin come to it, ask it for its sacrifice, and thank it for its offering. It is slain with the Peaceful Cut and its kin weep and celebrate, and no part of the offering is wasted. Meat is eaten, fur and hide used, and even the bones are used as tools. All Uncoling know that they too have made that same offering in a past incarnation and will again in the future. This is the cycle of life-death-life, the way of the Uncoling.

Yanioth Turntable

Here’s a little work-in-progress for the many character “turntables” that Anna Orlova is doing:

© 2022 Chaosium Inc.

As with other similar illustrations, Chaosium is taking particular care with the character’s tattoos.

Running Kallyr’s Lightbringer Quest

This question on Facebook was asking about Kallyr’s 1625 Lightbringer Quest. In the official material, she does this heroquest shortly after the Dragonrise, but fails when Lunar superheroine Jar-eel crashes the party.

Jeff replied with some advice for running it:

Kallyr’s Lightbringer Quest takes begins at the Hill of Orlanth Victorious and travels widdershins around the Quivin Mountains along both the Hero Plane and Mundane World until arriving in Boldhome for the culmination of the ceremony.

Today’s word: “widdershins“. Basically Kallyr and her companions follow a path that forms an Air Rune over Sartar.

It occurs during Sacred Time, a period when the mundane world and the Hero Plane are in proximity – but the massive outpourings of magical energy causes the Proximate Realm to overlap with our own. So plenty of people find themselves interacting with the Hero Plane – the safest thing to do is remain in the magical safe places (temples, homes, hearths, sacred grounds, etc.) and carefully do the traditional Sacred Time ceremonies, as Kallyr and her companions skit through the strands of mythology. But for intrepid adventurers might take this opportunity to do their own mythic explorations!

You might remember that the Proximate Realm is some sort of semi-permanent magic field that makes it easier to interact with the divine.

Jar-eel is of course a skilled traveler of Arachne Solara’s web and is able to navigate herself to the climax of Kallyr’s ceremony to terrible effect.

So in running this, you need think, what is my players’ role in all this?

1. Sidekicks of Kallyr? This could be interesting, but very dangerous and also runs into the narrative problem of the players playing the sidekick. I don’t really recommend it myself.

2. Adversaries of Kallyr? Many tribes want to test Kallyr, to probe her claims and also force her into an identity. The Colymar in particular are going to put her through the ringer. Maybe they take a power from her, maybe they end up owing her a magical debt. Regardless, they likely end up being part of the climax. I’ve run this multiple times and it is pretty much always good fun.

3. Participants in the ritual that decide to going exploring. This is what I would recommend for most GMs. The players participate in the ritual and get the opportunity to explore the mythic realm OUTSIDE of a story. Maybe they meet Uleria/Tarndisi, maybe Redeye or the Hound show up to devour the Light. Maybe they wander through the Gap and find themselves in the Chasm of Lost Souls! You can go nuts with this stuff, and then return the players to either their home temple or to the culmination of Kallyr’s ceremony.

You can watch Jeff’s game featuring Kallyr’s heroquest on YouTube. According to this episode list, it starts in episode S01E26 and runs for another four episodes. In that campaign, he sort of went with option 2: the adventurers were tasked by Argrath himself to go and challenge Kallyr during her ceremony.

Here are also previous notes on Kallyr’s heroquest.

The Repopulation of Dragon Pass

Dragon Pass went through a really bad period at the end of the Second Age with the Dragonkill War, when dragons basically killed everybody in the area (although mostly the humans). What followed was the Inhuman Occupation, when Beastfolk and Aldryami and Uz had the place for themselves, free to scream at each other and fight each other without any pesky human getting in the way. But of course humans eventually came back:

Humans returned to Dragon Pass around 1250 ST. These were the remnants of the Pure Horse People of Prax. Bands of Pure Horse People and their horses wandered about Dragon Pass, although from the start they favored the hills and valleys in the southwestern part of the Pass.

© 2022 Chaosium Inc.

Orlanthi from the Holy Country began to settle the Pass only 50 years later. The first group were the Colymar, who settled around Clearwine. But starting in 1325, the first of several waves of settlement came from the Holy Country into southern Dragon Pass.

© 2022 Chaosium Inc.

Around 1330 came the first Orlanthi settlers from Peloria in the north of the Pass. Initially this was a trickle, but it became a flood after the Daughter’s Campaigns in Saird.

The “Daughter’s Campaigns in Saird” was when the Lunar superheroine of the time forced the Orlanthi of Saird to bend the knee for good to the Red Emperor. This made Arim the Pauper go south with his people and found the Kingdom of Tarsh. Of course that didn’t do them any good, that Kingdom was conquered by the Lunars a couple generations after. So these Tarshites fled to Northern Sartar and founded the Alone Confederation. Of course that didn’t do them any good either because that was conquered by the Lunars a couple generations after too. Funny how that goes, eh?

© 2022 Chaosium Inc.

By 1400, the Orlanthi settlers in Dragon Pass greatly outnumbered the Pure Horse People and the horse nomads were now confined to the southwest. The Pure Horse People forced some of the settlers (those in the southwest) to submit to their overlordship, but by 1450 even this was doubtful. The rise of the Feathered Horse Queen allowed a new community to form – the Grazelanders or Pony Breeders – where the queen ruled both the horse people and the farmers.

To understand the “even this was doubtful” mention, you can check out the notes on the Grazelanders back in issue #33, where we learned that the Vendref are less like the slaves depicted in the old HeroWars books, and more like a different culture that lives in some kind of symbiotic relationship with the sun worshippers.

Sartar showed up in the Pass around 1470 and over the next score of years, transformed the tribes around the Quivin Mountains into a kingdom, with cities, roads, and markets. Hon-eel arrived in 1490 and quickly the Lunars became a faction in the north.

It is now 1625, and so the southeast of Dragon Pass has been Sartarite for about half their history in the Pass. Similarly, Furthest has been Lunar almost as long as that area was Orlanthi. Places like Bagnot or Dunstop have been Lunar for a much shorter period (a little more than two generations). Thus does that resettlement era recede into the distance.

Now remember, these people are not hermetically sealed and have traded and otherwise interacted with each other for centuries.

If you have the RuneQuest Gamemaster Adventures booklet, you might know that the Colymar tribe has a couple clans of “pony riders” who worship the old Orlanthi sun god:

They called themselves the Hyalorings after that ancient solar horse-taming hero, but were Orlanthi and not Pure Horse People.

They did ride and worship horses though. Which made them stand out among the other settlers from the Holy Country.

This is where I’m getting a bit confused, since the Guide says that the Hyalorings were Pure Horse People. Maybe Pure Horse People is a general term or something. I don’t have time to dig further so I’ll just mention that Runegate, the nearest city to where these Colymar clans are, has a temple to both Elmal (their old sun god) and to Hyalor Horsebreaker, the hero Jeff mentions here.

I don’t think a Grazelander would stand out in Runegate as being any more foreign than someone from the Far Place or Esrolia. That being said, I don’t think that the Pure Horse People and the Runegate folk view each other as kin or related in any way. Sure both have cults to Hyalor, but so do the Sun Dome Temples as well.

© 2022 Chaosium Inc.

Moving on:

The Grazelanders have more than a century of close relations with the Sartarites. Half their population is Orlanthi, their royal houses regularly intermarry, and they have often fought on the same side against the Lunar Empire.

Intermarrying between Sartarites and Grazelanders is the way to get crowned “King of Dragon Pass”, so go get that spouse!

Runegate Map Notes

Jeff sometimes helps Jonstown Compendium creators by sharing his notes. For instance, notes about Runegate. They’re pretty long so I’m not going to put them all here (they will be in the Well of Daliath in a few weeks for those who need them). The highlights for me are:

  • Horsetown is a pasture northwest of Runegate with a wooden palisade around it. It has a minor Issaries temple (that is, a market) and a shrine to Elmal. Horses from there can be purchased at the weekly Runegate market or during an annual summer fair.
  • Runegate’s stone towers and buildings were destroyed during the Lunar invasion of 1602. There are now more timber structures than usual.
  • The East Gate is dedicated to Asrelia and is called “the Luck Gate”, because it’s the only stone one that survived the 1602 Crimson Bat attack.
  • There are several recently built temples (most probably recently rebuilt?). These include the usual Orlanthi deities, but, of note, there’s a temple (or shrine) to Elmal the Sun Horse, and to Eurmal. A Storm Bull shrine was built after the Chaos Flood of 1610. And of course there’s a Humakt temple called the House of Death, which isn’t surprising given the proximity of the undead-filled Upland Marsh.
  • There is also a Seven Mothers shrine which, unlike the one in Jonstown, is still standing. It’s not maintained by the Lunar Empire anymore post-Dragonrise, but it’s supported by travellers coming from Lunar Tarsh.
  • As usual there are several inns, including a Geo’s.
  • Jeff’s write-up for Runegate includes a couple of recent events, probably coming from some adventure book in progress.

I like to get more data points for my spreadsheets, so here’s the cultist make-up of Runegate:

150 Orlanth
150 Ernalda
50 Issaries
75 Humakt
25 Storm Bull
150 Yelmalio
10 Gustbran
50 Others

Heroquesting and the Hero Wars

Jeff talks about the main two types of heroquesting people do around the Hero Wars:

1. We do what we have always done. We stick to the path and don’t leave it. There’s strong societal and cult pressure to do that for everyone. Orlanthi, Lunars, Praxians, Malkioni, whoever.

2. We dive in deep. This is for the desperate, the lost, the mad, and the would-be-gods. In other words, for the heroes. There’s strong societal and cult pressures against that for everyone – even if successful, what you experience may change things dramatically.

I had asked in a previous Journal issue why people in Glorantha don’t generally heroquest outside of old strict rituals (category 1). I figured that it was maybe because only heroes and adventurers have the courage to do so, because the unknown is scary and there’s a long tradition of frowning upon it since the end of the Second Age. It looks like it’s not too far off:

Until relatively recently, the door to category 2 was generally closed. Sure we can name the Red Goddess, Red Emperor, Belintar, Hwarin Dalthippa, Hon-eel, Feathered Horse Queen, Sir Ethilrist, Sartar, and a few others. But they are rare – usually no more than one or two such people a generation.

The Hero Wars are terrifying because we open wide the door to category 2. Argrath and the Red Emperor both encourage this. We have scores of people doing deep dives into the Hero Planes – including player characters. We have heroes that have gone so deep they are rewriting the strands – Jar-eel and Harrek. And with this, the Lunars really don’t have much of a comparative advantage.

Although the Lunars have had several phases of wild experimental heroquesting (particularly in Wanes 0-5), they generally stick to what they know. Admittedly, they have explored some areas that others have largely ignored, but within that framework, usually stick to what they know.

Now Jeff provides some insights for running heroquests and choosing heroic boons:

Category 1 heroquests more or less just reinforce what we already know. And the boons are usually along the lines of existing cult magic and abilities. That’s useful and good, and you can end up with cool powers and curses like those of Hofstaring Treeleaper or Vamastal Greyskin.

But it is Category 2 where the real excitement happens.

What I see raised so often in discussions – “oh how do I fix some aspect of my cult that I don’t like” – occurs so rarely as to be a statistical blip. Heroquests change cults, but almost never because someone sets out to do that. Instead, cults change because heroquesters are directly interacting with the mythic realm and have different experiences than the received lore. And sometimes those new experiences result in very useful magic or insights – which then gets taught to the cult.

And in that manner, cults change even if the gods do not.

And this brings me to the backwards reasoning that a lot of people apply when discussing heroquests. They assume the boon and the experience was planned. That’s usually the case when the heroquest stays within the path of what we have always done.

But the bigger quests – where the heroes dive deep into the realm of myth – the boons and experience result from that deep dive into the unknown. They aren’t planned beyond a Hail Mary pass. Alakoring was desperate in his war agains the EWF and he traveled previously unknown paths that had him fight against the Dragons and win. In the process he became divine Rex, changed the cult of Orlanth (which also undermined the EWF), and gained terrible powers against dragonkind in the process.

In my opinion, even though these experimental heroquests are where excitement happens, the gamemaster needs to start with the first category, where the adventurers’ hand is guided, because the whole concept of heroquesting needs to be introduced to the players in the first place. But even then, the paths and the heroic boons wouldn’t be planned: the gamemaster should let players diverge from the path and get a taste of mythic exploration, and reward them based on what happened.

Understanding Mythology

Jeff shares a snippet of what he considers “to be one of the most important essays in the Cults book”:

Readers will see that many of these stories in these volumes seem to contradict each other, even when they are about the same entity. What, one may well ask, is the actual origin of Death? How can Umath be circling the rim of the universe when he is also at the cosmic court talking to Yelm?

One aspect of myth is that it simultaneously holds multiple versions of truth at any moment. It also means more than one thing. It cannot be contained by mere logic, not even by solitary illogic. It is a manifestation of Mystery that is simultaneously both a protective mask for, and an obvious path to understanding the Mystery. These different aspects are brought forth depending upon the circumstances of the ritual being observed, the magic being obtained, or whatever form of consciousness the participant or observer has.

The plurality of myths was frankly the least of my difficulties with Gloranthan mythology when I started getting into the lore. I understand that people who are looking for classic RPG background material may be confused, but once you realize it’s not that, anybody who has had a little religious education or read enough Marvel comics will know how to handle it.

FOUR WAYS TO EXPERIENCE THESE STORIES

Myths carry layers of meaning, and their meaning is also imparted differently depending upon the position of the recipient of them.

1. READING
You will probably read this book silently to yourself. The narration is necessarily externalized and will be from a distance. Only the mental facilities will be used. This is the weakest method of experiencing myth.

2. VERBAL RETELLING
To listen to someone else read or narrate these stories stimulates the listener much more than just reading silently would. The listener uses more senses, and more of the self is engaged and excited by sound, gesture, and surprises.

3. WITNESS
When the observer actually witnesses other people performing the myth all senses become engaged, and external perspectives give depth to the narrative. Furthermore, observers will see things being done that are entirely absent from the verbal retelling. This is how a Gloranthan lay member experiences myth.

4. PARTICIPATORY
To actually participate in a dramatic myth provides the most power and impact. Perspective is more limited than witnessing, for naturally the participant must take care to play his part and not be distracted by other things. But incredible depth can be obtained from participating in key roles, and in being observed by others, and in channeling the deity’s story. Participating in myth is part of the initiatory experience of every Gloranthan cult.

In other words, go play a game.

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.

Some Good Looking Glorantha Skirmish War Minis

Felix Figure Painting is sharing some more wonderful painting jobs!

These are all for Runequest/Glorantha Skirmish War – In no particular order

6 Full Moon Corps Archers – Mad Knight figures
The Bison is by Warbases
2 versions of an Adventurer – Mad Knight
2 Giant Eagle/Warhawks – Mad Knight
And for the older amongst us who remember the cover of the original Cults of Terror by Chaosium,
A Chaos Shaman summoning a Demonic Spirit this time with a sacrificial victim – Mad Knight

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.

An Estate Agent for Spirits

David Scott is recommending that we listen to this episode of the BBC Sounds podcast as inspiration for “civilised shamanism/animism in Glorantha”. Here’s the episode blurb:

In Thailand, intricately designed homes for protective spirits are ubiquitous – and perhaps nowhere are these houses as noticeable as in the capital Bangkok, where they sit alongside a rapidly modernising city. Journalist Teirra Kamolvattanavith explores how the spirit house tradition has been passed down through generations, how it has endured, and how people interpret the tradition differently.

Teirra sets out on a tour of the spirit houses of Bangkok, meeting the believers, spiritual consultants, sellers and manufacturers, to uncover the web of spirituality, the blend of Hinduism and animism (the belief that everything, from objects to places, has a spiritual essence) that underpins this belief in spirits and the existence of spirit houses.

Here’s an example of a spirit house:

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.

We’re aware the next episode of the podcast is late (it should have been released early this week). But first we are not used to this weird Earth calendar with shorter months. Then, I had lots of work, and two ChaosiumCon scenarios to write. Oh and last, the chat with our guest ended up lasting 3 hours, which means as much audio to edit down to a manageable length… so yeah. It should be out next week! Sorry!

God Learner Sorcery

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

RuneQuest: Aventures dans Glorantha

Are you curious about what’s in the recently released French edition of RuneQuest? I wrote a short tour of it!

By the way, if you want more French content, the crowdfunding for the Smoking Ruin and the Pegasus Plateau is starting!

Chaosium News

Here are this week’s Chaosium news!

ChaosiumCon 2022 Sign-ups Open

Chaosium is organizing the sign-ups on Warhorn (like the vast majority of gaming conventions these days), and it’s now open for the general public, after an early-bird period for people signed-up to GM something. Go here to see the schedule.

I’ll be GMing one RuneQuest game and one Call of Cthulhu game. As I write this, there is still room for the the latter one.

RuneQuest Starter Stream Episode 03

James and his great cast of players reach the end of the starter set’s first adventure, “A Rough Landing”.

Loic Muzy on Glorantha Illustration

This is a nice and quite personal interview about Loic Muzy and his very welcome entry into the world of Glorantha. Very nice to see James speaking French too!

About the Culbrea Sourcebook

Diana Probst had shared the scoop with us that the Beer With Teeth crew was working on a Culbrea-focused campaign book for Chaosium, but the details were pretty minimal. Now she has written a bit more about it.

There is also a bit more information from the Facebook discussion that followed the article. For instance, about whether the Culbrea material from The Coming Storm was used or not:

Where possible, we left things open. There were so many possible interpretations of King Ranulf that we could not choose them all, so we tried to sketch in the big things and leave options. We needed a Tribe that had big internal problems, and they matched best, but we then nudged it towards what we felt was representative of the Starter Set and RQG materials. We mostly stuck to the Guide and material already published or due for publication for RQG but we also looked at previous work. It’s hard to say what formed what – we had to choose between differing realities.

A lot of the time, leaving an open set of options meant we were not doing our job of creating a sourcebook, so there were a lot of avenues we had to close off.

So it looks like Glorantha will further differ between the HeroQuest and RuneQuest lines:

The Two Pine clan is one of the names of the Jotoring, with a history to note why the change of name, and that some people still call it Two Pines. Two Pine Ridge is in there. The Coming Storm was not one of our main texts, though.

It was already the case between the HeroQuest material and some of the places in the first two adventure books for RuneQuest. It personally doesn’t bother me as long as each line stays roughly consistent.

I’ll leave you with this funny comment about some of Diana’s favourite things about working on the Culbrea book:

[…] being able to write in all seriousness that a village got crushed because of some drunken dinosaurs, and that’s just a throwaway line that explains some geography, but it’s RuneQuest, so I was able to put it in.

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!

GM Day Sale on DriveThruRPG!

DriveThruRPG is running a site-wide sale on many products, with up to -30% discounts. Many Jonstown Compendium items are on sale, so be sure to grab anything from your wishlist this week (because yes it’s called “GM Day Sale” but it actually lasts two weeks… go figure!)

My first title, A Short Detour, isn’t part of the sale (mostly because I just started learning about managing that kind of stuff, like, two days ago, and also because it’s too recent), but it will most likely be part of future sales.

Durulz Character Tokens

© 2022 Skulldixon & Chaosium Inc.

Friend of the show Skulldixon has figured out how to use his wonderful duck pics in your games. The Durulz Character Token pack is now available in the Jonstown Compendium! It contains 26 unique character tokens, with 3 different frames for each.

Hsunchen of the East Update

© 2022 Paul Baker & Chaosium Inc.

Paul Baker notes that his book on the animal totem tribes just gained a third tribe: the Pujaleg Bat folk. Just in time for the release of the new Batman movie! The book is also part of the aforementioned DriveThruRPG sale so grab it now!

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.

Sartarite City Wyters, and What Lunars Want

This question on the RuneQuest Facebook group asks whether the Lunar Empire ever replaced existing city wyters with their own in occupied lands. Jeff replied that it would only happen if they wanted to “completely refound the city”:

But that’s not really a Lunar thing in the Provinces, beyond Furthest (which was intended as a major Lunar settlement to hold Dragon Pass).

Given that they would somehow need to overcome Sartar himself (no mean magical trick), those Lunars with the ability to do this had far more pressing concerns than expending resources to do that.

When Sartar founded his cities, he also created their cults and their original leaders – Wilms, Jon, and Swen – became their guardians and spirits upon death. They are sources of continued identity of those cities, tied to the cult of Sartar in Boldhome and in the tribes. It would be no easy trick to replace them or to introduce a Lunar variant without completely obliterating the city and resettling it. Sure Jar-eel or the Red Emperor could do that, but why?

Jeff then goes into what Lunars did in Sartar, and what they were after:

[…] when the Lunars invaded they largely ignored the traditional religions except where they summoned powers antithetical to the Lunar Way. They built a few Seven Mothers temples in the cities like in Boldhome, and later put their resources into the New Lunar Temple in southeastern Sartar.

The Lunar interest in Sartar was primarily:

1. The kingdom controlled the key strategic route between Peloria, Kethaela, and Prax.
2. Because of that, the kingdom was very wealthy and powerful beyond its size.
3. The kingdom was a stronghold of the Orlanth cult which is in active opposition to the Red Goddess. As long as Orlanth fights the Red Goddess, her triumph is slowed.
4. Sartar’s continued independence potentially destabilised the Lunar Provinces, which were Orlanthi kingdoms defeated by the Lunar Empire. Sartar twice proved capable of threatening Furthest (once successfully, when Saronil and Palashee successfully drove the Lunars out of Dragon Pass, and once unsuccessfully when Tarkalor and the Feathered Horse Queen fought against the Red Emperor at the Battle of Grizzly Peak). During the occupation, Sartar was only fitfully of interest to Glamour beyond the construction of a new Temple of the Reaching Moon.

As recent world events have made abundantly clear, there were no doubt many different goals among the Lunar elite.

But most important is what the Red Emperor’s goals were. He personally led the conquest of Sartar, and then appointed a Yelmite Lunar nobleman from the powerful Assiday family to govern the conquered territory. After that the Red Emperor tried to conquer the Holy Country, but was defeated at the Building Wall Battle. After that he returned to Glamour and did not return to Dragon Pass for over two decades.

The Building Wall Battle in the Holy Country in 1605 saw the defeat of the Lunar army. The Lunars returned in 1619 through Hendriki, and by 1621 they have not only conquered the Holy Country but they’ve effectively “killed” Orlanth and Ernalda, ushering the Windstop, or Great Winter, during which Orlanth magic doesn’t work in Dragon Pass, and Ernalda magic is super weak. But this doesn’t last very long, and a couple years later things start going downhill for the Lunar all the way to the Dragonrise and beyond.

During that time, there were numerous Lunar agendas. Some just wanted to make their fortune and reputation, others wanted to screw with the Orlanth cult, others wanted to pacify the area (not necessarily the same thing), and still others wanted to settle here.

Around 1618 the Red Emperor started paying attention again and in 1621 personally appointed a new governor who presumably shared his agenda – conquer the Holy Country, crush Whitewall, and build a new Reaching Moon Temple. Why the Red Emperor wanted those things is no doubt a question of speculation in Glamour and Boldhome.

Pelorian Names for Rulers

Jeff had already shared a list of Theyelan terms for rulers (for use in, say, Sartar and the Holy Country). Now he’s shared the Pelorian version (for use in Lunar Heartlands and Provinces):

Emperor
Dara Happan/New Pelorian. Term literally means “universal ruler.” Only one legitimate emperor can exist in the world at a time, although the title is also applied to Yelm. The emperor rules by right not only Peloria but the entire world and is responsible for maintaining both the social order and the cosmic balance. The emperor must be acclaimed at Raibanth. If during periods of civil strife or political division, more than one person claimed the title, it is understood that only a single claimant could be the true emperor – the others are false.

The Emperor is acclaimed at Raibanth possibly because that’s the city where you’ll find the “Footstool of the Sun God”, which is located on top of a big ziggurath with ten thousand steps, allegedly created by the Sun God himself before the Dawn. The top tier of the structure is the temple and residence of the Solar Emperor. The footstool is connected directly to the sun via a big ray of light which… well I’m not sure what happens when the sun sets. Maybe, you know, don’t build your house to the west, just to be sure.

Oh and the Gods Wall, which you can see on the RuneQuest gamemaster’s screen, is about ten miles north of Raibanth.

Overseer
Dara Happan/New Pelorian/Carmanian. Denotes someone entitled to give commands; typically used by a ruler appointed by an emperor or satrap to serve as their representative or agent.

This title is most often seen in practice with the “Provincial Lunar Overseer” which resides in Mirin’s Cross. Until the Dragonrise, it was Appius Luxius who, as far as I can tell, was, well, overseeing all of the Empire’s provincial operations, from taxation to military movements (so Fazzur Wideread was reporting to him). Previous such Provincial Lunar Overseers also included, say, King Phargentes of Tarsh.

Satrap
Dara Happan/New Pelorian/Carmanian. Term literally means “protector of the province.” Denotes a ruler with some inherent authority that is properly subordinate and loyal to the emperor.

As far as I can tell, while the Lunar Provinces are split into, well, provinces, the Lunar Heartlands are split into satrapies. So satrap is mostly seen to denote the ruler of a piece of the Lunar Heartlands. Each of these satraps is the head of some powerful family which, you might remember, are always fighting each other, overtly and covertly. Satrap NPCs is where you can go crazy with weirdos, creeps, heroes, and villains.

Sultan
Pentan/New Pelorian. Term literally means “power” or “authority”. Denotes a ruler who claim almost full sovereignty, but without claiming universal rule. In the early Lunar Empire “sultan” was used synonymously with “satrap”. After the fall of Sheng Seleris, this title has largely disappeared in favor of “satrap” although it is sometimes used to describe the rulers of peaceful barbarian nations and sometimes for powerful satraps or governors.

You might have seen the term “Sultan” for the “Mad Sultan”, which, frankly, is a great name for an NPC. He was driven mad by the sight of the Crimson Bat in the 1200s, and was last seen in Dorastor, I think.

Tyrant
Dara Happan/New Pelorian. Term literally means “illegitimate ruler”. Denotes someone who rules without lawful authority, such as a rebel, barbarian tribe, or usurper.

Yeah… I guess “tyrant” gets tossed around a lot by everyone.

Count
Dara Happan/New Pelorian/Theyalan. Literally means “delegate of the universal ruler.” Denotes an independent ruler whose authority is sanctioned by the “universal ruler,” either the emperor or even from Yelm. Used by the Yelmalio cult for the rulers of the Sun Dome Temples. Also used by the Lunar Empire for Black Horse County.

Duke
Western/Carmanian/New Pelorian. Literally means “leader”, but typically denotes a martial commander or someone who exercises martial command in an area.

You probably most encountered the titles “Count” and “Duke” around the Zola Fel valley in Prax, between the Counts of Sun Dome County, and Duke Raus who ruled over the grantlands of Prax in RuneQuest’s Borderlands campaign. But those two titles are also used a many other places across the Lunar Empire, Seshnela, and beyond.

The Lunar Heartlands

Speaking of Lunar Heartlands, here’s some perspective:

The Lunar Heartlands are about 10 times the area of Sartar, with 25 times as many people.

To the south of the Lunar Heartlands are the Lunar Provinces, a series of client kingdoms (most originally Orlanthi) centered on Mirin’s Cross. War is common in the south and many Heartlanders just consider the south to be the Land of War. Warlike and adventurous people are sent there to make a name and reputation for themselves – and also to keep them from being trouble-makers in the Heartlands. It is a dumping ground for misfits, malcontents, and others, where they can serve the imperial interest rather than cause problems.

Oh hey now it makes sense that the aforementioned Provincial Lunar Overseer is based in Mirin’s Cross. But as far as the provinces go, although the Heartlanders might see it as the “Land of War”, I imagine there’s a big difference between the provincial cities and the back country. Furthest is very lunarized and multi-cultural, and even other provincial cities might have hipster neighbourhoods that would surprise the most biased Glarmourite. It might also be the Land of Opportunities for an enterprising young merchant, crafter, artist, or whatever.

To the west are the West Reaches, the rump of what used to be Carmania. They have long been extremely peaceful, protected by the Syndics Ban. However, Lunar priests and magicians warn that the Ban is lifting and none know what will be revealed.

You know what, I’ve been reading and playing in Glorantha for a couple years, but I still have very little idea of what the Syndics Ban is. Does everybody else? Well, just in case, here’s the short version.

In the mid 1400s, a heir of Loskalm named Snodal came across a “map of future Fronela” (which Loskalm is a part of) that showed it… not in great shape. He traced the map back to Zzabur, the Sorcerer Supreme, who apparently wanted to sink Fronela (Zzabur is big on sinking things, he sunk whole chunks of Genertela with the Closing of the Oceans). So… this is where it gets weird. For some reason, Snodal decided to heroquest and slay the Fronelan god of communication. What was he thinking? I don’t know… but obviously that was a very bad idea. When he came back, all of Fronela was split in small bits, all cut off from each other by some weird magical fog that prevented any travel or magic to go through.

In the past three decades, most of the Syndic’s Ban has been lifted, but there are still pieces of Fronela stuck in it, and nobody knows what happened in them for the past couple hundred years. Notably, the entire region between the Nidan Mountains and the Sweet Sea is still under the ban, which means that travel between Lunar Heartlands and the west is difficult, requiring long detours.

To the north are Lunar allies – Thrice Blessed (aka Eol), the Char’un Pure Horse People tribe, and the Blue Moon trolls. They are also peaceable.

The real concern is the east – Redlands and Pent. This nomads of Pent have recovered from the Nights of Horror and now raid the eastern satrapies. They reject the Lunar Way, and now many embrace Orlanth and Storm Bull to fight against the Lunar Empire. Many tribes are unified together in a big confederacy called the Voor-ash.

So whenever you think about Lunar activity in Sartar, keep in mind that it usually just part of the Land of War – the southern reaches.

Jeff adds:

Although the Seven Mothers is a missionary and proselytising cult, Sartar, Prax, and the Holy Country are a long way away from the main cult centers. And the Lunar Heartlands and other major centers of Lunar civilization still have a lot of work to do to get them to all embrace the teachings of the Red Goddess. It is much easier to be a Seven Mothers missionary in Doblian or Sylila than in Tarsh, and far easier to be a missionary in Tarsh than in Sartar or Prax!

The toughest place to be a missionary is probably where the players are, though…

Lunar Religion and Chaos

Here’s some note about the role of Chaos in Lunar cults (which came from Jeff’s answer in this BRP thread):

One of the clear distinctions made in the Compromise is that Chaos is not of this world. The deities and powers of the world had touched it, and were still afraid of it, and their continued existence required that they remain apart from Chaos. Chaos became the enemy which must be fought and suppressed. With one enemy recognized by everyone, the squabbling deities found a common theme for unity.

That statement is attributed to the God Learners, but could be said by any Dawn Age Orlanthi, trolls, aldryami, mostali, Malkioni, Praxians, and Yelmites. In the late First Age, the Sun stopped in the sky and Nysalor was born. Nysalor taught that Chaos is, in itself, neither evil nor inimical. His followers used this knowledge – called Illumination – to use Chaos to further their goals. As we all know, a terrible war followed, Nysalor was torn into pieces and his cult scattered.

Centuries later, the Red Goddess met and overcame Arachne Solara and Nysalor on her great Goddess Quest. She returned from the Underworld with a Chaos god called the Crimson Bat and used Chaos to destroy her foes. She now teaches Nysalor’s path to Illumination and by its faith, the Lunar Empire must accept Chaos in philosophy. The Crimson Bat is an example of how this can be done, as may be the vampire regiment rumored to be training in the mountains of Peloria. Yet many Lunar heroes gained fame by killing Vivamort cultists or smashing the slave heads of Thanatar. The awareness of the educated or sensitive concerning the proximity of Chaos makes them acutely aware of their dire responsibilities. The teachings of the Red Goddess, though passionate and fierce, strongly admonishes against certain temptations.

Chaos is a tricky thing — it’s hard to control, and it’s hard to use “for good” without Illumination powers. If you’re interested in this, and at the risk of shameful marketing, you might find the Appendix of my adventure “A Short Detour” quite useful.

The Lunar Way in no way condones the worship of Chaos entities which follow the ways of Gbaji and fall into moral depravity. The religion and state do not forbid it, either, as required by their philosophy. The rulers are adroit at manipulating the results if people do fall into the way of the Chaos gods. Lunar history contains lessons of generals and priests gone bad and point them out as bad examples.

That’s one of the things I like about the Lunar Empire: they’re ultimate pragmatists, of sorts: it doesn’t matter who you are and what you do as long as you help with the Red Emperor’s goals, and it doesn’t mess things up too badly for your fellow Lunars. The Red Goddess thinks outside the box, and encourages you to.

The world hates the Empire because it includes Chaos within its worship. This is a clear and necessary stand for the old gods to have, for their very existence is based upon the fighting of Chaos.

But the Red Goddess, born inside Time, has other options, and wisely uses them to maintain her power among the gods of the cosmos. Her secrets are woven into Balance and Time, resulting in the Lunar cycles laid upon the surface of the world.

The Lunar religion is one of unendurable freedom compared to most of the religions and societies of its time. Inner secrets reveal the immense dangers of such freedom, and Lunar disasters of over-experimentation sometimes are noted. But to attain such cosmic freedom it is necessary to include a worshipful understanding of the Chaotic bondage of mindlessness and the Void. Such concepts, though, are alien to most trained minds of the world, and proven ways of life and religion do not bend easily in the face of novelty. The Lunars, of course, consider this rigidity to be ignorance and imbalance.

Edit: Jeff added a few comments while I was sleeping

This account of the Great Compromise seems to imply that Chaos itself is actually part of the deal!

The Spider Woman constructed a great and magical web made of many things no longer found in the world, and then she gave the web to all the gods to hold ready between them, to use as a net. When Chaos entered their realm, the gods cast the net upon the Devil and held him tight. While the other deities had distracted the Devil, Arachne Solara leapt upon him with vengeance and a strength of desperation and mystical splendor. She enwrapped the Chaos god in her many legs and struggled mightily, and at last devoured the evil soul.

The great beings of the universe then held council and tried to discover what their further course of action might be. The Seven Lightbringers proved that they could lead the way out of the Underworld, but they were not sure what world was left outside. Their Old Way was gone forever, replaced by empty void and Chaos. But they could no longer exist within the confines of the universe.

Arachne Solara proved capable of communicating with the Beingless Voice of Eternity. Through her, and with the Voice, the gods made unchangeable pacts and carved themselves into powerful spells. Arachne Solara led a great dance, reconstructing the shattered cosmic matrix, linking all the surviving gods within an immutable web of pacts and oaths, bonds and relationships, conjurations and creations. The gods swore themselves into a Great Compromise with Chaos, wherein the Old World and the New World (of Death and Chaos) would co-exist, alternating their forces and powers along the myriads of weaves within the matrix of the universe. She revealed her child, born after she devoured the Devil. The child is Time, the Pledge of the Gods, and all existence swore by it to uphold their agreements. This is the Great Compromise, and it is the oath which recreated the world.

I understand this last part as including Chaos in the weaves of the universe, on purpose. Jeff adds:

This is the core conflict about the Lunar Empire – its relationship with Chaos and whether that is progress or destructive lie. We can spin that around and around and around again, and the best answer we get is “Both”.

About the Red Goddess “overcoming” Arachne Solara, it’s not necessarily what you might think:

She contacted Arachne Solara, was not destroyed, and gained a secret boon or knowledge from her. That is what the Lunars mean when they say the Red Goddess overcame her.

She Who Waits is not Arachne Solara, nor is the Red Goddess.

The Red Goddess meeting Arachne Solara in the underworld is one of the oldest and best known parts of the Seven Steps of the Red Goddess. Although no doubt there have been Lunars who have wanted to conflate the Red Goddess and the Spider Mother, the Red Goddess herself rejected that identification (as she also rejected the identification with Entakos).

The “Seven Steps of the Red Goddess” can be seen in the Well of Daliath, and in the Prince of Sartar webcomic.

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.

Coeur de Runes

Coming from the French side of things, Uzz has formally released “Coeur de Runes“, a rules-light RPG for Gloranthan gaming. The PDFs are free under Chaosium’s fan license, and you can download them on Uzz’s official page for the game.

© 2022 Uzz & Chaosium Inc.

Over more than 200 pages, Coeur de Runes offers a complete system for playing in Glorantha: not just the usual stuff like character creation, rules, cults, and magic, but also player and gamemaster guides, pre-generated characters, an overview of Glorantha with places, factions, and creatures, a sample scenario, and more.

At a high level, Coeur de Runes is a lighter version of HeroQuest/QuestWorlds. Your character sheet doesn’t even have ability scores anymore: you either have it or you don’t. The task resolution system is based on a 3d6 roll, with various degrees of success or failure. You “spend” your abilities to affect this roll with a flat bonus, a die set to 6, or a reroll, depending on what kind of ability you spent.

There’s nothing better than a look at the character sheet to get an idea of what an RPG is about so here’s Jarollar, one of the pre-generated characters:

If you want more information about Coeur de Runes, Uzz is a regular on the French Glorantha Discord server, French Glorantha Facebook group, and can be contacted directly here.

Snakepipe Hollow Cliff

D R is still working on modelling the Caves of Chaos in 3D, but here’s a nice treat:

I’ve just finished the infamous cliff and thought that people might want to see a screen shot of it.

© 2022 D R

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.

Citadel of Mycenae

Photo by Ira Block

Here’s a possibly good inspiration for a major Sartarite, Hendriki, or Esrolian hill fort or city: the citadel of Mycenae. It’s located in Greece, obviously, about 120km south-west of Athens. During its heyday in the 12th century BC, it was about 32 hectares large, with a population of 30,000.

It’s possible that Clearwine was already inspired by this kind of settlement, actually: the “cyclopean walls” as fortifications, the Royal Palace at the top, the graveyard area, and so on. Note the “secret stairway” to a cistern that provided Mycenae with water in times of siege.

Photo by George E. Koronaios

You don’t want another incident like Kirra (which, interestingly enough, may be the reason for the existence of the Hippocratic Oath).

There’s a cool looking “Lion Gate” to enter the place, because of course all your forts and cities need a “Someting Gate” with some appropriately thematic sculptures around it:

Photo by Andy Hay

Thank you for reading

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

I recently received my delivery of the crowdfunded French edition of RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha, and I figured some of you might want to know what’s in it. While this post is categorized as a review, it’s actually just a first look — I have only skimmed things.

Edit: I forgot about the extra material in the Gamemaster Adventures booklet! This is now fixed. Thanks 7Tigers!

More Edit: I added some pictures, and mentioned the printed Rune Fixes.

Overview

At first glance, this looks very much like Chaosium’s edition, but with a different back cover art on the slipcase, and a whole bunch of extra handouts.

This back art is made by Joann Sfar, who French Gloranthaphiles might know as the artist of Donjon, a long-running and spin-off laden fantasy series featuring… a duck protagonist.

In addition to the slipcase, there is a “Book of Magic”, seen bottom right in the above picture. This is not the Red Book of Magic but a shorter book with only the spells from the core rulebook and the bestiary. There’s an adventure book called “Enfants de la Flamme” (“Children of the Flame”), seen upper right. Finally, there’s a whole bunch of handouts and reference booklets, seen bottom left.

Obviously inserted last (at packing time) is an errata sheet, which is very nice of Studio Deadcrows to have printed:

Main Slipcase

The main slipcase has familiar contents at first glance, but there’s more than meets the eye.

First, the rulebook and bestiary have a little embossing for the main characters on the cover. It’s not easy to see in the picture below, but trust me, it’s there. I’m personally not a fan of this, it adds some sort of artificial separation between these characters and the rest of the piece, but hey, French editions of Chaosium products have a long history of trying (and often arguably succeeding) to make things prettier than the originals.

Second, the gamemaster screen is in portrait orientation, compared to Chaosium’s landscape one.

The contents behind the screen are pretty much the same however:

Thirdly, rulebook has a few tweaks compared to Chaosium’s version. For instance, occupations like the Hunter now get a proper amount of skills. But more importantly, the rulebook now contains a scenario!

This scenario, “Quand l’Esprit Faillit” will be known to members of the Cult of Chaos under the title “The Fainting Spirit”. It has been tweaked a bit, but not significantly as far as I can tell.

Interestingly enough, the bestiary also gets an exclusive adventure, titled “Faux-Semblants” (which you could translate as “Subterfuge”).

Fourthly, the Gamemaster Adventures book actually contains extra material: 16 pages on the Ernaldori clan.

It includes a history of the clan, current politics, clan ring, other clan NPCs (like the local shaman), and a write-up of Greenbrass, one of the clan’s rural settlements, complete with some scenario seeds, a few illustrations, and a map.

Finally, the Gamemaster Pack (including the Gamemaster Adventures book) are wrapped in a sturdy plastic case (see below), instead of the flimsy cardboard “dock” that came with the Chaosium slipcase.

This is nice if you want to keep all the contents of the gamemaster pack in the slipcase, which isn’t really possible with Chaosium’s, since there’s a good chance you’ll have a damaged cardboard dock by the third time to take things out and back again… but then again, this is also why Chaosium was aiming to make a Gamemaster Guide that fits exactly in the slipcase along with the rulebook and the bestiary.

Still inside the Gamemaster Pack, the first Rune Fixes has been printed and included:

Handouts

There are a lot of handouts in this whole thing. These are mostly reference sheets. As you can see below, there are sheets for rules, equipment stats, information on Runes, Gloranthan pantheons, and cheat sheets for Elder Races and monsters (one side is art, the other side is stats).

Dundealos Campaign Book

Now for the big piece of exclusive content: the Dundealos campaign book, seen below next to the Dundealos tribal map, is a 130 pages book with production values that almost rivals those of Chaosium’s own adventure books.

The book contains a write-up of the Dundealos tribe and of Swenstown that is similar in length, structure, and content to that of the Colymar tribe and Clearwine Fort in the Gamemaster Adventures book.

It’s followed by the campaign proper, which contains an introduction and six adventures. These scenarios see the adventurers help reunite and re-establish the Dundealos tribe, now that the Dragonrise has mostly rid their lands of the Lunars who took it from them. But of course, they also have to deal with the powerful draconic powers that were released in the process, and the warlord from Prax that is coming riding that wave.

The campaign starts in Swenstown, goes to Prax and back, lets you meet Argrath, participate in a heroquest (with some simple custom rules for that), and plenty of other seemingly cool stuff.

So that’s it for this quick tour of the French edition of RuneQuest! Did I forget anything important? Do you have follow-up questions? Please contact 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

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

Bis Repetita: RuneQuest Starter Set

In which I revisit my review:

Since I wrote my RuneQuest Starter Set review, I’ve had some time to mull it over a bit longer and, more importantly, I listened to Baz’ excellent RuneQuest Year Zero podcast which provided many revelatory insights. I figured that the latest episode of his podcast was as good an opportunity as any to revisit my opinions, although it means that this article might turn into a bit of a direct reply to Gaz, rather than a truly standalone post. I’ll try my best to stay close to the latter however.

There are some excellent discussions around starter sets and RuneQuest out there, and hopefully this adds a bit to them.

Chaosium News

Here are this week’s Chaosium news!

RuneQuest Starter Stream Episode 02

The official RuneQuest actual play, now dubbed “RuneQuest Starter Stream”, has released its second episode! The group goes through the second half of “A Rough Landing”, getting their first taste of Chaos. You can definitely tell that James Coquillat, who officiates as GM, is having fun adding some local colour to each scene, letting some roleplay occur here and there, compared to other actual plays of that scenario who try to cram it all in one session. This is nice, since fantasy settings like Glorantha come alive in the details.

Pendragon Design Journal #7

Chaosium has been releasing regular “design journals” for the upcoming 6th edition of Pendragon, and the latest entry reminded me of one of the many little things I don’t like in RuneQuest. It talks (among other things) about a bonus stat called Geniality which adds to a character’s APP (Appeal) and some related abilities. It models how wearing fancy clothes, shiny armour, and impressive weapons can add to your charisma.

In RuneQuest, these things are somewhat hand-waved and give you a +1 to CHA (Charisma). My first reaction when I read this was to wonder what happens if you give or sell these impressive items away, lose status, or time passes and people forget what you did two years ago. I wished it had been handled with a separate ability, with some room for it on the character sheet… so if you’re like me, it might be worth it to steal a little more mechanics from Pendragon!

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.

Gloranthan Alcohol

Jeff might have had some good drinks this week-end since he posted several times about alcohol in Glorantha early in the week. Let’s break it up, and add some annotations for those out there like me who know nothing about agriculture and alcohol… yes you read that right, I’m a French guy who knows nothing about beer or wine. Mostly because I don’t drink it and never have. And yes, that’s why they kicked me out of the country and I had to go to Canada… anyway, enough chit-chat!

Lunar Alcohol

First, a list of Pelorian drinks:

Corn beer. Like chicha, this is made in huge earthenware vats and because of its low alcohol content (1-3%) is consumed in vast quantities. Corn beer is often drunk in Lunar celebrations and ceremonies because of its connection with Hon-eel.

Chicha is a corn beer popular in the Andes and elsewhere in Latin America since the time of the Inca. It, err, looks like sewage water or something:

Depending on the process and additives, it can have various colours and tastes though. More here.

Rice wine. Many varieties of rice wine are known in the Lunar Heartlands, with an average alcohol content of 18-25%. Particularly popular in religious festivals for Lodril, the local rice goddess, and Oslira.

Rice wine is traditionally popular in Southeast Asia, which shows you how much of a mash-up the Lunar Empire is. The most famous type of rice wine is probably sake, which is generally clear in appearance, and that you can get in your local Japanese restaurant. But again, there seems to be many different types of rice wine. Some are pale yellow, some are milky white, yet others are dark yellow, all with different amounts of alcohol and sugar in them. It looks like some of them are actually used for cooking, instead of drinking.

Barley beer and wine. In the Lunar Provinces, Sylila, Karasal, Oronin, and the West Reaches, barley is more important than rice and barley beer and wine are popular. Barleywine is a strong ale, 6-12%. It is considered semi-barbaric by many Heartlanders.

Wheat beer. In the Lunar Provinces, beer made from emmer wheat is popular. It is considered barbaric by many Heartlanders.

Barley is a cereal that I always mix up with wheat. Frankly they look the same in the field to me. Don’t come at me, farmers in the audience… but it looks like many beers also actually mix barley and wheat anyway! So there.

As far as barley is concerned, it looks like two thirds of barley production is for animal fodder, and one third is for beer and distilled beverages. We’ll talk about distillation in a bit so let’s ignore whisky for bit.

Barley and wheat beers, as far as I can tell, encompass all your classic western beers, from Germany to the UK to North America. This includes cooking barley into malt and letting it ferment, sometimes mixed with wheat or yeast or whatever. More or less. Listen, I’m totally useless around alcohol, ok? And I’m not sure about barleywine either, so I’ll leave it there.

Kumis. Nearer to the Redlands, fermented mare’s milk is popular. It is also drunk by many aristocratic clans.

Kumis is an actual real-world drink, which is common in the Central Asian steppes, Turkey, and some other areas nearby.

Dragon Pass Alcohol

Next, some common drinks in Dragon Pass. Some types of alcohol are repeated from above so refer to the previous annotation as appropriate:

Beer. Made from emmer wheat, einkorn, or barley, beer (I am using the term broadly) is the most common drink. Brewing is often associated with the Ernalda cult and most brewers are women. Lots of different varieties and styles.

Ok so I already can’t tell the difference between wheat and barley, and now I have to figure out the difference between different types of wheat? Nope! It’s all funny looking plants with nicely arranged hulls! I assume Dragon Pass beer will differ from Pelorian beer just as beer differs between Germany, Belgium, France, and the UK. I fondly remember many drawn-out debates between friends and family members about the pros and cons of this or that beer compared to other beers… that’s usually when I tune out and read a book or draw something.

White wine. White grapes are grown in much of Sartar. It is associated with the Ernalda cult, particularly around Clearwine, and again most wine brewing is done by women. Wine is mainly consumed in religious rituals.

Oh hey that’s easy, right? You take white grapes, stomp on them bare foot, let it ferment, and then drink it? Or something? (checks notes) Oh no, it’s actually super complicated, from skin-contact fermentation, residual sugar ratios, and so on. Let me, err, go read a book instead.

Corn beer. Popular in Lunar Tarsh, this drink is like chicha and made from fermented maize. Associated with the Hon-eel cult.

Kumis. Fermented mare’s milk is popular in the Grazelands. A Praxian variant is popular around Swenstown.

Troll beer. Don’t drink this. Everyone knows troll beers are lethal to humans.

Burned Water (aka Water of Life). The Free Sages of Boldhome have figured out a method of distilling beer and water. It is pricey and largely confined to the wealthy.

There, I knew we would come back to distillation! I thought it was only invented somewhat recently, but it turns out there’s evidence of it in Akkadian tablets. So no need to pay insane Mostali prices for your whisky — I hear they only produced it as a failed attempt at making fuel for some of their machines.

There’s some adventuring opportunity there too, since Lhankor Mhy sages outside of Boldhome have also developped their own distilleries (see below in the Holy Country) and now you have some conflicts between the cognacs, rums, and scotches of various knowledge temples. Have you ever seen drunk philosophers fight? It’s quite pathetic.

Holy Country Alcohol

Finally, some Holy Country drinks, which is were connoisseurs apparently get their stuff:

Beer. Made from einkorn, emmer, or barley, beer is made in vast quantities by the Earth Temples. It is also drunk in vast quantities, and celebrated as the Gift of the Goddess. Many suggest that the Jolly Fat Man is the incarnation of beer and its joys (but the cult also consumes wine in vast quantities).

Red Wine. Wine grapes are grown throughout the Holy Country. The best are thought to come from the Vinavale with its pleasant climate, hills, and volcanic soil. Red wine is a very important trade good and ships loaded with amphora sail out of the Choralinthor to distant lands, and caravans carrying wine travel the roads of Dragon Pass to the Lunar Empire. Wine is drunk in religious rituals and at social gatherings.

White Wine. White grapes are common in Heortland, although many merchants claim the best come from Dragon Pass.

Burned Water/Water of Life. The Lhankor Mhy cult has developed techniques of distilling wine and beer into strong spirits. About time the Alchemists were good for something! Lots of variations, lots of different techniques. A popular trade good but pricey.

Miscellaneous Alcohol Notes

Jeff didn’t mention fruit wines (such as Apple Lane’s cider) because they are “usually a purely seasonal/local thing”. So “apple wine, berry wine, and so on” might be available at any local market given the right season.

Another absentee is mead:

Now mead is well-known to the Orlanthi and it is a ritually important drink. The Orlanthi make mead mixed with various plants and fungi to produce a drink called “Crazy Black Widebrew”. This drink is an entheogen and often consumed in vast amounts during religious rituals and as the preparations for a heroquest.

I hear it is very sweet and flavorful, and dangerous if drunk outside of religious rituals.

In these bastardised times, it is possible to get a bowl of mead, but this is watered down stuff, barely worthy of the name. Real mead – Crazy Black Widebrew – will transport you across realms.

Allocating Your Unconscious Life

Here are some notes for thinking about the spirituality of Gloranthan people:

Runequest distinguishes three basic levels of spiritual participation in a cult – lay member (casual), initiate (dedicated), Rune Master (professional). Another way of thinking about it is how much of our Unconscious Life is devoted to a particular cult or thing. So let’s imagine what percentage of our unconscious life is dedicated to specific pursuits.

– Maintaining contact with a major deity like Orlanth or Ernalda require at least 5% of your unconscious (minimum required for adulthood initiation). But full contact, like being an initiate, requires 20% of your unconscious. So let’s say Vasana has 20% – 5% with Orlanth in general, and 15% with Vinga Adventurous.

– A minor deity takes up 5-15% of your unconscious.

– An allied spirit takes up another 10%. Each bound spirit is another 2%. Dealing with ancestors and those sorts of community rites are at least another 5%. This isn’t the Daka Fal cult- that’s a minor deity – but just what a community does to revere those who went before them.

Spirit magic. That also takes up unconscious life – let’s say usually somewhere between 10 and 15%.

Personal Power. Everyone has some inner reserve which is used to protect oneself and one’s ego. Let’s say 10%. Let’s say Vasana has 15% in that.

Dream. In a sense all of the other categories determine the shapes one’s dreams take, but this is the stuff that outside our control. Minimum of 10% to keep your sanity. Lets say Vasana puts 25% in Dreams.

Undifferentiated. This is what you don’t know and can’t know. At least 10%. A few mystic traditions try to get this to 100% so that they Know. Let’s say Vasana has 25% in that as well.

So with Vasana, we already have about 50% of her unconscious life allocated to specific spiritual pursuits, with the rest being daydreaming or undifferentiated. She’s pretty concentrated and focused on spiritual things, but almost half her unconscious is either undifferentiated or dreaming.

Now let’s say she becomes a Rune Lord. That knocks things up another 10% likely coming out of her undifferentiated self – that allied spirit is a part of her unconscious! She then becomes a heroquester, knocking things up another 10%, as she tries to organize cult activities around her explorations – that comes out of her undifferentiated self and her dreams.

Add in a few more spirits and pretty soon her unconscious is fully devoted to spiritual pursuits. There’s really nothing more that she can do!

Now the point of that thought experiment is to show that our adventurers are already pretty spiritually developed characters.

We could imagine Alvin the Ordinary. He’s doing the minimum necessary to function spiritually within his society:

– 5% to Orlanth
– 5% to the ancestors
– 10% to personal power
– 5% for spirit magic
– 25% for dreaming
– 50% is Undifferentiated. Alvin is more like us moderns than we are like Vasana!

So you can see a big difference here. We call Alvin a Lay Member and Vasana an Initiate, but really it is how much of their unconscious self they are dedicating to spiritual pursuits.

Now some cultures (like us moderns) dedicate a lot of our unconscious to various abstractions like Monotheism, Sorcery, Democracy, etc. But the Orlanthi and the Pelorians don’t really do that.

Except for philosophers. But they are weird.

I have no idea what to do with this… I’m not even sure what it means. Is this allocation done on a time basis? That is, is Alvin the Ordinary dreaming 25% of the time? Or is this in terms of brain-power over the course of a day? Or brain-power at any given time?

Jeff continues, this time with Argrath, Harrek, and Jar-eel, all major “superhero” figures of the Hero Wars:

Now it is important to note that this is not something that underpins any game mechanics at this point. But it gives us some interesting hard limits on spiritual participation. […]

Argrath actually dedicates most of his unconscious self to things other than himself:

Dream 15% – Argrath is more of a dreamer that most people.
Undifferentiated 10% – this is that bit that Argrath doesn’t and can’t know. He’s a mortal after all.
Orlanth 25%, divided between Orlanth, Adventurous, and Rex.
Dragon stuff 10% (Dragontooth Runners, etc.)
White Bull 10%
Personal Power 20%
Other Spirits 10%

It’s interesting that Argrath being “more of a dreamer” than most people gives him a lower percentage of dreaming in his unconscious life. Is it because he’s consciously dreaming? Lucid dreaming means it takes up less room in your unconscious, making room for other stuff? Mmmh.

So in terms of personal aggrandisement, Argrath is about on the same level as Vasana or other Orlanthi hero-types. More than half of the mana he receives goes to Orlanth, Draconic stuff, the White Bull, or other spirits. About a third goes to personal power and dreaming. Now admittedly his is a MUCH BIGGER pie than someone like Vasana, but he divides it up in a more or less normal way.

Harrek is different.

White Bear 30%
Dream 10%
Undifferentiated 10%
Personal Power 50%

With Harrek almost everything goes to his personal power and to his White Bear self. And given how HUGE the mana pool he gets to play around with must be, that Personal Power lets him do stuff like kill with a glance.

Jar-eel is similar to Harrek, not Argrath.

Personal Power 50%
Bloodspillers 20%
Dream 10%
Undifferentiated 10%
Red Goddess 10%

So with Jar-eel about half goes to her personal aggrandisement, and another 20% goes to her Sardukar [sic] Guard.

The Bloodspillers is an elite regiment of the Imperial Bodyguard, who embrace Jar-eel’s cult of the Moonsword. A guy named Beat-Pot Aelwrin (who I’ve heard of but know next to nothing about) is the high priest of this Moonsword cult. Sardaukar is just a Dune reference to the Padishah Emperor’s own elite bodyguard regiment.

This actually shows a nice and tidy way of distinguishing between superheroes and mere heroes. Heroes are lifted by others and those others share in their rewards. Superheroes have gotten to the point that they don’t need those others any more and have broken out of that system.

Sneak Peek At Heroquesting Character Sheets

Here’s what Jeff is working on with regards to heroquesting rules:

There were no comments given, so we can only guess. We already know that Hero Points represent the power of the Hero Soul. They act like Rune Points in many ways, except that you don’t replenish them by worshipping deities: you replenish them by having other people worship you.

If I remember correctly, the Mastery Rune (above the Hero Points box) is supposed to represent your ability to control the mythical landscape during a heroquest. The Techniques entry (second to last) should contain the various heroquesting techniques you have mastered, such as “ranging” from one myth to another, “identifying” with a deity, and so on. I suppose that these techniques won’t get any ability score per se, and will instead be just like Illumination powers — you either have them or not. However, they might incur an ability roll. Last I heard, for instance, “identification” is done by rolling under two of the target deity’s Runes. Succeeding in both gives you bonuses to do things the deity is supposed to be good at, while failures means you might get misidentified.

Doing “cool stuff” in the heroquest is probably done through the Runes, where “cool stuff” means “magical mythical stuff”. That’s how it is in my own heroquesting house rules, with normal successes giving a rough equivalent of a 1 point Rune Spell’s worth of effects, a special success giving the equivalent of a 2 point Rune Spell, and a critical success that of a 3 point Rune Spell. Spending Rune Points lets you “bump” those effects up in my house rules, and doing something that matches a Rune Spell you already have is also easier than trying to do something else, so it’s interesting to see Rune Spells and Rune Points on that character sheet. I wonder if Chaosium is going for something similar, and I’m certainly looking forward to the official rules.

POW and CHA have always been advertised as important characteristics for heroquesting. I’m going to assume that one of them (maybe both) will be your “attrition” characteristic, a bit like Hit Points. In my own heroquesting house rules, and in Jon Webb’s rules in his Sandheart campaign, POW takes that role.

Passions are probably there because they’re always useful for augments… but I can’t help and think about how Passions are going to be used as “fuel” for fighting in battle, when the mass battle rules eventually get published. I wonder if this is the same thing here, and maybe that’s where community support comes in: maybe your clan and tribe can provide their own Loyalty and Devotion Passions for you to use during the heroquest?

Finally, Boons are the special powers you get from successfully heroquesting. Sometimes you simply get bonuses in characteristics or other abilities, or you get a Rune Spell, but the main point of a heroquest is that you can also get something that’s completely unique and potentially rules-breaking. This is where gamemasters and players can go wild! It’s interesting however that there’s no “Banes” or other sort of bad stuff on there.

Well, that’s enough theorizing for today.

The Powerful Issaries Temple

Jeff wrote a few comments about the influence of Issaries temples in legal matters in Sartar:

[…] Issaries has a STRONG interest in making sure that its members are not cheated (and will send Spirits of Reprisals against members who do cheat or steal).

Jeff adds that the Merchants Guild is “powerful and rich”, and will generally be upset about any embezzlement or other crimes inside the organization. Plus, the god itself will be upset too.

And if the Jonstown Temple refuses to do anything about it, this could even be the sort of thing that gets the Merchant Princes involved as it threatens the ability to put together caravans. And anything that gets the Merchant Princes attention could get Boldhome and the Prince involved (especially if Argrath, who is more sensitive to the financial requirements of warfare than Kallyr, is Prince).

Here is some information about the Association of Merchant Princes:

These are the merchant priests of the Goldentongue cult whose caravans travel the roads of Sartar carrying goods and other valuables. Their primary concern is with themselves and their livelihood. The Merchant Princes sometimes combine together to form big caravans that may consist of hundreds of armed people – however, they are official neutral in the conflicts between the Empire and Sartar. They seek peace and protection for their caravans, and cooperate with each other to protect themselves and their profits. They have much wealth and can provide many things which adventurers desire.

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.

Exploring Glorantha’s Trolls

JM and Evan are back with another Exploring Glorantha episde which focuses on the trolls. As always, they chat about everything they like or find interesting about the topic, and you can get their notes if you are a backer of Iconic Productions (which does many other things besides these video series). Plus, I get a little mention at the beginning!

New Ducks Courtesy of Skulldixon

Friend of the show Skulldixon (whom we interviewed) is working on some more duck illustrations! I really love the design of these ducks. Here’s a snail herder:

Art by Skulldixon

You can also see a work-in-progress duck shaman here.

Rubble Runners Miniatures

Miniatures by Infinity Engine, photo by Jim Mozley

Here are some painted Rubble Runners, from Infinity Engine, courtesy of Jim Mozley!

Sable Rider and Humakti Miniatures

Felix Figure Painting has already painted more than 170 miniatures so far in 2022 apparently. I have painted, like, two in my entire life. Oh well. Let’s look at some pretty pictures!

First, Sable Riders from Mad Knight Castings:

And next, some Humakti warriors:

Morokanth Kitbash

Is everybody working on their miniatures this week to forget about the horrible state of world news? Maybe! Let’s forget our troubles by looking at more pretty pictures! These ones come from Phil Leedell, whose kit bashing was previously featured in the Journal of Runic Studies.

Morokanth from Rapier Miniatures are so very big and altogether a bit too bipedal… but lovely sculpts. Herdmen with sticks and stones are Victrix kitbashes.

RuneQuest Year Zero Wrap-Up

The excellent RuneQuest Year Zero podcast is reaching its end, or at least the end of its first arc, as Baz wraps-up his read-through of the RuneQuest Starter Set and gives his final thoughts. There is a lot to unpack there, so I did that in a separate blog post.

Improved RuneQuest Rulebook Index

Phil Hibbs has made a better index for the RuneQuest rulebook, which makes page numbers bold when they point to the “main” definitions of the corresponding item. It also fixes a few errors with wrong or missing page numbers.

For instance, compare the rulebook’s Yelm entry with Phil’s improved one:

More information here.

Elsewhere on Arachne Solara’s Web

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

Greek & Roman Mythology in Movies

I often enjoy these “so and so expert reviews so and so in movies” videos that various YouTube channels have, and this one is pretty good in my opinion, especially since the choice of movies includes a few surprises as far as I’m concerned. A lot of what the expert, Peter Meineck, says about mythology is quite interesting even for fun-times dragon-land fantasy gaming.

Wave Rocks

Katter Kich, also known as “Wave Rock“, is when the Water Tribe tried to invade the Earth Tribe during the Gods War but their tsunami attempt was frozen in place by Maran Gor, or, errr, something. I don’t know. But I’m sure someone will figure out a cool mythical explanation:

Photo by Fredrik Bülow, GNU Free Documentation License

The “wave” is about 15 meters high and around 110 meters long. It’s located in south-western Australia.

If you look for wave rocks, you might also find “The Wave“, a sandstone rock formation in the United States.

Creative Commons photo

This might be another iconic dungeons like Rainbow Mounds, with the ridges being where a multi-clawed Chaos monster scarred a now fallen god. Like I said, someone might have some cool mythical explanations for these things… if you do, send it to us!

When You Meet A Shaman Broo

No comment (see it here if the embed doesn’t work).

@the_lives

𝘾𝙖𝙡𝙡 𝙈𝙚 𝙂𝙧𝙖𝙣𝙙𝙛𝙖𝙩𝙝𝙚𝙧 𝙂𝙤𝙖𝙩 😆 #the_lives #สวนสัตว์tiktok #goat #smoke #drunk #animals #fyp #viral #fypシ #feelingz_zero

♬ original sound – ⓛⓘⓕⓔ – ⓛⓘⓕⓔ

Thank you for reading

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

Since I wrote my RuneQuest Starter Set review, I’ve had some time to mull it over a bit longer and, more importantly, I listened to Baz’ excellent RuneQuest Year Zero podcast which provided many revelatory insights. I figured that the latest episode of his podcast was as good an opportunity as any to revisit my opinions, although it means that this article might turn into a bit of a direct reply to Gaz, rather than a truly standalone post. I’ll try my best to stay close to the latter however.

Who Is This Box For?

I’ve seen this question asked a few times of not only the RuneQuest Starter Set but also other ones, such as the recent One Ring Starter Set. It might seem like a tricky question to answer, and many people certainly tiptoe around it, but it’s obvious as far as I’m concerned: it’s for everybody, newbies and veterans alike. I’m pretty sure that only WotC can afford to think about market segmentation at this point, so of course all the other game companies want their Starter Set to appeal to the biggest audience: that’s what it’s for!

The presence of dice in the box is, as Gaz pointed out, a dead giveaway of this, but that’s not the whole story, I think. These dice could also be directed at D&D and Pathfinder players who might not own, say, a correctly marked D10 duo for use with D100 systems (i.e. one D10 marked as “tens” and one marked as “singles”).

Agreed, I doubt that many people will enter the hobby through the RuneQuest Starter Set. There’s a much higher chance that they do through the Call of Cthulhu Starter Set. But it’s a tough proposition for Chaosium to cut themselves entirely from the newbie market by making the RuneQuest Starter Set only suitable for RPG veterans, and I can’t blame them for that. Would the box have been better with more hand-holding for true newcomers, such as an example of play with the usual written-out dialogue between gamemaster and players? Yes, surely. But frankly, I have haven’t been an RPG newbie since the early 1990s, and kids are clever enough on their own, so I don’t know if they really need that much hand-holding or not. I’m not sure we got much of it either in our day. But I’d love to hear some witness account of a genuine RPG newbie reading any Starter Set.

The one decision that would have been easy to make is to ignore the Gloranthan veterans for this particular product. But I don’t think it would have significantly changed it: the value proposition for veterans is that three out of the four scenarios (if we include SoloQuest in the lot) are new adventures, and that the adventurers’ “homebase”, Jonstown is a previously somewhat unpublished area. Changing these contents to be, say, updated well-known adventures, with an updated well-known home base, wouldn’t have made anything better for newbies. I think Chaosium made the right decision here.

The Pre-Generated Problem

Another “issue” I’ve heard a lot about is the lack of character generation rules. I’m a bit confused by this because if you look at the market, very few starter sets actually include those. As far as I can tell, Warhammer doesn’t, Tales from the Loop doesn’t, Symbaroum doesn’t, Alien doesn’t, The One Ring doesn’t, and D&D 5e doesn’t (although the Essentials Kit does) Cyberpunk RED and Call of Cthulhu do have some character creation rules, but they are extremely simplified: the former uses “templates” (barely a step up from a pre-gen), and latter uses fixed characteristic scores to be allocated, along with eight minimal occupation templates. Possibly only the Pathfinder Beginner Box has proper character creation? Mmmh… maybe I should check it out.

Now I can totally buy the argument that the pre-generated characters in the RuneQuest Starter Set were not ideal. For instance, Baz notes that it might have been better to tie more pre-gens together, to show (instead of tell!) how “community” is indeed important in Glorantha. I think I agree with Baz here, and that’s one of the many great insights from his podcast. The first three characters are linked by their belonging to the Colymar tribe, but the others are a ragtag bunch from all around Dragon Pass and beyond. Maybe it would have been even better to not re-use the Quickstart and rulebook pre-generated characters, and instead make entirely new ones that all belong to tribes from around Jonstown — that’s the “setting” of the Starter Set box after all, so why not tie the characters to it completely?

Another point is that the Starter Set rules do a fairly good job of culling out any rules that aren’t needed for the pre-gens or for the adventures. This is why we don’t have rules for, say, Runemasters and shamans and enchantments and such, or why we only have the spells that are used by either characters or NPCs. Maybe removing Vishi Dunn and Sorala would have simplified things further, since they are the only characters who need, respectively, the assistant shaman rules and the sorcery rules. But maybe the designers really wanted people to be able to get a “taste” of each part of the setting. Would a Cyberpunk Starter Set be “simpler” and “more focused” if you didn’t have any netrunner player character? Or would you be missing out on one of the most interesting parts of the game?

The answer is obvious to me as far as a Cyberpunk Starter Set is concerned. For RuneQuest, it’s less obvious, but I think I would have personally cut Sorala out (no sorcery) but kept Vishi Dunn, for shamans and the spirit world are one of the most interesting aspects of Glorantha. How much space does that save, though? Half a page for the Sorcery entry in Book 1. Heh. Not much, compared to possibly exciting the curiosity of a few readers.

Focused Content

While we’re talking about cutting content, Baz is arguing for a lot of changes in order to fit character creation rules in what is already the heaviest box on the market today (I know because I’ve weighed it!) I already addressed the character creation rules above, but we could still reconsider the other books anyway. In my review I lamented the dryness of the Jonstown write-up. If there was room for more pages, maybe Chaosium could have made it more lively, full of intrigue and factions like Warhammer’s Ubersreik! So let’s take a look back.

Book One

The first book is the rulebook, which is arguably “meatier” than what I’d like for a Starter Set, but that’s a RuneQuest problem, not a Starter Set problem. It’s important for me that a Starter Set be as close as possible to the rules in the core rulebook. Baz’s proposition to simplify it down to a few pages, without hit locations and even maybe with just a D10 instead of a D100, sounds absolutely horrible to me.

The reason is simple: a Starter Set is meant to get me started with a game, hopefully soon followed with buying other books such as a rulebook or some more adventures. If I’m getting excited about a game with simple mechanics, but as soon as I buy the rulebook I discover it has hit locations, a big attack/parry table, three magic systems, and plenty of other brain-shattering crunch, I’ll feel scammed.

In my opinion, a starter set is not supposed to be a self-contained product, it’s supposed to be the first purchase of many. Some people might disagree but hey, people, it’s in the name: “RuneQuest Starter Set”. Not “RuneQuest Basic” or something. If anything, it’s RuneQuest itself that should be simplified in my opinion, not the Starter Set’s first book specifically, but we’ll get back to that.

Book Two

Next is the book about the “World of Glorantha”. The first half is meant to dazzle the reader with lots of Gloranthan lore. I noted in my review that it was a welcome achievement to summarize the setting’s deep lore to under 20 pages…

But looking back at the text, most of this lore is ultimately irrelevant to the Starter Set: Chaosium could have cut out most of the text about money, homelands outside of Sartar, First and Second Age history, and more. New players don’t care about the Empire of the Wyrms Friends, the various tribes of Prax, or Dragonewts, given that none of the Starter Set uses any of that. In fact, the “Homelands of Dragon Pass” could almost be entirely removed if the pre-generated characters were all from Jonstown tribes! Being in the same book as the Jonstown write-up, all these savings could have gone directly in what I consider the biggest flaw of the box, which is Jonstown itself.

Such changes would effectively turn the boxed set into a purely “Jonstown-focused” affair, but I think it would have been a good thing.

Book Three

Book three is the SoloQuest, and although it could have been shorter to make room elsewhere, I would still keep it. Sure, the adventure is available for free on Chaosium’s website, but it would have been quite lame of Chaosium to simply give a URL and say “hey, play this here on your laptop“, wouldn’t it?

Besides the problem of keeping something up on the internet for more than a few years, compared to the much longer longevity of paper, the SoloQuest is, by Baz’s own admission (and one of his callers) one of the things that “clicked many things into place”. This is obviously a cornerstone of the Starter Set, and in fact that’s one of the reasons I rank Chaosium’s Starter Sets higher than most. The only snag is that it’s “just” a solo adventure. The Call of Cthulhu Starter Set’s solo adventure is much more than that because it’s the first book in the box: it teaches you how to create a character, and how to play the game right away! As I said in my review, this is flat out innovative. RuneQuest’s SoloQuest isn’t, and it makes me a bit sad because it could have been.

Sure, once you have played the SoloQuest once or twice, you now have a book you won’t look at again… but that’s the case of any scenario book, isn’t it? Solo or not has nothing to do with it. Actually, maybe you can pass the SoloQuest to your players to get a taste of RuneQuest, which you can’t do with a normal adventure.

Book Four

I really can’t think of much to cut in the fourth book because that’s the adventures book, and that’s where you usually want the most content. We could bikeshed this to death, debating what adventures would have been better instead of what other adventure, updating the arguably dated text of the Rainbow Mounds, and so on. More of the adventures could have been based directly in Jonstown — currently only half of them are actually located there (the first half of A Rough Landing, and the entirety of A Fire in the Darkness). But in the end I’m pretty happy with these adventures, although I’ll keep pointing people to The Broken Tower, from the (free) Quickstart, which also showcases many very Gloranthan things, and, both times I ran it, had a very, very Gloranthan ending.

One thing I missed, and that Baz raised as an issue, is that there’s no material for “making the characters live” between adventures. The first book gives rules for experience and character advancement, but there’s not much there. For instance, rules for replenishing Rune Points through worship are barely there… That’s one of the very unique aspects of Glorantha being glossed over: the role of cults in an adventurer’s life. That’s a big gap! And there’s no minimal equipment list or spell learning prices either, so the only thing players can do after each of the three adventures is really rolling for experience. Nicely spotted, Gaz.

RuneQuest vs Starter Set

I’ve seen several people like Gaz look at the RuneQuest Starter Set (or RuneQuest in general) and come out with less than purely positive opinions about it. Given the state of old fandoms on the internet, I can’t be surprised that these people are trying to be very polite and apologetic about their lack of enthusiasm… but I’m here to reassure all of them and say that it’s alright! I’ve actually been on record several times saying that I play in Glorantha despite RuneQuest. And Chaosium’s own David Scott mentioned that his players have been asking to “go back to playing real Glorantha” by ditching RuneQuest and using HeroQuest (now QuestWorlds, soon to be out).

I have come to Glorantha only a few years ago, but I arrived to it through the system-less Guide to Glorantha. I really liked the setting (enough to start this blog and podcast!) but BRP, which I already knew from decades of Call of Cthulhu, has always been just “fine” to me, nothing more. In fact, most of the time, I was playing Call of Cthulhu with other systems, such as GURPS. So when Baz scores the RuneQuest Starter Set as 7/10, I totally get it. Don’t feel bad Baz!

But it’s a tricky thing, scoring a Starter Set. Newcomers will score both the game and the Starter Set itself as one thing… and that’s probably correct! My mistake, and the mistake of many other Gloranthaphiles and RuneQuest veterans, I suspect, was to review the Starter Set independently of the game, because we already knew the game.

Let’s take an example: I really like Tales from the Loop, and I really really like the Year Zero Engine which powers it and most of the other games from Free League. But the Tales from the Loop Starter Set is not very good: the box is quite empty, has only 5 pre-generated characters (and no character creation rules of course!), only one scenario, and that scenario is not awesome either. So how should we score a product that is clearly a good game wrapped in a below average Starter Set box?

I think the RuneQuest Starter Set suffers a related issue: it’s a great setting, wrapped in a great Starter Set box (look at all this content!), but it’s underlined by a dated (and possibly outdated) game system.

I’ve said it many times, and I’ll probably keep saying it until it happens: Chaosium needs to do to RuneQuest what they did to Call of Cthulhu with the 7th edition: a thorough clean-up and unification pass. But is that going to ever happen? I think most of the RuneQuest designers and players have just forgotten what it is to be a RuneQuest newbie, and what worries me is that I’m starting to forget too. Many of the frustrations with the system almost become part of the joy of using the system, as “Doc” Cowie tells us in our episode about the “Early Days of Glorantha“. It worries me that even new mechanics, such as augments with Runes and Passions, ended up being unnecessarily crunchy, with subtle variations here and there. This tells me the design team is maybe not interested in clean and unified mechanics, and that makes me a bit sad. Then I wave it off and, like every other RuneQuest player, I increasingly play RuneQuest not as written but as intended, and maybe a bit as I wish it was.

Despite the weakness of the Jonstown write-up, despite the RuneQuest system, and despite the other shortcomings discussed above and raised by clever people on the internet, I still think Chaosium did a great job of packaging a complicated system and a deep complex setting into an attractive boxed set. It’s got more epic adventuring, beautiful maps, and fun characters to play in it than you’d get elsewhere for that price. That’s why I put it in the top 3 starter sets I own. It’s not perfect but then again, what is? Let’s not armchair this for too long! Go ahead and play the adventures! That’s how Glorantha really comes alive.

But there’s tough competition out there, so hopefully Chaosium will keep iterating on their products in the years to come. Meanwhile, I need to dig deeper in the Symbaroum and One Ring Starter Sets! Oh my, so many games, so little time…

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

God Learner Sorcery

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

Initiation Series Episode 4: Skulldixon, the Unecessary Severed Leg, and Ducks

Our Initiation Series continues with Skulldixon, who talks about his recent discovery of RuneQuest, everything he likes about Glorantha, some unnecessary severed limbs, how to deal with mountains of lore, and ducks!

Chaosium News

Here are this week’s Chaosium news!

The RuneQuest Starter Stream, Episode 01

The previously announced RuneQuest actual play has started! Episode 1 is out, and James Coquillat runs his extremely well dressed and tattooed players through A Rough Landing, the first adventure of the Starter Set.

ChaosiumCon Schedule

The schedule for ChaosiumCon is now up on Warhorn! There’s a lot of interesting games and seminars, and it’s going to be tricky figuring out where to go and what to prioritize.

I’m getting nervous since I’m going to be GMing my first convention games there. You’ll find me for “Survey on Mount Seton” (Call of Cthulhu) and “The Bloody Banquet” (RuneQuest).

Chaosium Suspends Plans for Future NFTs

This is not really Glorantha-related, but the whole Chaosium NFT saga has been such a loud thing in RPG circles in the past couple weeks that I figured I would address this here once. The main news is that Chaosium has announced they were suspending their NFT plans for now.

I was already shaking my head a couple years ago when I heard about Chaosium’s plan to use the blockchain, and I kept shaking my head after they announced what it was for. But looking at people with red circles or hexagonal profile pictures reply to Chaosium’s Twitter announcement just adds face-palming to my head-shaking — these were the kind of people interested in NFT collectibles, not so much Chaosium fans.

© 2022 Chaosium Inc.

If you don’t know what NFTs are, you probably don’t want to know. It’s an incredibly stupid technology that’s inefficient, badly designed, and doesn’t even do what it says it’s supposed to do. Blockchains are arguably technically interesting, even though they are a badly-scalable solution in search of a problem, but NFTs are just dumb.

Even if Chaosium’s blockchain business was a small drop in an ocean of ugly cryptobro grift, it’s still participating in larger environmental, ethical, financial, and manufacturing issues I’d rather they weren’t associated with. Chaosium could totally sell digital collectibles using some “classic” underlying technology instead — and I hope they do! Using a blockchain-based service like VeVe adds an unnecessary energy wasting scam to the mix, and is ultimately problematic. Arguing that “Disney is using it so it must be OK” doesn’t sound so great to me either.

Seeing Chaosium fans pushing back this hard against the company, and making them change course, makes me hopeful that there will be push back eventually for other things too. In the Glorantha-adjacent parts of Chaosium, I’m mostly thinking about Sandy Petersen’s anti-trans leanings (or his son’s), to which Chaosium only responded with a weak generic statement (I’m not alone here). I enjoy Sandy’s work as much as the next Call of Cthulhu or Glorantha fan, but this isn’t great for a guy that’s usually pretty open-minded, and a company that has been increasing their staff diversity of late.

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!

Creatures of Glorantha

© 2022 Davide Quatrini & Chaosium Inc.

Davide Quatrini has released a small (8 pages) PDF titled Creatures of Glorantha. It adds a few more creatures to a gamemaster’s bestiary:

Pale Masks, Limbscutters, Corrupted Shadows, Tuskapes, Lamias, Goat Suckers and Chimeric Hydras

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 Web of Arachne Solara

Arachne Solara, seen whispering in Jeff’s ear in my little drawing above (I hope that was clear!) is known as the “Mother of Time”, since she’s the one who help make the Great Compromise that separated the world of Gods from the world of Mortals, all held together by her “web”.

Jeff talks a bit about her:

Glorantha is held together by the Web of Arachne Solara, a vast net woven out of the strands of myths – each the encapsulated deed of gods or heroes in the Godtime. We can understand these myths through stories, song, and worship – or we can enter the Hero Plane and follow along these strands, experiencing and participating in the events of the Godtime. We can even learn to travel from strand to strand and explore the Godtime itself.

So I guess that heroquesting is effectively travelling over Arachne Solara’s web. Advanced heroquesting techniques letting you jump across it, pull strands together, apart, or “down” to the Mundane World.

Jeff will talk about heroquesting in a little bit but in the meantime, if I was to follow these analogies further, I wonder what “getting stuck” on the web means for heroquesting, or having the World Spider “roll you into a silk swathing band” for later eating, or… wait a minute. If strands of web are myths, and given how spiders produce silk, does that mean myths literally come out of Arachne Solara’s ass? Is that an allegory for how we all invent our own stories? Are we all the World Spider, making shit up as we go? My god, Greg Stafford, you genius bastard.

Each time we follow a strand and participate in the deeds of gods and heroes, we experience a new story. The story can change in details each time – in one version the hero was ambushed by Gagarth, in another by Ygg, or perhaps in one version the hero had a romantic detour to the island of singing nymphs, and in another the hero bypassed the island entirely. But even though the stories change, the underlying myth-strand usually remains visible.

Strands can be joined or separated, maybe even cut altogether if we consider forgotten myths and deities we can’t contact anymore… ok, time to breathe and look at a pretty picture:

Sketches by Mike Perry, for the Guide to Glorantha © 2022 Chaosium Inc.

As promised earlier, Jeff continues with what it means for heroquesting:

Through great imposition of will or the use of dangerous magics, it is possible to change a strand of the Web. Perhaps it is forcibly tied to a new node or is cut and bifurcated, and now barely resembles the original strand. Or even worse, with the power of Chaos it can be mutated or warped beyond recognition, or even destroyed entirely. Such actions threaten the Web itself, which is why the Arkat cult demanded no heroquesting without respect.

All cults know how to follow some strands – these myths are recited in song and story, and even experienced during cult worship ceremony. These strands are the source of your Rune Spells and allied spirits. Some cults know more – they know some strands that lead outside of the domain of the god. These paths can be followed by those brave enough to enter the Hero Plane. They contest with the same powers the gods or heroes did, and can gain boons or bring terrible curses upon themselves and their supporters.

And a few individuals know much more – how to change the story through your own will and power, or even how to jump from strand to strand. These are Heroes, Masters of the Tournament of Luck and Death, or other such individuals.

Jeff adds some comments about Lunar myths in particular:

Now an interesting thing comes up when we think about the Lunar Religion. Like everyone else, Lunar cults have their own myth-strands they know and follow. They are unusual in that the Moon Rune is woven into them, which makes them hard for many others to access or understand, but they are there.

As far as the God Learners records go, there was only a few fragmentary Lunar things – the Blue Moon and Artmal mainly. And that was a strange overlap of Sky, Darkness, and Water. So it is safe to say that the appearances of the Moon in the Hero Plane date to the Third Age, most likely since Castle Blue. The Red Goddess said she encountered Arachne Solara on her Goddess Quest, and some of her initiates (all illuminated Rune Masters) claim similar encounters.

Here are a few references to stuff I don’t know at all, or know only a little of… so as always, let’s check some books:

  • The Blue Moon used to be some mysterious deity in the God Time, but when the bad stuff started happening, she just crashed down. The Blue Moon Plateau, which you can spot north-east of Peloria, is the largest remain of her body, although there are other pieces of Blue Moon elsewhere. The trolls who live on the Plateau claim to know some super secret things, and they sometimes help out the Lunars. The rest of the Blue Moon is still in the sky, and is responsible for the tides of Gloranthan seas… but because she’s broken, her movements are a bit erratic and she can barely be seen as a “blue streak”.
  • Artmal was a son of the Blue Moon. He fought Umath at the beginning of the Gods War, but was later slain by some other Storm God (the God Learners say it’s Orlanth). The Artmali (and all other people descended from the Blue Moon) have blue skin, and the blue skinned people living in slavery in Fonrit nowadays are related to them.

So I guess that’s what the “overlap of Sky, Darkness, and Water” comes from: the Blue Moon travels in the sky, but is hidden, and affects the tides.

Now, I’m not sure why the Blue Moon would have been completely absent from the Hero Plane if at least parts of her are still travelling the skies and affecting the tides… but indeed her mythical presence was probably boosted by the Red Goddess’ apotheosis, which happened at the aforementioned Castle Blue.

We know that the Red Goddess is tied to Chaos – did this allow her to introduce something new to the Web? Or does her changes threaten the Web itself? What did the Spider whisper to her?

And it should not be surprising that Arachne Solara is central to many of the Red Goddess’ own deeds.

Given how Chaos is the only way to bring something truly new into Glorantha, maybe that’s how the Red Goddess managed to make new myths, new strands of the web. I think she was really so broken than that there was no way to piece her back together with existing pieces, so she grabbed some new material from outside Glorantha and shaped her new form with it. But it either corrupted her, or she figured that this Chaos thing is very useful, and she’ll keep using it… which, frankly, sounds very much like “being corrupted” by Chaos if you ask me.

By the way, if you’re confused between “Hero Plane” and “God Plane” and “God Time” and what not, you’re not alone. Jeff adds a note on that:

When we remain within the domain of our god – the sacred circle of the worship ground, the walls of the temple, or the Elysian Field of their Godtime presence – we do not heroquest. We enter the Hero Plane, experience the divine realm, offer of ourself to the god, and gain magic and spirits – but this itself should not be described as a heroquest. We do not leave the security of that sacred ground to enter into the dangers of the Web. It is only by going outside the safe and familiar that we heroquest and become heroes.

The Elysian Field reference here points to some Greek mythology, but I assume it’s used to describe a limited, favoured place. So the Hero Plane is easy and nice to access, assuming you’re a devoted initiate of the temple (which you would have to be to worship there anyway), but you won’t get crazy heroquesting gifts until you leave and venture into the mythic landscape.

And thus although it should not be surprising that the Red Goddess has a deep and mysterious connection with the Cosmic Spider, it should also not be surprising that Orlanth, her rival, is defined by the Mastery Rune. More than any other god in Glorantha, he is the patron of heroes and adventurers.

With Arachne Solara’s strong connection to the Fate Rune, I wonder if there’s something there about the Red Goddess’ views on destiny, versus Orlanth’s views on forging your own path. Or something. I don’t know, I’m just spitballing here.

The parable of Arachne Solara’s web reflects our experience as gamers. There is published material on Glorantha – that material is eternal and timeless. Even today, we can go and explore Snakepipe Hollow or defend the Cradle (using our RQG characters even!). These are our myths, our strands of the web.

But every time we experience these materials, we have a different experience. At one level it is the same – sure that’s Snakepipe Hollow or the Cradle – but an another, it can be very different. This is why when Argrath summoned the Champion of Pavis a score of different Rune Lords showed up, each carrying Balastar’s Axe!

If you want your own Balastar’s Axe, check out one of the very first RuneQuest dungeons, Balastar’s Barracks (or here in POD once Chaosium has sold all the original print run). A word of warning: it’s extremely dated, and extremely deadly.

Interestingly enough, that dungeon, and the magical axe of the titular character, were very much pitched as an “in-world” thing in the original scenario. That is: you go in the Big Rubble, enter one particular ruin complex, and find a fancy weapon for you to keep, of which there is only presumably one. However, if you were to heroquest and get the fancy weapon as a heroquesting gift, then potentially other people could do the same, resulting in multiple people with that fancy weapon (although maybe with subtle differences depending on how well they did). So if multiple people eventually carry Balastar’s Axe, you either simply explain it by saying that going down that dungeon sends you on a heroquest… but Jeff is hinting at something much more meta! See also: the God Learners’ secret being something called “RuneQuest Vision”.

This is also how myths and heroquesting operate. We have a myth – a strand of Arachne Solara’s Web. We can experience that myth by following along the path of the strand through the Hero Plane. But our experience of that may differ significantly from that of another group of heroquesters following the same path. Regardless of that, both are right, both have experienced the true myth. And their followers may end up telling rather different stories about the same myth.

But this is not because of “pr spin” or the demands of the powerful – it is primarily grounded in experience.

Werewolves of Glorantha

I asked a question on Facebook about the Telmori Wolfbrothers, Glorantha’s werewolves, and what kind of horror movie tropes apply to them. Jeff’s answer is interesting enough to include here:

The Telmori have two basic forms – more or less ordinary human or all-but-invulnerable wolf (when the moon is full). When they are human, they can become wolf-like through magic, but to become fully wolf is a lot of magic. Or it just happens automatically on Wildday.

On Wildday the Telmori are a tribe of four-legged wolves. If well fed, they don’t have a particular compulsion to eat livestock or humans. If there is a human group that they trust and are loyalty to, they continue with that loyalty.

So basically unless there are other factors at play, the Wildday Telmori aren’t the type who go on wild, bloody rampages, and wake up the next day covered in mud and blood, wondering what happened. They are quite still in control, and at half of their original INT, they can probably carry out missions that were planned in the previous days.

You can find Telmori in the Sartarite capital, Boldhome, and in cities like Jonstown. They have a history of providing an elite troop to the Prince of Sartar, to act as bodyguards. The last time I looked into this, there was a lot of, ahem, conflicting reports as to which Princes allowed it, and which ones refused to have the Telmori around… so I guess you should feel free to have them in the Boldhome Royal Palace if you want, or not. Whatever fits your campaign. But here’s what Jeff says:

The werewolves in Boldhome tend to seclude themselves on Wildday. They don’t restrain themselves, they just stick to their tribal areas while in four-legged wolf form. Maybe when Salinarg was Prince, they lounged around the Royal Palace like big dogs. But for over 20 years they have been subject to abuse from Sartarite and Lunar alike. I doubt Temertain ever reestablished personal ties with the Telmori (and remember all that Sartar Dynasty stuff is personal, not really institutional) and in any case, he didn’t run Boldhome.

To sum it up:

When the Telmori become wolves, they are still themselves but animals – they are limited to what a very clever dog can process and understand. So they still know who is friendly and unfriendly, and are capable of working together as an incredibly well-trained pack, but they are animals on that day.

Malkioni Society

Here is how wizards can do their thing: they have a whole society to support them:

Malkioni society is logically organized to best support (and control) sorcerers. To be good at it requires intellect and a powerful soul – and to learn sorcery takes many years – even decades – to train. It is a specialty skill like being a good mathematician. This means the vast majority of any human population are not going to be good sorcery specialists.

In terms of RuneQuest rules, it requires an above average INT. The minimum is 13, but you won’t do much without having a much higher INT. The rules that say you can’t improve your INT are, in my opinion, coming from outdated views on intelligence and mental capacities, so in my game I would totally allow improving INT.

But each sorcerer needs to be supported by many workers (mainly farmers, but some crafters, laborers, etc.) in order to have enough food surplus that the sorcerer can focus solely on their craft. Each sorcerer needs to be defended by fighters, as they are vulnerable to physical attacks, and have a tendency to annoy people, especially outsiders. And each sorcerer needs to have some community leader capable of resolving disputes between the sorcerer and the rest of the community, and with outsiders.

This sounds very much like Ars Magica, where magi are surrounded by companions and grogs. In that game, you’re encouraged to adopt a “troupe play” approach, where only one magus comes out at a time, and the other players have secondary characters that are that magus’ companions. The corresponding other magi are working on their research, and mostly out of the picture.

I think using Ars Magica as a model would be a great way to play a Zzaburi wizard campaign that respects how Gloranthan sorcery actually works. However, I get the feeling (from past ImpCon discussions) that Jeff may be more interested in having the Zzaburi as patrons, and the adventurers all playing assistants and bodyguards who, just like Lhankor Mhy sages, only dabble in sorcery. But hey, I could be wrong, we’ll see how the West gets developed.

Voila! The Malkioni system. Clearly every sorcerer agrees this is the best way to organize human society (and in their secret hearts, I am sure the Lhankor Mhy cult knows this!). The only question is where to get the workers, fighters, and community leaders – and how to make sure they keep supporting the sorcerer!

Sources and References for Gloranthan Work

Here are Jeff’s most important sources and references when he’s working. Published sources are:

– Guide to Glorantha: I consult this every few days. Invaluable but normally at a pretty high altitude concerning specific details. But if I need to know how things all over the lozenge fit together, it is ideal.
– Glorantha Sourcebook: I consult this almost every day. Myths, histories, family trees, you name it.
– RuneQuest Core Rules: Loads in here, not just rules.
– RuneQuest GM Adventures: If I need anything on the Colymar Tribe, it is here.
– Trollpak (Chaosium edition): Question on trolls? Here is the answer.
– RQ Bestiary: Question on any creature except trolls? The answer is probably here.
– Borderlands: Shockingly useful whenever I have a question on Praxians of all things.
– Pavis/Big Rubble: Still the foundation for everything in Pavis, the Big Rubble, and the River of Cradles.
– Stafford Library: Probably at least once I week I look up something in GRoY, FS, or HHP.
– Greganth Atlas: At least once a week I look up something in it.

Not all of these sources are equal, though. All of them are available in print or PDF from Chaosium right now, but the last one is a bit of a deep cut. It’s a book that was part of some obscure stuff offered as high backer rewards for the Guide to Glorantha Kickstarter. It’s the one on the upper right on this picture:

Photo by Rick Meints © 2022 Chaosium Inc.

Here’s what Kick Meints says about these rare items:

Published in 2007 and 2015, [the Roots of Glorantha] only contain very early Gloranthan lore, both in terms of when they were written (1966-1976) and the eras of Glorantha they document (early, early stuff). Most of the maps related to these writings ended up in the Greganth Atlas, another very rare item, although not technically one of the Roots of Glorantha series.

[…] Greg originally sold these in 2007 to a very small handful of super scholar-collectors for big $$$. This was at a time when Greg’s income was quite low. That’s the main reason we did likewise when we offered them as part of the Guide to Glorantha Kickstarter. Greg didn’t want us to significantly lower the price he had charged previously.

Find out more information here.

Now, onto Jeff’s unpublished sources. These include, without much surprise, many of the upcoming RuneQuest books: Cults of Glorantha, Sartar Homeland stuff (Sartar Players Guide, Bolhome Book, Dragon Pass Gazeteer), other gazeteers (Heortland, Esrolia, Prax, Shadowlands), and the Hero Wars Campaign. Jeff frequently consults some spreadsheets, too, like the cult distribution and cult compatibility tables. Finally, there’s another couple of obscure references: the “Master Map series”, which I assume are Greg Stafford’s original maps of Third Age Glorantha, and the “Mythic Map series”, which is probably the same but for God Time Glorantha.

Finally, you have probably already guessed the out of print sources:

– Dragon Pass/WBRM: the single most important Ur-Source on the Hero Wars and everyone in it. Consult it at least once or twice a week.
– Nomad Gods: the single most important source on the Praxians. I consult it everytime Prax comes up.

These two board games are supposed to get a reprint some time in the next few years.

Race and Ethnicity in Glorantha

Jeff once again surprisingly posted in a BRP Central thread that frankly looked like a potential dumpster fire from the start. But this is interesting stuff. The original question was basically whether Lunars and Tarshites and Praxians and Grazelanders and such presented a “different ethnicity and/or race” from each other. Jeff starts with some broad strokes:

Race: Categorising people into groups based on shared physical or social attributes that the categorised perceives as being different from those of other groups of the same species. Members of these groups may or may not be aware of their presumed membership. Example, the various Praxian Animal Rider Tribes, the Men-and-a-Half, Wasp Riders, Green Elves, Brown Elves, Snow Trolls, trollkin, Malkioni castes, etc.

Ethnic Group: is a grouping of people who identify with each other on the basis of shared attributes that distinguish them from other groups. Those attributes can include common sets of traditions, ancestry, language, history, society, culture, nation, religion, or social treatment within their residing area. Example: Colymar Tribe, Sartarites, Lunar Tarshites, Tarsh Exiles, Lunars, Orlanthi, Dara Happan, Esrolian, etc. 

As you can see, these are really broad labels. In the Dragon Pass area cult, language, and tradition are the main things that define an ethnic group. Which isn’t surprising – cult is the root of culture after all.

Now, some practical example:

If a Sartarite talks to a Lunar Tarshite that person is probably going to lack the markers that identify one as a Sartarite – membership in a Lightbringer cult or its associates? Membership in one of the Sartarite tribes? If the conversation is in Tarshite (and not New Pelorian) language won’t be a problem, but lack of cult or tribal ties will. 

But what are those markers? Well the Orlanthi tend to tattoo their group associations on their body. Hey, that woman has Colymar markings! And also their cult initiations – hey that person is marked with the Runes of Orlanth. That helps members of Orlanthi society navigate around different Orlanthi groups. 

What isn’t a big deal? Skin color or hair color. The Orlanthi tend to be brownish skin with brown or reddish-brown hair, but there’s plenty of diversity.

The sneak peek we got about the Sartar Homeland boxed set indeed shows the diversity you find within the Orlanthi of Sartar:

© 2022 Chaosium Inc.

Now wait, you might say, Bison Riders look differently from Impala Rider and from the Men-and-a-Half! Sure, but that is not the source of their group identity. The key elements of being a Bison Rider are (drumroll) – riding a bison. If you don’t ride a bison, you can’t be a bison rider. If you ride a bison, then we look to see if you are marked with Clan markings. Same thing with Wasp Riders, etc. 

So about the original question:

Would an Orlanthi recognize a Lunar based purely on physical characteristics? Nope. How about costuming? At the extremes, yes – but not in the middle. So yes, an Orlanthi might assume the person wearing the big red cloak and the breastplate featuring the Red Goddess is a Lunar, that is until they see the markings of Death and Truth and the nice iron sword that indicates that this is a Humakti (who often wear red cloaks because of blood and death) and the breastplate shows that she defeated a Seven Mothers Rune Lord in single combat. 

I like this idea of a warrior wearing the gear of significant defeated enemies — I’ll have to put some of that in my games!

That’s why Orlanthi culture has all sorts of social rituals to help sort out strangers into friends, neutrals, and enemies. Rather than attack on sight, the Orlanthi tend to ask strangers, “hey who are you? Did you kill any of my relatives?” and that kind of thing to figure out how to interact with them.

Some of these “social rituals” are mentioned in the RuneQuest rules, like the “Wind Lord Challenges”. Older Gloranthan products included various other such traditions, like that of hospitality.

In our world, categorising people into races was associated with the rise of vast transoceanic empires that ruled over many disparate peoples not associated with each other through language, religion, or tradition. If that exists in Glorantha, it would like be something you might have seen in the Middle Sea Empire. 

The ruling elite of the Middle Sea Empire were Hrestoli Malkioni. They likely tended to see the world through the lens of class – who are the talars, horals, zzaburi, and dronars of the world? This matters when bringing new people into the empire. Are those barbarians basically warriors or are they workers? Can our talars marry the sons and daughters of their rulers? Are those Dayzatar mystics essentially zzaburi? Places like Teshnos, Safelster, Umathela, Jolar, and Kralorela may have been to a greater or lesser degree affected by this.

The Middle Sea Empire was a Second Age nation that stretch across all of Glorantha. Being a Malkioni society at heart, they divide people in castes: talars are nobles, horals are warriors, zzaburi are wizards, and dronars are farmers.

And thus it is not odd they divided peoples into the “races” of Wareran (which likely just really means, “we are familiar with them since at least the First Age”), Kralori (our eastern dominions), and Agimori and Veldang (our southern dominions). Agimori and Veldang were obviously different groups to their Jrusteli conquerers – to start with, the Veldang are blue. And worship very different gods. And everyone else (who get called the Agimori) agreed they are different.

The Guide to Glorantha actually lists most of these under the “human racial types”: Agimori effectively sound like Central Africans, Vithelans are Asians, Warerans are Near and Middle Eastern people, and Veldang are Gloranthan-speicfic blue-skinned people. Jeff nicely solves a few problems here by remapping these classifications to how and when the Middle Sea Empire encountered people.

Further answering the original questions, Jeff adds:

“Lunars” is a super broad category, even by these standards. Do you mean a Seven Mothers worshiper in Boldhome or are we talking about citizens of Furthest? I think in most cases they might be viewed as being different ethnic groups (remember – language, cult, and tradition drive that), but not different races.

Lunar Tarsh is a specific ethnic group. They speak New Pelorian (language), follow the Lunar religion (cult), and have a long tradition of identifying themselves as a group.

And about whether Praxians, Heortlanders, Esrolians, Grazelanders, and so on are different “races”:

Under the God Learner system? Yes. Under the categorisations of whatever Lhankor Mhy just wrote the most influential History of Our Times? Who knows. Maybe he divides people into the categories of Orlanthi, Lunar, Praxians, and Pure Horse People? 

Some News of the Heroquesting Rules

Jeff is teasing the upcoming heroquesting rules for RuneQuest, which he has been playtesting a lot lately.

Key highlights – it is definitely not Super RuneQuest, and we are doing our playtesting with the pregens from the Starter Set. Characters with strong Runes and Passions, plenty of Rune Magic and lots of POW and CHA are going to do better than characters with high skills – which is as it should be!

The “Super RuneQuest” mention here refers to some old school of thought that says you encounter super-high-powered NPCs in the God Time, with skills in the 500% or even 1000% range or something. So you need community bonuses to get appropriate skill bonuses, and maybe some custom mechanics for handling large numbers.

The new rules do a fantastic job showing how Gloranthan myths change while the God Time remains eternal and changeless. They really encourage and facilitate exploration of the Hero Plane, and all the players could have something to do.

In order to overcome a (possibly magical) drought the players set off to liberate the waters taken by Aroka. Amusingly, Vasana gained a Dragonbreaking boon in the quest’s climax – she spurned the liberated Blue Woman’s offers and went straight for power over dragons, while Sorala Tor gained insight into communicating with dragons and even a little Dragon Magic. Yanioth gained a magic fruit from the Lord of Trees and is somehow tied with the Poisonthorn Elves, while Harmast now has a magic kid with hooves and antlers. Just a regular jaunt into Hero Plane.

And it is good that the players managed to get extraordinary support from their clan and the Clearwine Earth Temple or there is no way they would have succeeded!

I’ve only run one heroquest so far, using some half-assed custom rules, but the God Time mechanics haven’t really been my main problem — it’s more about that last part: how does community support mechanically help the heroquesters, and what does it mean to go heroquesting “on your own”. I’m very curious to see how these new rules will turn out!

The extra treat in Jeff’s post is a handout he used for the game:

© 2022 Chaosium Inc.

Attached is one of the game aids the players had – a map Sorala Tor had taken from the Holy Country describing the relationship between locations known from the Tournament of the Masters of Luck and Death.

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.

Upcoming Miniatures from Mad Knight

Andrew Taylor, of Mad Knight Castings, is teasing the next Gloranthan miniatures Kickstarter, which is scheduled for March 2022:

One of the items will be Bolgar Stomping Bull and the Thunder Rebel Flyers. Here are some pics painted by Jonathan Tarry.

Here are some more of these miniatures, and a few others, painted by Felix Figure Painting:

Gloranthan Minitatures Environment

Simon Webb has made some nice Gloranthan buildings!

More information here.

The Vintage RPG Podcast on RuneQuest

The Vintage RPG Podcast has a new episode out where they look at the history of RuneQuest, its origins, its legacy, and more.

Snakepipe Hollow Height Map

We’ve featured D R’s Gloranthan 3D explorations before, and here’s more: a visualization of Snakepipe Hollow’s cave complex from the outside, to get an idea of the height differences. This is great because it’s easy to forget about the third dimension while looking at 2D maps in scenario!

Some More Origins of Gloranthan Names

French archivist and Gloranthan scholar 7Tigers has found a few fun entries from the old RuneQuest Digest mailing list (dating back to 1994). Sandy Petersen explains where some Gloranthan names come from. You might have heard some of these stories before, while others might be new to you:

– Cam’s Well: Cam Stafford, Greg’s wife at the time.
– The Biggle Stone: Clint Bigglestone, friend and RPGer
– Waha the Butcher: a high school acquaintance of Greg, who is unaware of his high honor. His war cry was “Waaaahaaaa!” and his dad was a butcher, a fact of which he often boasted.
– The Tada Shi (people of the Golden Age): Tadashi Ehara, Chaosium’s one-time business manager
– Yan Starcere (Humakti hero cult): Ian Starcher, who argued that Humakt should have an anti-resurrection spell. Yan Starcere provides same.
– Swenstown: Anders Swenson, well known bon vivant and RPGer in the Bay area.
– Makla Mann: Mac, a famed gamer and figure painter from the Los Angeles area.

And of course, a classic, although I had heard that Greg changed the name to avoid Disney copyrights:

An unsung friend of Greg’s is directly responsible for the Ducks! Here’s how it happened. Greg needed a name for one of the towns on the White Bear Red Moon map, and asked this pal to name it. He instantly responded, “Duckburg”. Greg thought that was a little too unGloranthan, and suggested “Duck Point” instead. His friend said, “Well, okay. But it’s gotta have ducks in it!” And the rest is history.

Iconic Production’s JM Shows You The Gods War

JM, whom you might know from the Exploring Glorantha videos with Evan Franke, or from his bronze-age RPG Jackals, is showing off Petersen Games’ The Gods War, one of the few board games that require an entire extra room in your house for storage and play. If you’re still waiting on that second Kickstarter to get into manufacturing, this might offer a little vicarious relief.

Fantasy Worlds That Aren’t Magical Earth

Well-known sci-fi and fantasy website TOR.com has an article about fantasy worlds that aren’t “just magical Earth”. Since I’m mentioning it here, you can bet Glorantha shows up in it, surprisingly enough!

Although Stafford began work on his Bronze Age fantasy setting of Glorantha in the 1960s, it was not generally available to the public until the 1970s, when game company Chaosium incorporated the setting into board games like White Bear and Red Moon and Nomad Gods, and most significantly (at least from my personal perspective), the roleplaying game RuneQuest.

On a small scale, Glorantha looks Earth-like, featuring two large continents separated by a vast sea. Pull back for greater perspective, and this familiar arrangement is revealed as the top of a cube floating in a sea of chaos, surrounded by a great sphere beyond which sensible mortals do not explore. This is a magic-imbued world operating according to rules entirely unlike the rules of our world and the shape of the world reflects that.

© 2022 Chaosium Inc.

I would have thought they had way enough novels and book series to pick from for that kind of article but hey, I’m not complaining.

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 Lonely Castle

One of my favourite websites, Atlas Obscura, has many articles on weird and interesting places. I was reminded this week that it’s also a good inspiration for Gloranthan places:

Carved into a massive boulder, Qasr al-Farid, or “The Lonely Castle,” is a stunning ancient structure that rivals the majesty of any carved architecture in the world.

Created around the 1st century CE, the tall facade was never actually finished. The description of the site as a “castle” is misleading, as the grand carving is actually a tomb that was built as part of the ancient Nabatean site of Hegra. The Nabateans had a unique construction technique that saw their tombs being chiseled right out of the rock from the top down.

Photo by Richard Hargas, CC BY-SA

More here.

Kneeling Bull With Vessel

The pretty historical artifact of the week is this silver bull from around 3000 BCE. More info here.

Thank you for reading

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

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

This week was rather quiet, which is nice. I think I have to thank Jeff being on vacation or something for that. I have resumed work on an old Jonstown Compendium book I had half-written way before I wrote A Short Detour, and started organizing my thoughts about putting my “Goonies in Glorantha” kids campaign down on the page.

God Learner Sorcery

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

Runic Rants: Detect Enemies

Here’s an article about the Detect Enemies spell, how to use it at the table, and how to mess up with your players:

This is one of those things that RuneQuest players love to argue about ad nauseam, using increasingly convoluted abstract situations. The spell says that it detects “any being intending to harm [the caster]“, so what does “being” mean? Does it detect animals or undead? Can a wild creature “intend” anything if they lack INT and are driven by instinct? What if the danger is a colony of flesh eating ants who, individually, don’t “intend” anything because their attacks are the result of an emerging group behaviour? What if…

No. Stop. Just stop.

More here!

Chaosium News

Here are this week’s Chaosium news!

RuneQuest Starter Set Trailer

© 2022 Chaosium Inc.

Chaosium released this very nicely done “trailer” for the RuneQuest Starter Set. It features animated versions of some of the art found in the booklets, and some voice-over narration by the delightful Becca Scott (who plays a lot of Call of Cthulhu, but also a bit of RuneQuest).

A Quirky Game Company

Rick Meints has posted a little anecdote on Facebook, pointing to some RuneQuest 3 promotional materials from 1983:

© 2022 Chaosium Inc.

Rick says:

I wondered if it would mention anything about RuneQuest, and I was not disappointed. As I read the short advert for the new edition of RuneQuest I immediately thought “what were they thinking?” Here’s a small example of how Chaosium earned its “quirky game company” reputation back in the 1980s.

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!

Visions of Pavis Teaser

© 2022 Matthew Cole & Chaosium Inc.

Matthew Cole is teasing “Vistas of New Pavis”, which will surely use all the 3D reconstruction work he has done on New Pavis in the past few years. It’s on track for a 2022 release.

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.

Chaotic Associations in Gods

Thankfully for my week’s productivity, Jeff has only posted one interesting note:

For most Gloranthan religions, Chaos is something outside of the realm of gods and spirits. There are a few gods or spirits that were corrupted by Chaos or who otherwise embraced it during the Greater Darkness. The Orlanthi, Praxians, Malkioni, Doraddi, and followers of the Old Gods (animism) all agree on this.

Most celestial cults agree as well, but Yelm is oddly associated with two Chaos gods – Nysalor and the Red Goddess. Perhaps it is Yelm’s claims to universal rule, which would include Chaos along with everything. Or perhaps it is Yelm’s inability to see his own Shadow.

I love those last two statements, and I think they’re probably important to grok Yelm.

Entities like Thed, Ragagnalar, etc. are not invoked in most magical ceremonies or heroquests – unless they are specific enemies to be overcome as part of a magical defeat of Chaos. Death, disorder, and lies are all part of the cosmos – but Chaos is outside of it and antithetical to existence.

That last statement is also important in my opinion — the line between “evil” and “disorder” and “Chaos” and all that is one I explored in my first Jonstown Compendium book. A lot of what Jeff writes below is addressed in my book too:

Getting back to the original thought, most Gloranthan religions hold that Chaos is “outside” of the cosmos. It precedes it, and the cosmos was formed out of the Primal Chaos. Chaos is an assault on the existence of the cosmos itself and is thus wholly different from every other element or power. To analogise, the other elements and powers are jostling against each other within the confines of the cosmos; Chaos threatens to return the entire system to where it came from – the gaping maw of Chaos.

Illumination allows one to understand that is not per se evil and not to fear or hate it. But for everyone else, that is a bridge too far including for Chaotic tainted beings such as broo, scorpion men, vampires, ogres, and the like.

So regardless of how dangerous, treacherous, or even evil deities like Zorak Zoran, Eurmal, Gorgorma, Wachaza, or Gagarth are – they are “of the world” and still preferable to things like Thed, Vivamort, Primal Chaos, the Crimson Bat, or Krarsht.

Also:

The mindless devouring maw of Chaos continually threatens Glorantha’s existence. In the Greater Darkness, existence very nearly ceased. [I Fought We Won], Arachne Solara and the Net of Existence – these are mythic events where existence itself was able to continue due to the deeds of one who was all.

Deities such as Orlanth, the other Lightbringers, Storm Bull, Babeester Gor, Yelmalio, Zorak Zoran, Kyger Litor, and Magasta are very much defined by the struggle against Chaos. They fought terrible rear-guard battles against Chaos to continue to exist. It is not surprising that their cults hold true to that.

The Red Goddess is of course different:

At a certain level, the Red Goddess is something of Wittgenstein’s duck-rabbit. Does she threaten the existence of the cosmos or does she liberate us from fear? Both can be true, depending on the viewer!

You’ve probably seen the Wittgenstein duck-rabbit before, but it’s here if you need to confuse your brain again… and possibly achieve Illumination.

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.

JM and Evan Interview Rick Meints

Taking a break from their regular “Exploring Glorantha” chats, JM and Evan had a nice chat with Chaosium president Rick Meints about… well, many things Chaosium-related.

More Snakepipe Hollow Explorations

D R has posted another update of their 3D explorations of Gloranthan dungeons. We had previously seen some of the Rainbow Mounds, but they’re also working on Snakepipe Hollow, here with a particular look at the… well, I don’t know if we can have spoilers for a 40-year old book, but it’s in the video title. Avert your eyes if you don’t want to know!

Upcoming Duck Miniatures

© 2022 Far Flung Miniatures

Jonas Svensson, of Far Flung Miniatures, has an upcoming Kickstarter campaign for some duck miniatures! It’s not launched yet but you can get notified when that happens.

“The Future of the Clan”

It had been a long time since John Hughes did some 3D Gloranthan art (unless I missed something). The piece below is called “The Future of the Clan“:

© 2022 John Hughes

A Sartarite Elmali clan scene featuring three clan leaders (followers of (left to right) Vinga, Ernalda and Esrola/Uleria) and two young children blessed by Voria and Voriof.

More here too, and his entire website has lots of Gloranthan goodness.

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 Sheep Stew

Max Miller, of the “Tasting History” channel, is cooking a 4000 years old recipe… and you can easily follow at home!

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.

I’m recycling one of my old BRP forum posts for content but I think this is one of the good ones. It came from a question about the Detect Enemies spell, and what it can actually detect.

This is one of those things that RuneQuest players love to argue about ad nauseam, using increasingly convoluted abstract situations. The spell says that it detects “any being intending to harm [the caster]“, so what does “being” mean? Does it detect animals or undead? Can a wild creature “intend” anything if they lack INT and are driven by instinct? What if the danger is a colony of flesh eating ants who, individually, don’t “intend” anything because their attacks are the result of an emerging group behaviour? What if…

No. Stop. Just stop. And I’m also looking at you people in the back who are still arguing about the precise limits of Chalana Arroy’s pacifism vows.

Solomon’s Wisdom, public domain image

Make It Meta

Instead of trying to figure out what “intent” is biologically, psychologically, and philosophically speaking (good luck with that), or trying to figure out the exact scientific mechanism powering a made-up fantasy fun-time magic spell (good luck with that), think about it in narrative gameplay terms.

Figure out if you, the gamemaster, intend to attack the adventurers with that NPC or creature or animal or whatever. Do you have plans to do that at some point in the current scene? Are you thinking about how that NPC or creature or animal or whatever might be tracking the PCs, observing them, catching their scent, or hearing them approach? Where they might pop out from for a good jump scare? If the answer is yes, then Detect Enemy lights up, simple as that.

Unless your players are rules lawyers who love arguing about that kind of stuff (good luck with that), or you’re an old-school confrontational GM (good luck with that), there’s no point trying to be nit-picky with words and definitions and philosophy. It’s called “Detect Enemies” and everybody knows what it’s for. “You’ll know it when you see it.” And the last thing you want is for a player to have paid good money to learn the spell, only to realize it’s not as useful as they thought, slows down the game with lengthy debates, or both. When in doubt, lean in the player’s favour — it’s just easier and in good spirit.

Messing With Your Players

Now, “leaning in your players’ favour” doesn’t mean “making it easier”. As you know, I’m a big Call of Cthulhu and Delta Green player. It’s always scary when a player asks for grenades and the gamemaster shrugs and says “yeah, sure, there’s a handful in the local safehouse“. It’s scary because the player then knows that grenades are not gonna help.

I love messing with my players, and even the Detect Enemies spell has some opportunities for that.

First, the spell is Instant and Ranged, so it only detects any enemies that are within 50 meters right now. Most sentient beings, and particularly professionals like mercenaries and assassins, will stalk their enemies out of that range if possible. Spirit Magic generally doesn’t work farther than 50 meters, and people in Glorantha had at least a hundred generations to internalize this as “the safe distance”, so you can bet they’ll stay back far enough (again, if possible) until it’s time to attack. Hey, maybe even wild animals learned this over time, if you think that life in Glorantha has anything like Earth’s evolution. So if the spell detects anything, there’s a good chance the attack is coming in the next round or two… I hope you can make that POWx5 roll to buff yourself up in time!

Second, the Detect Enemies spell doesn’t work through one meter of earth or stone or metal. The enemy might take cover behind a large boulder (roughly the size of a small boulder), burrow into the ground, and otherwise use the environment to their advantage.

Last, the Detect Enemies spell only gives the “approximate direction and distance from the caster“. Remember Aliens? When the space marines have motion detectors that, well, give the approximate direction and distance to any nearby xenomorphs? Yeah. Good times. Do that!

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