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 23: Arkat the Minmaxer

Our new episode is all about the legendary figure of Arkat, with Bud (from Bud’s RPG Review) as our guest! Together we talk nonsense about Arkat’s life, accomplishments, war against Nysalor, and legacy. Of course we give plenty of ideas for using Arkati lore in a RuneQuest Glorantha game. Plus: conspiracy theories!

Note: Joerg went a bit crazy with the show notes… he had some corrections to make, and of course a bit of pedantry to indulge in! We might have to do another episode on Arkat to get it out of system…

Runic Rants: Spreadsheet for the People

I wrote a thing about the value of spreadsheets! Yes, spreadsheets! If you know me, you might not be surprised…

It might sound very nerdy, but I think a lot of questions get answered by making a spreadsheet for your Glorantha setting. The first spreadsheet I made keeps track of the population in terms of cult memberships, villages and farms, spirit societies, and so on. […]

This exercise really helped me realize a few things. For instance, you very easily “run out” of initiates for any given cult once you’ve allocated 2/3rds of your adults to Orlanth and Ernalda.

You might have already read it when I posted it on the RuneQuest Facebook group. If not, read all about it here!

ChaosiumCon 2023: Podcasting 101 Panel

As I mentioned in my Chaosium Con report, I was in a panel on podcasting alongside much more clever and experienced people like the great Seth Skorkowsky, Michael Diamond, and Arthur Rothfuss. The panel was moderated by the equally great Emily Mills.

Well you can listen to panel now on the Old Ways podcast, or watch us over here on YouTube:

Seth is of course the host of his titular and super-popular YouTube channel (along with being a fiction and RPG writer, and co-host of the Modern Mythos podcast), Arthur and Emily are part of Under the Library, and Michael is part of the Old Ways Podcast. And I’m the useless guy on the left.

Chaosium News

Here are this week’s Chaosium news!

Combat in RuneQuest

James Coquillat interviews Jeff Richard to get tips and advice for running RuneQuest combat, especially for newcomers to the game. The usual suspects are here: use augments, cast spirit magic buffs, do a volley of missile weapons before heading out into melee, etc.

By now you should be aware of my… conflicted feelings about RuneQuest as a game system, especially its combat. But I guess the good thing with this interview is that, in case you weren’t aware of it before, it should be clear that Chaosium considers the RuneQuest rules as entirely optional. It’s a rather substractive game system: an incredibly crunchy set of rules that you’re supposed to juggle and prune as needed to adjudicate situations. Most other game systems I’ve played (and like) tend to be, on the other hand, modular or additive, that is: you get some core minimal rules, and you add some improvised rules and rulings based on what feels right, or based on explicitly optional/extra rules.

Side note: there are a couple of art overlays during the interview, and I’m not sure if I’ve already seen them all in published material? Especially the one around 3:50? Has anybody seen that one elsewhere?

What Attendees Said About ChaosiumCon

Once again about my ChaosiumCon report, I linked at the end of it a bunch of other reports. But there are a few more! Chaosium has been keeping tabs on them and provided this short compilation of blog posts about their recent gaming convention. Of course my own report is on there. Feel free to check out others if you want more FOMO in your life!

Cover RuneQuest Maps Now Available for Download

Until now, the maps found in the inside covers of the RuneQuest Glorantha rulebook were conspicuously absent from the digital version. David Scott heard from the fans on Discord and fixed it! Yay!

Go to the Chaosium website, click on the “user” icon to login and access your account, go into the “Orders” tab, and find your order for the RuneQuest rulebook… this might require a bit of patience if you have as many orders as me. But once you’ve located it, you can click on the download icon and find the two new files!

David isn’t just helpful with digital downloads (he’s known to have fixed a lot of small issues with the RuneQuest PDFs), he’s also a great podcast guest! Check out our episodes on the RuneQuest Passion mechanics, or on Nomad Gods for more goodness from David!

Six Ages 2 Demo on Steam

If you’re eagerly awaiting the release of Six Ages 2: Lights Going Out, a demo is available on Steam right now! I haven’t checked it out yet so, err, that’s all I have.

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!

Shameless Plug!

The Jonstown Compendium has been a bit quiet lately so instead of just skipping this segment this week, why not do a bit of shameless advertising for my stuff?

© 2022 BOLT80 & Chaosium Inc.

A Short Detour” is an adventure in three acts that you can easily “sprinkle” on top of your ongoing campaign. It presents a tough moral choice to your players, and potentially introduces a cool villain! Plus, you get a whole deep dive on what exactly is Chaos, and rules for giving a Chaotic taint to your players! Errr I mean to your players’ characters!

© 2022 BOLT80 & Chaosium Inc.

Bog Struggles” is another easily inserted adventure in which the adventurers need to save a Newtling village from possible destruction. Spirit World horror meets cute amphibian people!

Both are Silver Best Sellers, and “A Short Detour” is actually getting into “possible Gold Best Seller” territory at this point. If you have already bought these adventures, a hearty “thank you” goes to you! If you haven’t, please consider making them your next Jonstown Compendium purchase! We don’t have a Patreon or anything like that for this podcast and this newsletter, so that’s how you can show your appreciation!

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.

Rule of Thumb for Gloranthan Demographics

I think I mentioned it already in the past, but the “new” rule of thumb for Gloranthan demographics is for about 2/3rds of adults and 1/3rd of children. Jeff confirmed this recently on BRP Central:

I used to assume as a short-hand that half the population of any given human Gloranthan community were adults, the other half uninitiated children. I’ve refined that somewhat, and now assume that about 60-66% of any given human Gloranthan community are adults, the rest uninitiated children. 

Now the reason for that comes down to lower children mortality, longer lifespan, and also that in most Gloranthan communities adulthood initiation takes place at around 14-17 years old. This ends up with the adult being initiated into a RuneQuest, although the full process might take several years.

For people making spreadsheets like me, this is good stuff! I did spot this change of statistics between the HeroQuest Red Cow books, the RuneQuest Gamemaster Adventures book, and the several clan statistics that Jeff kindly shared during the past couple years as a sneak peek into the Sartar Homeland book (see here and here, among others). I’ve been using this ~60-something% of adults in my world-building for the past couple years.

There are a couple other things to consider, which may or may not be “canon” but make sense to me:

  • Different clans and tribes might have different percentages of adults/children based on how they survived the Great Winter (aka the Windstop) and the Lunar occupation. If you used a 50% stat, congrats, you can add a sub-plot of many children having died during the Great Winter, and how that affects the community. Or, you know, just hand-wave it. The extra 10% of kids were grounded.
  • Becoming an adult is only one step in someone’s life. Children get initiated into adulthood between 14 and 17 years old, but then they undergo 2 years (sometimes 3) of apprenticeship with a cult. Maybe they stay in their village to work at the local Orlanth temple, maybe live in the city in the bigger Orlanth temple, or maybe they move away to Jonstown to be a junior scribe at the Lhankor Mhy temple. Either way, in my Glorantha, these young adults learn the cult’s skills and spirit magic during that time, and then they become initiate of the cult. So not all adults are initiated into a cult yet IMHO.

A few more rules of thumb come from last week’s post about Runemasters, which got a few more comments. I’m mostly interested in this one:

As another aside, I figure most initiates only make the single POW sacrifice and don’t continue going much deeper into the cult mysteries. They are likely concerned about other things like work, relaxation, sex, family, more work, avoiding work, feeding the chickens, etc.

It’s tricky to imagine why the average Gloranthan would not continue sacrificing points of POW to gain more magic, but not everybody is driven by a power-hungry min-maxing player. NPCs have a life to live after all, and sacrificing a point of POW takes a full week of prayer and meditation. Orlanthi farmers may not have the luxury of taking a week off, and may not get many opportunities to get a POW increase roll afterwards.

But in my opinion, a single Rune Point feels too low. Orlanthi farmers are also generally part of the tribal militia. Going on raids, fighting off trolls, and dealing with random monsters are all fairly common occurrences. This brings opportunities to raise one’s POW, and puts at least a bit of pressure to get some useful magic. After all, people worship gods because they provide useful spells, right? That’s often what we’re told.

So I figure most Orlanthi have between 1 and 4 Rune Points, depending on their age. They might be able to go meditate and sacrifice their POW once every couple years at best, probably shortly after winter started, or at just before spring. YGWV and all that, obviously.

Average Sartarite Clan

Speaking of cult demographics, here is an “average Sartarite clan” according to Jeff:

There are 157 clans in Sartar (not including the Telmori and Pol-Joni), with an average population of about 900 people per clan. About 600 are adults, and about 300 are children. The average Sartarite clan claims about 55 square kilometers of territory.

About 40 adults belong to the clan aristocracy of priests and thanes (and their immediate family), about 400 are full free members of the clan, about 100 are semi-free tenants and other adult dependents, and about 60 are unfree.

In times of war, the average Sartarite clan can muster about 200 warriors: 20 martial priests and thanes, and 180 militia.

Again, this is great data for world-building. Jeff even provides some rough cult membership for this average clan, showing how you have less than a dozen initiates of most Lightbringers’ cults. That’s the kind of stuff I put in my spreadsheets. Yes, I keep talking about spreadsheets this week… not my fault! It just happens!

Of course, these numbers assume that these cults are all spread out evenly among the clans, which is not the case. Yelmalio cultists tend to congregate into a handful of clans that are dominated by the cult. At least half of all Chalana Arroy, Issaries, and Lhankor Mhy cultists are in cities, where they make up a disproportionate percentage of the population.

There’s another set of cult membership figures for a Yelmalio-centric clan if you want to compare. That’s useful if you’re playing near Alda-chur for instance…

Surprisingly enough, I didn’t expect this from the upcoming Mythology book:

There are cult demographics for each homeland in the Mythology Book. Available soon!

Crown Tests and Chief Tests

The Orlanthi “Crown Test” is mentioned in passing in the RuneQuest Glorantha rulebook, as part of “Vasana’s Saga”. On BRP Central, Jeff shares a bit more about the requirements to become tribal king, along with some information on the “Chief Tests” and the similar requirements to become clan chieftain:

Keep in mind what a clan is – its an extended kinship group normally with a thousand or so people. The chieftain is the leader/protector of the clan. The title literally means “most important” or “big man.” The violent ethic of the Orlanthi lifestyle makes the chieftain a de facto warrior. He must also be just, to balance the many needs of his people; and strong, to represent them to the outside world. There is no gender requirement, but even if female, the chieftain is referred to as a “he”. He has the responsibility of being spokesperson and decision-maker for all members, especially in times of emergency. His success as community leader depends upon the support of the council and the folk, both of whom have separate methods of removing him from office, should the need arise. The clan chieftain serves as the speaker to the clan’s magical guardian or “wyter” and the recipient of the immense benefits and power that the community spirit may give.

Because of the importance of the Orlanth cult among the Orlanthi, the clan leader needs to have been an initiate of Orlanth for at least a year. Orlanth, not Orlanth Rex (they might be a lay member of Orlanth Rex as well or even a temporary initiate, but that is a tribal matter). 

If there is more than one candidate among the kin, then they have to prove their skills against each other in the Chief Tests.


[…] A chief is not a mini-king and the Chief Tests are not the Crown Test.

So the “Chief Test” are basically proof that the candidate meets the requirements of being a candidate – remember that the assembled members of the community ultimately choose who among the candidate will lead them.

The “Crown Test” is a ritual duel, display of magic, or feat of adventure (like a raid or quest). The more impressive the Crown Test is, the more obvious it is that the gods support that person to be tribal leader.


A clan is an extended kinship group, not a political district. So imagine the average clan in Sartar with about 600 adults. About 40 adults belong to the clan aristocracy of priests and thanes (and their immediate family), about 400 are full free members of the clan, about 100 are semi-free tenants and other adult dependents, and about 60 are unfree.

The chief is almost always going to come out of that group of 40, and most likely there are no more five or six potential candidates. Everyone in the clan likely knows who the potential candidates are. If there is more than one actual candidate, the 400 full free members decide who that is. But usually this is just decided by acclamation – everyone knew that Baranthos was going to become chief after his uncle died – his immediate family (who had led the tribe for nearly two decades) agreed that he was the family leader, the Clearwine Earth temple (led by members of his immediate family) supported him, and he even had ties to the Sartar Dynasty. There really was no other real candidate. 

Now among the Varmandi a few years back the choice was less clear-cut. After so much suffering from war and rebellion, the clan assembly was dominated by the women of the Ernalda cult and a wealthy (and peaceful) farmer was chosen instead of a Wind Lord (who had the backing of the Orlanth cult leaders). That happens, but it is relatively uncommon.  

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.

Unprofessional Unboxing of the RuneQuest Prosopaedia

Friend of the show Scott aka OrcusDorkus has a YouTube channel in which he does “unprofessional unboxings” (his words, not mine!) of various RPG products… well, his FOMO about ChaosiumCon was too great so I sent him a copy of Rivers of London and of the Prosopaedia while I was there. I’m happy to see that he received it in due time, and in good shape… this is your chance to get a good look at it until it’s available for general purchase!

Unprofessional Unboxing of Borderlands

Scott does another unboxing of a RuneQuest product in the same week! But here he goes back in time to 1982 with the classic boxed set of Borderlands! If you have the POD reprint, you might not know how it looked like in its original box, so check it out… boxed sets are super cool but sadly they don’t seem to be a viable form factor at the moment.

Exploring Glorantha’s First Age

This week, JM and Evan serendipitously talk about… Arkat! Just like us! Well, they talk about the First Age in general, but the synchronicity makes me smile. This was recorded before ChaosiumCon so Evan talks a bit about what he was planning to do there at the beginning.

Thank you for reading

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

Joerg and Ludo welcome Bud from Bud’s RPG Review, where we see his hands in a typical unboxing set-up, not just doing flip-throughs but also a whole series of explanation videos:

[1] It seems that since the episode was recorded, Bud fixed the duplicated RuneQuest video playlist… or maybe Ludo imagined it.

Another place to find Bud is the “Bud and Griff’s Gaming Creepshow” podcast, a “podcast about spooky gaming” (in Bud’s words):

Last but not least, Bud is one of the authors of the Miskatonic Repository bestselling book Viral: A Modern Call of Cthulhu Scenario, with Alex Guillotte. For those of you less involved with Call of Cthulhu, the Miskatonic Repository is the sister community content program to the Jonstown Compendium.

Bud states that his “Bud Explains” videos (which Ludo has faithfully linked from his newsletter) are really for beginners, since delving into the lore of Glorantha can be hard work. He promises more in the future.

Finally you can find Bud on Twitter, if that thing is still going by the time you read this.

Main Topic

Going to our main topic, Ludo says that you will find mention of that guy Arkat in many places, with plenty of lore to dig into. So who is this guy, and why is he cool?

What Does Your RuneQuest Character Knows About Arkat

Bud points out that many of the things Arkat did are kind of hidden.

Arkat is possibly most renowned for being the person who mastered heroquesting and for being the slayer of a god, whom he called Gbaji the Deceiver, but who was known to his worshippers as Nysalor.

Bud remains neutral on whether the deity slain by Arkat was the Deceiver or not.

Ludo gives the context that all of these great deeds happened about 1200 years ago (if you are playing in the normal 1625 time frame). To give a comparison from our world’s history, Ludo suggests a weird Arthurian hero, Jörg interjects that Charlemagne fits the time frame even better. Ludo jokes that Charlemagne was evil because he introduced the school system, but Jörg points out that his evil included the genocide of the Saxons, and that that may be why the peace price of the European Union is named after him.

Getting back on topic, Ludo points out that the Gbaji Wars ended with the blighting and destruction of Dorastor, formerly a beautiful and fertile land.

Bud calls Arkat’s action the rites of cleansing, even though they poisoned the land.

(Arkat did curse the land of Dorastor, and sort of bound the Chaos that had been loosed in the final phase of the Gbaji Wars to this ruined place. The land remained dormant for quite a while until both God Learners and EWF explorers took an interest, which seems to have awakened the land.)

Ludo then talks about Arkat’s star, which appeared when Arkat apotheosized early in the Second Age. Jörg claims that the star vanished since, because the God Learners hid the way.

(Doing some additional research after the podcast, the Guide p.646 claims that Arkat is a prominent constellation in the area of the sky called the Celestial Fields, between the Celestial Forest and the Celestial River.)

(The star map on p. 645 only shows a differently named constellation: the Doves, which is how the Dara Happans name the constellation. They were followers of Nysalor and have no love at all for the slayer of their god, whom they name Gbaji.)

(The list of constellations talks about the constellation of Arkat, stating that only one star was visible there at the Dawn, but that Arkat’s apotheosis caused three bright companions and a number of less bright ones nearby that some claim for the hero as well.)

So Jörg was wrong by remembering correctly that there is no constellation named Arkat on the star map.

Bud then points out that Arkat also is a troll god.

Ludo then sums it up: Arkat was several things to several people, he was some sort of either hero or antihero or evil war general. “He killed a whole bunch of people and did many awesome things.”

The Life of Arkat

Bud starts by telling us that Arkat was born in the elf forests of Brithos, interestingly during the Sunstop… or the Sunspot? Linguistic shenanigans ensue, and come to haunt us.

The Sunstop occurred in the year 375 S.T. (“Solar Time”, after the Dawn) when the Second Council (cooperating with the Dara Happan Empire) created Osentalka, the (presumed) Perfect God, in their capital in Dorastor.

(Several other contributors to the Sunstop include Malkioni sorcerers in Fronela casting a great ritual against the Hsunchen shamans, the Kralori Emperor meditating on a potent symbol – the Dragon’s Eye, and a hundred thousand Aldryami in Pamaltela calling on a good spirit to combat a virulent rot affecting them and their forests. See the Guide to Glorantha p.128 for the wider view. A good introductory read is the history from Cults of Terror, available on the Well of Daliath and reprinted in the Guide.)

Bud goes into detail on Arkat’s birth on Brithos, an island in the western Neliomi Sea that disappeared during the Closing (some say that its disappearance caused the Closing).

Arkat’s birth may have been the creation of the opposite to the newborn god in Dorastor, a balancing force brought in by the universe. The new god was born outside of the Compromise, making the birth of Arkat the opposition of the universe to this insult to Time.

Bud compares this to Argrath being the nemesis of the Red Goddess.

Arkat was fostered by the Aldryami of Brithos, and supposedly illuminated by them at a young age, which Bud thinks is another great irony. About 24 years later he was part of the 4th Brithos Army of Law,

Eventually he became known as the son of Humakt, Arkat Humaktsson.

Progressing through local wars (with the Vampire Kings of Tanisor still as Brithini soldier, then alongside the Seshnegi Men-of-All against the Nieby priests led by Gaalth, then joining the Orlanthi of the upper Tanier River in their fight against Gbaji‘s shock troops, the Telmori who had received Nysalor’s blessing to turn into magical wolves on Wilddays) Arkat became aware of the Riddlers of Nysalor.

In Seshnela, the priests of Nysalor apparently spread poison, or an unhealable disease, and offered healing and protection from it, thereby getting people to worship Nysalor.

Arkat saw and showed that Nysalor had a duality, that he wasn’t just a benevolent god who illuminated people and taught them a different way of thinking, he exposed the deity behind these priests as the Chaos God Gbaji. Arkat made it his life quest to slay Gbaji and free the world from the great Deceiver.

(Much of Arkat’s earliest activities are mentioned in the list of the Kings of Seshnela on the Well of Daliath to greater detail than in the Guide to Glorantha, where p.410 gives details about Arkat’s deeds in Seshnela.)

Skipping far ahead, eventually Arkat managed to invade Dorastor, the homeland of Nysalor, and slew the enemy god atop the Tower of Miracles in the City of Dreams. He supposedly dismembered Nysalor and had its parts scattered and buried around Glorantha.

However, slaying a god doesn’t come easy, and Arkat looked into heroquesting at various points. He brought the Unbreakable Sword with him, the original Death, to enable him to slay a god.

Supposedly when he was on one of his heroquests, he encountered himself as a troll and was wounded by himself, an unhealable wound that he carried with him for his entire life that caused him discomfort.

Also, Arkat is known to have mapped out the Gods’ Realm to enable passage for him, which explains how he ended up so ridiculously powerful.

Before he actually went to slay Nysalor, he underwent the Rite of Rebirth and became one of the Uzuz (the Mistress Troll Race).

There are various pieces of art depicting Arkat as an armoured troll fighting Nysalor.

Once Arkat had killed Nysalor, he created the Autarchy, a.k.a. Stygian Empire, in Ralios and modern Seshnela. Ralios lies west of Dragon Pass, south of Dorastor.

The capital of the Autarchy was Arkhome (on the Nidan river in Rindland, a portion of the ancient Ralian territory of Fornoar now belonging to the modern Kingdom of Seshnela. See the political map on p.417 in the Guide to Gloranha. It was the place where Harmast emerged with Arkat on his first Lightbringer’s Quest.)

Arkat eventually pulled a Thanos move and retired, his work done.

The destruction of Nysalor ended the Dawn Age, making Arkat sort of responsible for starting the cycle of Ages in Glorantha’s History.

Ludo picks up the Thanos comparison and also brings up Colonel Kurtz from Apocalypse Now as another powerful archetype resembling Arkat.

Arkat, The Ultimate Minmaxer

Ludo recapitulates how Nysalor became the god of the Bright Empire, spreading a philosophy of participation and harmony, but on its fringes Arkat figured out that missionaries from the Empire were causing the problems that they professed to solve, resulting in Arkat vowing to destroy Nysalor’s Empire.

In order to do that, he initiated into a series of cults and religions.

(Ludo fails to mention his origins as a Child of the Forest, a bucolic existence in the forest like the happy end for Morag from Biturian’s travelogue, and his illumination experience there.)

Arkat was “initiated” into the Horali caste (his grandfather’s caste) on Brithos, the warrior caste of ancient Malkionism.

Then he moved on to the (Seshnegi-style) Hrestoli Man-of-All, mastering all of the Malkioni castes, and all the power, including sorcery,

Then he went on and became friendly with the Orlanthi, initiating into Orlanth, and then Humakt.

Then he needed anti-Chaos powers and became a troll (through the Ritual of Rebirth, initiating him to Kyger Litor) and joined Zorak Zoran for his final assault on Dorastor.

Arkat basically multiclassed like crazy, making him the ultimate mini-maxer in Ludo’s eyes.

Jörg counters that Arkat’s spiritual experiences resembled serial monogamy – whatever cult Arkat joined, he joined with all his being.

Ludo counter-argues that Arkat kept all the powers, and Bud claims that the reason for that was that Arkat was illuminated. Bud claims that this was due to the illuminates’ immunity to Spirits of Reprisal that would otherwise plague an apostate.

Jörg argues that the benefit of Illumination is rather a compartmentalization of the illuminate’s personality.

Bud continues that Arkat essentially ploughed roughshot over multiple cults, his aim being to accumulate as much power as he could to destroy Nysalor, and that Arkat was right, be cause he did it. (Which is questioned by Jorg.)

Bud feels that this is where Your Glorantha May Vary falls down slightly, when unlike the fluidity of the God Time, things go into the historical record.

What went on atop the Tower of Dreams? Nobody knows, nobody else was there. But everything else is part of the historical record, there are records of Arkat becoming a troll, the whole thing was written down by a troll who witnessed the event (and can be read in the Jonstown Compendium excerpt on trolls provided by the RQ3 Troll Gods box if you are lucky enough to own it).

Bud acknowledges historical bias, but unlike the Gods Age where you can see things from different perspectives – how many versions of the Lightbringers’ Quest are there? – but when it is viewing things from the historical record, that’s really all you got to go off.

Jörg claims that the thing about the Gbaji Wars was a clash of realities.

His personal pet theory is that whenever Arkat looked in the direction of Nysalor, he saw Gbaji, Whenever Nysalor looked in the direction of Arkat, he saw Gbaji, the chaotic Deceiver God.

What Nysalor did (or what actually his creators from the Second Council and Dara Happa did using the Pseudocosmic Egg) was to create a new reality where everything was bright and shiny and harmonious (at least once the dissenting voices of the Heortling Orlanthi and the trolls and dragonewts had been muted), and Arkat was born on the other side of this effect. Arkat brought his anti-Nysalor effect with him, and so realities clashed whenever the forces of Nysalor and of Arkat met.

Jörg draws a comparison to the Glowline (which separates a magical reality full of Lunar glow from the drab mundane reality outside) because the Glowline is a bit of a copy of this Bright Empire thing. (Jörg fails to mention the Young Elementals from the Seven Mothers write-up as his evidence.)

Bud demands to expand that a little more, since the Glowline is something everyone can see (at least on days of the Dark Moon when it makes a difference). Jörg mentions the Dan Barker illustration in the Guide p.724 which shows Arkat and Nysalor, with different skin tones and expressions but otherwise identical faces (or at least beard styles).

Arkat’s Multiple Initiations and Mastery of Heroquesting

Ludo explains how this series of cultic initiations let Arkat experience a lot of “safe” (re-enacted) cult heroquests and gave him a unique experience of arriving at the same God Time events from different quests (including the one where Zorak Zorani Arkat wounded Hrestoli or Horali Arkat).

Arkat was the first heroquester who voluntarily went off-script in his heroquesting, exploring the hero plane seeing connected paths and creating a map.

Arkat greatly innovated the art of heroquesting.

Jörg compares a heroquest to a medieval road map which only shows one linear journey where you reach intermediate spots where you could go elsewhere, leading to your initial target.

Arkat would have followed two (or more) separate heroquests to a Hero Plane location (a Godtime event) and he would have known where both paths leading there came from, and where he could continue from that station.

Ludo compares Arkat’s method to a hex crawl across the hero plane.

Bud offers a different term than off-script: Arkat got to go back-stage, also getting an insight how all of this worked.

Ludo brags about his ChaosiumCon playtest glimpse of the ever-upcoming heroquesting rules for RuneQuest. Bud (jokingly) rejects the notion that such a thing exists.

Ludo goes on to describe how those rules have techniques reminiscent of the sorcery techniques in RQG, techniques like Ranging. Arkat developed these techniques, and later the God Learners put names on them.

Ludo talks about the relationship between Arkati heroquesting and God Learner heroquesting.

Bud points out that a lot what the God Learners did was based on Arkat’s work anyway.

Ludo mentions Arkat’s very specific philosophy that all heroquesting was to be “with respect and humility”.

Apparently, Arkat set up a heroquesting police that was basically patrolling the hero plane and slapping the fingers of any transgressors.

Jörg and Bud point out that the Arkati presence more often manifests as stationary guardians.

Ludo goes on to compare the God Learner heroquesters with Mad Scientists (TM) who got whatever they wanted and destroyed many of the remaining Arkati stationary guardians, exploring the Hero Plane without any ethics.

Ludo imagines playing a Dark Empire heroquesting game where you are the guardians, something Jörg compares to the Time Police. Bud adds that these police would make sure that you don’t mess with reality too much, but that’s the problem. The God Learners effectively wiped these guardians out and made the hero plane their playground.

Jörg points out that when you enter the hero plane these days, you will still find the black guardians at all the major crossings, suggesting that the God Learners failed to eradicate them all.

Ludo approves of their presence for games set in the 1625 era,

Bud claims that the problem about the God Learners is that there isn’t all that much written about them. Bud wanted to do a video about them and was stopped by the scarcity of material.

Arkat Went to Hell

Probably several times, but very prominently involuntarily so when Palangio the Iron Vrok killed and dismembered him in Ralios around 418 S.T. Arkat was sent to a special Hell he could not use his heroic powers to escape from, which since has become a tradition to do to the big bad anti-illumination guy.

That Hell was supposed to be inaccessible, but an Orlanthi hero by the name of Harmast Barefoot managed to get him back.

Arkat had basically two lives. (The Xeotam Dialogue in the Sourcebook p.74 calls this state of being a Kaelith.)

Bud points out that Arkat having been dismembered is what he went on to do with Nysalor. Ludo asks whether that was petty, but Bud calls that the ultimate revenge.

Jörg brings up dismemberment as a proven method to get rid of a god – citing the dismemberment of Umath even before the discovery of Death as proof for the efficiency of the method.

Ludo philosophizes that a lot of people get dismembered in Glorantha, which Bud counters with the predilection of people to lose their left legs in (RuneQuest) Glorantha.

A Hero’s Retirement

Ludo points out that Arkat had fifty years of fighting, and then fifty years of peaceful retirement, during which he sets up the Autarchy (called Stygian Empire by its foes). He spends those years teaching his secrets and benevolently overseeing the lands without much interference.

Bud replies Ludo’s question about the fate of the Autarchy that it fell in the end, to the forces of the God Learners (during the reign of Annmak Peacemaker, in 740 S.T.)

Jörg points out that the Dark Empire was the premier Malkioni (and Orlanthi, and troll) realm in Genertela. It ruled over the entire Tanisor valley (the land ironically called Kingdom of Seshnela in the Third Age) and Safelster, with the capital Arkhome situated in Rindland, the home Duchy of Bailifes the Hammer who founded the new Kingdom of Seshnela.

Jörg nerdplains that Autarchy roughly translates from Greek as Self-Rule, and that that was what he allowed the local potentates to do, the Archons who were basically his disciples who kept oversight over some of those places.

The term Archon still is used for the rulers of Safelster, where a city-state might also be called an Archonate.

Fast-forwarding to the Now of RQG (i.e. 1625 ST), what is the legacy that Arkat left behind?

Bud quips that there is one less god. Or at least Nysalor required a lot of patching together by the Red Goddess, as Ludo points out. Which Bud compares to a jigsaw puzzle with too many parts.

Jörg puts forward that Gbaji was dismembered at the same time as Nysalor, who was cut into 49 parts which the Lunars collected. When the Lunars collected the parts, they ended up with more than 50, and they made sure that they weren’t using any portion of Gbaji when re-assembling Nysalor.

Bud asks whether the Lunars could differentiate between the portions of Nysalor and Gbaji, and Jörg suggests that the Lunars know about Chaos, so he gueses they could. They say so.

Ludo corroborates that when the Lunar propaganda says so, it is probably true. Right?

There are still followers of Black Arkat active on the hero planes, doing things to heroquesters, and (on the mundane plane) to people they suspect of Godlearnerism.

These Arkati can pop up and jinx your heroquests, or even your preparations for those.

Jörg manages to confuse Arkat’s Last Fortress near Kartolin Pass (crossing from Ralios into Dorastor) with Arkat’s Hold in Esrolia, the city at the end of the Building Wall.

Ludo points to The Smoking Ruins which has information and stats on some Black Arkati from that place.

Bud points out that Arkat was in his seventies when he became a troll. Bud ponders whether Arkat underwent the Ritual of Rebirth because trolls are longer-lived than humans.

Jörg counters that Arkat was born as a Brithini, a race that doesn’t age when they maintain their caste restrictions (something Arkat definitely did not do), and age slowly if they did.

Bud mentions the years of war wearing down on Arkat, and his unhealable wound from that heroquest. By normal standards, Arkat would have been an old man yet unable to fulfill his life quest (writing this feels strange the day after the coronation of King Charles III), although by Brithini standards he was still a young man (according to Jörg just about initiation age, really).

Another aspect of Arkat is that as an Illuminate, he should have known better than to pursue his revenge so relentlessly. When you’re illuminated, you understand that Chaos is not always bad.

Jorg interjects that that is why some people claim that Arkat became a Chaos monster in the end in order to overcome Nysalor. Bud asks for citations, Jörg points out that no witnesses survived. (This could be inferred from the upcoming five-fold return of Arkat in Safelster, in the boxed text on p.385 in the Guide to Glorantha.)

Bud reports that the argument has been made that Arkat never became a troll, casting doubt on the reliability of the troll witness of his Ritual of Rebirth. Bud admits that when Arkat returned from his fight atop the Tower of Dreams, he was no longer a troll.

Jörg brings up another pet theory of his, that Arkat might have become a Kitori shape-shifter (in addition to joining the cults of Kyger Litor and Zorak Zoran), the adoptive species imitating the Only Old One capable of taking human, troll and dehori (darkness spirit) shape.

Ludo admits that Arkat did ally with the Only Old One in the Shadowlands, and that he might have picked up a trick or two there. Which would be also more multiclassing, as Bud remarks.

Jörg points out that after the Gbaji Wars, the Kitori were collectively called Arkati by the Orlanthi (at least in History of the Heortling People p.72).

We digress about the Hillbilly nature of Orlanthi, and that an argument (which is what you get when you bring two or more Orlanthi together) might the best collective name for a bunch of Orlanthi (much like a Murder of Crows).

The Illumination Bit

Ludo steers the conversation back to illumination, pointing out that Nysalor was illuminated too. (Cart before the horse, really, as Nysalor was the source for that form of Illumination.)

Ludo is getting more vibes of Anarchy vs. Law/Order than of anti-Chaos vs. Chaos. He feels that the two enemies had opposed philosophies and politics about what to do with the continent of Genertela, with one making everything yellow and bright with great cities and laws and imposed order, and Arkat demanding that everybody should rule themselves (making him the ultimate punk).

Bud mentions his Illumination explanatory video and says that that is the argument against Illumination, and that the Red Goddess is taking the blame for adhering to a difference between Draconic and Nysalorean illumination (which is what the Red Goddess is spreading). Bud claims that when dragons become illuminated, they leave Glorantha, whereas when Nysaloreans achieve illumination, they stay around and use their power of illumination to build up more power, whereupon the universe creates an opposite power, and that where Nysalor was the action, Arkat was the reaction.

Jörg brings up the Nysalor quote “At the Edge of Light, there is always Darkness” as his reaction to learning about the spreading of the disease in Seshnela. Bud quips that that sounds like equivalent of “thoughts and prayers”.

Ludo thinks the dragons have the right idea, but Jörg cannot help to mention that the only dragon he remembers to have left the world was Obduran the Flyer, the only EWF Orlanthi who became a (full) dragon.(Details in History of the Heortling Peoples, p.44, 803 S.T,)

Back on topic, Ludo asks how to put Arkat into your RQG games.

Bud suggests that Chaosium should do an epic campaign, based on the idea that the Lunars put Nysalor back together, and then having Arkat return and deal with it.

Jörg mentions that he contributed to a game like that, the 1995 Freeform Rise of Ralios, a follow-up to Reaching Moon Megacorp’s 1994 How the West Was One, with the core idea that the five prophesied Arkats return.

Ludo asks whether that means that there were five aspects of Arkat coming back from the hero plane, like a troll Arkat etc.,

Ludo points out that when you are illuminated, Chaos is not necessarily bad, and a Chaos Monster Arkat could be useful.

Bud brings up that Arkat defeated the Crimson Bat at one point, and Jörg elaborates that it might have been called the Purple Bat before, a death demon of Rinliddi which Arkat flayed, which is how it became Crimson.

After taking a moment’s pause, Bud calls Arkat a bad-ass.

Bud asks whether there is any other hero in Gloranthan history who has accomplished what Arkat has accomplished. Jörg proposes Sheng Seleris. Bud complains that Sheng was killed, but Jörg replies that so was Arkat. We quibble about stars lost and returning.

Ludo points out that Arkat was liberated by the Lightbringers Quest, and then gives a metaplot spoiler that Argrath is expected to liberate Sheng Seleris with his Lightbringers’ Quest.

Jörg calls Argrath Arkat the Liberator. Ludo rambles on that much like Harmast being an Orlanthi hero performing a Lightbringers’ Quest liberating Arkat from Hell, Argrath is an Orlanthi hero prophesied to liberate Sheng Seleris from Hell, claiming that history repeats itself. Whether because of cycles of cosmic significance or because the designers run out of ideas Ludo doesn’t know.

Ludo points out that Arkat’s story was among the first Gloranthan pieces written by Greg, with the protagonist still called Argat, which only later morphed into Arkat, with the similarity of Argrath (both names meaning “Liberator”) intentional.

Jörg points out that Greg’s Glorantha at the time did not yet know Dragon Pass, When Greg decided to publish his Glorantha stories not as books but as a series of games, he took his character Arkat and put him in that board game called White Bear and Red Moon by a slightly different name.

Ludo stubbornly tries to steer us back towards how to use Arkat in your games.

One possibility might be the presence of pieces of Nysalor (or Gbaji) still lying around in some hiding places, as McGuffins for scenarios, claiming that Arkat might even have taken Nysalor’s own monsters and set them up as guardians of those bits.

Bud interjects that that implies that Nysalor was a thing of Chaos, and he says he wasn’t. Ludo refuses to be Deceived.

Now Bud admits that some say that it was Gbaji who walked away from the Tower of Dreams that day, but Ludo wants to delay talking about the crazy conspiracy theories a little longer.

Ludo points towards Safelster, where each city state may be the guardian of some pocket or snippet of Arkati knowledge, giving way to some sort of secret society/spy game shenanigans, whether in Safelster or carried into the Hero Wars in and around Dragon Pass.

Bud asks whether anybody knows where Arkat was buried. Jörg suggests near Arkhome, but draws a blank whether his body was buried, whether he was cremated, or whether Arkat ascended bodily. After all, Sartar did not leave a body behind, either.

Ludo suggests that he may have asked his followers do dismember his body after he left, hiding them away, and maybe that were some of the extra bits the Lunars found, so that they now have a Frankenstein Nysalor that may contain certain amounts of Arkat, making a Voltron illuminated god.

Jörg suggests that alternatively Arkat may have had a troll burial, becoming a funerary feast.

Bud ominously says “he exists within trolls” (and at least Jörg can hear the idea of hyena skins being sewn together transferred to Arkat and Mistress Race stomachs).

Ludo rambles about the fact that while Arkat ascended as a god, the God Learners installed locks that prevent people from contacting the hero in the God Plane.

Ludo correctly points out that there are still people maintaining these God Learner locks (check out the last paragraph on p.415 in the Guide, the city of Harsad near the ruins of Arkhome). This cripples all the many surviving (or resurrected) Arkati cults that claim they got Arkat’s power. Jörg points out that the greatest of the God Learners, Halwal, who had turned against his compatriots, had attempted to re-unite and return a single Arkat, and even he failed (which may be why he and his opponent Yomili ended up mutually eliminating not just themselves but many of their allies and foes, polluting the region of the Red Ruins to this day).

Ludo explains that when he gets his players into heroquesting, he plans to give them some God Learner or Arkati obstacles. Bud points out that there is supposedly a God Learner alive, as a prisoner of Ralzakark receiving daily torture.

Ludo states that whenever you see something phrased as a rumor, it will be true in somebody’s version of Glorantha.

Jörg repeats the slander that Belintar was a God Learner.

Ludo drops a spoiler for Andrew Logan Montgomery’s Company of the Dragon where your heroquesting players might come across a God Learner who got lost on the hero plane, without any idea how much Time has passed in the mundane world.

Jörg points out that Nick Brooke’s Scenario Duel at Dangerford has a Humakti guardian who might be sort of an Arkati heroquesting guard.

Bud proposes that the Arkati guardians at thresholds in the Hero Plane might not be guarding with death as the alternative. He brings up the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant as having a possible parallel to the Arkati hero plane guardians, as Guardians who aren’t there to necessarily stop you but to prevent you from stumbling into things you aren’t prepared for yet.

And then the God Learners found ways of bypassing a lot of them, which is one of the crimes they committed.

Jörg mentions that one of the guardians removed by the God Learners was a raccoon, the Raccoon Guardian of Tusunimmi Ford, causing some hilarity when telling the story and mis-attributing it (not Cults of Terror, but the Glorantha Book of the RQ3 Genertela Box and subsequently the Guide p.136). Bud’s observation that this sounds like a pipe dream might be accurate given the work environment at The Chaosium at the time this was written.

Glorantha can be more than a bit gonzo, at the same time being this down-to-earth Bronze Age fantasy thing.

Crazy Conspiracy Theories

Bud declines to be first responder to Ludo’s demand for crazy conspiracy theories.

Jörg puts forward that Argrath is Arkat the Liberator, and his Lightbringer’s Quest liberating Sheng is also a way of paying back the cosmic karma to Harmast liberating Arkat.

Ludo asks whether that means that the other four of the five returning Arkats could be player characters, and Jörg agrees. (Played and tested in the 1995 run of Rise of Ralios.)

Jörg suggests that there will be more than five such people claiming to be Arkat. All of them KNOW they are the real deal, but several will be proven to be false.

Ludo’s theory involves the motives of the Second Council awakening Nysalor – to bring Harmony between Glorantha and the Void. Arkat ruined that chance of reconciliation.

Bud asks about the runes of Nysalor. There is definitely light (fire without the dot in the center, aka a circle).

Ludo brags about his brand-new copy of the Prosopaedia for Cults of RuneQuest that he brought back from ChaosiumCon and looks it up. It is Light and Mastery, and there is neither Harmony nor Chaos nor Moon.

Ludo (jokingly?) comes to the conclusion that the Prosopaedia was written by biased people and suggests to ignore it.

Bud finally comes clear that his theory is that Arkat was defeated on the Tower of Dreams, and that Gbaji deceived everybody by pretending he was Arkat, and walking away. That would also make Gbaji the founder of the Autarchy, the Heroquesting police, etc.

One “proof” is that Arkat no longer looked like a troll when he left.

When Ludo casts doubt – after all most that Arkat did afterwards was to settle down on a farm – Jörg suggests that that’s what THEY tell you. Bringing up pluripresence, Jörg states that One of Them (Them being Arkat, or Gbaji) went to Arkhome and settled down,

Bud suggests that that would have been the ultimate deception for Gbaji the Deceiver, deception for deception’s sake, but when Jörg suggests that deceiving everybody possibly included deceiving himself, Bud thinks that is going too far.

Ludo comes forward with another theory – Arkat did win, but only because Nysalor wanted him to win, to dismember him and spread him around all over the known world. Bud objects that the Red Goddess was not illuminated by the body parts of Nysalor but by the spirit of the god in Hell.

Jörg’s suggestion that the dismemberment of Nysalor could be seen as a version of utuma is rejected by Ludo, who wants to have some clear distinction between these two ways towards enlightenment.

Jörg points out that the core point of draconic enlightenment is to make True Dragons out of neotenic dragons, and that human adaptation of that has always resulted in strange things.

Bud refers to Company of the Dragon which has Andrew Logan Montgomery’s essay on draconic illumination, with dragonewts having problems to wake up to draconic reality while dragons spend their time sleeping before finally ascending.

This segues into what kind of illumination did Arkat have.

Jörg dodges this by tracking back where Arkat supposedly received his illumination, giving the aldryami of Brithos as the source, asking what kind they would have had.

Bud goes back into the Godtime, where Rashoran (an aspect or jigsaw piece of the reconstituted Red Goddess) was the source of all illumination. Jörg claims that Rashoran was effectively Nysalor pre-born, or that Nysalor was the reincarnation of Rashoran.

We discuss Rashoran’s credentials (illuminated Chalana Arroy and Humakt, illuminated the Unholy Trio who then killed Rashoran and created the Devil) and his role in the birth of the Red Goddess.

Bud wants to argue that if Rashoran was the earlier version of the Red Goddess, then Nysalorean illumination really is Lunar illumination, whereas Jörg insists that Lunar illumination is Nysalorean illumination. Which one was first, the hen or her egg?

Jörg agrees that the Lunars say that Rashoran was an incarnation of the Red Goddess, and that we know that what the Lunars say is true. They would never deceive us.

In reaction to this riddle, Bud spurts that if the Lunars know that Chaos is not necessarily a bad thing, then it doesn’t matter if their reconstituted Nysalor contained bits of Gbaji, and that their claims of being able to discern what was what was a deception.

Jörg calls that out as vile slander, and probably true.

In this huddle of confusion, bad puns and talking nonsens, we realize that we have reached the targeted length of this episode, and give Bud another chance to promote his presence on the interwebs.

Any further shenanigans (or pre-show banter) are not subject of this transcript.


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

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

I originally posted this in the RuneQuest Facebook group, but of course I’m re-posting it here, lightly edited, for posterity.

It might sound very nerdy, but I think a lot of questions get answered by making a spreadsheet for your Glorantha setting. The first spreadsheet I made keeps track of the population in terms of cult memberships, villages and farms, spirit societies, and so on. You can make it as part of your campaign preparation, or you can grow it as you make stuff up for your game.

Over time, my spreadsheet grew beyond what would be considered “sane”, and nowadays I don’t even understand what’s going on in there (see above), but it was extremely useful.

This exercise really helped me realize a few things. For instance, you very easily “run out” of initiates for any given cult once you’ve allocated 2/3rds of your adults to Orlanth and Ernalda. There can be a certain amount of multi-initiation, of course, but in my Glorantha that’s quite uncommon. Allocating these numbers at the clan, tribe, and tribal confederation levels quickly shows you what kinds of shrines and temples you can and cannot have (based on the minimum number of worshippers from the rulebook). A clan can only support a temple to Orlanth and Ernalda, maybe one patron deity temple or shrine, and not much else. A lot of things will go up to the tribal or city level, where worshippers from many surrounding clans can gather and make a shrine (or more) viable. These are your minor cults (Babeester Gor, Chalana Arroy, whatever) whose members therefore live in the city and work for all the tribes, instead of being each “stuck” in their clan with only a handful of co-initiates and no good cult infrastructure. And even then you’ll often realize that some cults don’t even fit in your tribal confederation, and that’s when you’ll have PCs and NPCs travelling to another city for important worship and festivals and services.

This is similar to, say, the difference between the local countryside doctor, the specialist in the nearby town, and the hospital in the nearest city. Or the difference between your municipal police, state law enforcement, and federal agencies. Humakt is like the FBI, Storm Bull like the ATF, etc. The municipal police (Orlanth Adventurous clan warrior) is supported/complemented by the state (Orlanth Adventurous warrior from the tribal king’s retinue) You get the idea. In the amazing TV series Justified, Raylan Givens is a gender-switched Babeester Gor (US Marshall) who comes from the Harlan clan but now works at the Lexington city temple for the entire confederation… although of course he needs to constantly go back to where he grew up and deal with that drama.

This really helped me get a grasp on Orlanthi life.

Of note for the grognards among you, this is why all the little nitpicky cults from the old HeroWars books aren’t sustainable. They cannot logically be separate cults/subcults, there’s just not enough people. The spreadsheet immediately shows that.

But they can be used as narrative flavour for what happens inside a temple. These names and elements of lore can refer to cult heroes and cult spirits that are part of the main cult. They can be used to describe different “specialties” within this main cult. So you might have different types of Orlanthi cultists in the same way that you have different FBI agents. Data analysts, communications experts, and field investigators are very different, but they’re all FBI agents who work at the FBI office. You can use the obscure HeroWars names to describe different specialties within the Orlanth cult, but they’re still all Orlanthi cultists who worship at the Orlanth temple.

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

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

God Learner Sorcery

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

Glorantha Initiation: Michael, Gloranthan Fiction, and Not Worrying About It

In our newest Glorantha Initiation episode, Ludo talks to Michael, who came out of the “deep freeze” with RuneQuest! We chat about old games, Prax, Gloranthan fiction, dealing with large amounts of lore, and not worrying too much about it.

ChaosiumCon 2023 Report

It’s April 2023, the Covid pandemic is still going, airline companies still suck, and the US is an increasingly dystopian place. So what can possibly make me take a flight to the US and spend time at some crowded indoors event? Well, it’s ChaosiumCon of course!

Here’s my report of what happened this year at the convention, I hope you like it.

Did you attend the convention and write about it? Send me your link and I’ll advertise it!

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!

Caravan Alley

© 2022 JK Revell & Chaosium Inc.

JK Revell continues his series of Praxian supplements with Caravan Alley, which focuses on the main trade route between Prax and Sartar. Just like the previous Day’s Rest, Caravan Alley is a medium-sized “mini-sandbox setting” that describes Praxian oases with NPCs, adventure seeds, and more. But unlike Day’s Rest single oasis, this one describes two oases: the Humakti dueling ground of Tourney Altar, and the fungus-riddled marshland of Biggle Stone!

Gloranthan Maps: Quivin Mountains, Heortland, and Skyfall Lake

Mikael Mansen is back with three maps: the Quivin Mountains, Heortland, and Skyfall Lake. Not much to mention except that it’s the usual quality and style that you’ve seen with Mikael’s many other cartographic offerings. I just wish there were more variety… for instance the Vale Of Flowers could have benefited from some unique colours and patterns?

Anyway, note that Skyfall Lake and Quivin Mountains get a bonus “winter layer” with a snow-covered style.

Coming Soon: The Queen’s Star

Austin Conrad, the author of (among other things) the Monster of the Month series, is teasing “The Queen’s Star”:

© 2022 Akhelas & Chaosium Inc.

A dream comes in the night. The shade of Kallyr Starbrow—once Prince of Sartar—asks the adventurers to be her hands in the Middle World. One of the noble Star Captains has gone missing…

This new site-based adventure for RuneQuest invites the adventurers to travel to the Cinder Pits in the heart of Sartar to discover the fate of a star who fell from the Sky. It’ll be around 30 pages.

This should be released in a month or two.

Interview with Nick Brooke in Never Mind The Dice Rolls

© 2022 Never Mind the Dice Rolls

Tangentially related to the Jonstown Compendium is this interview of Nick Brooke, in his capacity as Chaosium’s community content embassador, in the RPG magazine “Never Mind the Dice Rolls“.

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.

Celestial Gods Known by the Theyalans

The “ordinary Orlanth or Ernalda cultist” would know several “major celestial gods”, even though they don’t necessarily belong to the classic Theyalan pantheon, and even though they don’t necessarily find all of them important.

Jeff lists the following deities. I’m going to add a bit of information for those that I don’t know much about (which means maybe some of you don’t either):

  • Yelm is the sun god, and patron god of many Pelorians and Grazelanders.
  • Yelmalio is the part of Yelm that survived in the Great Darkness, brought light to many human, elf, and other communities. He is “easier to approach than Yelm”.
  • Dayzatar is god of the “Sky itself”… he’s obsessed with purity and detachment from material considerations.
  • Ourania is Dayzatar’s daughter, and Queen of the Heavens. She acts as Dayzatar’s voice (he’s not going to lower himself to, like, speak, right?) among other intermediary roles. Jeff also mentions the Celestial Chorus that Ourania leads. As far as I can tell, it’s a sort of choir that sings messages from Dayzatar to his followers. They have “angelic voices” and are called many names, like “Music of the Spheres“.
  • Polestar is the leader of the sky army, I guess. Or chief bodyguard of celestial gods. Kallyr Starbrow got the eponymous star gem stuck to her forehead from this guy.
  • Lokarnos is a “planetary god” (a planet instead of a star… so I guess you can land on them?) He invented the wheel, the wagon, counting, keeping time, and a few other super useful things for Yelm. He’s a Pelorian god of trade and travel, a bit like Issaries (I’m not sure if they’re friendly or not, though) If you check out the Red Book of Magic, you’ll see a couple of his spells, like “Coin Wheel” to… err, mint a Wheel coin from a block of gold, and “Hie Wagon”, which… err… makes wagons go faster? Yeah I know it doesn’t sound super amazing but I guess thoese are useful. Useful at least for teaching me the word “hie”!
  • Tolat is a war god who also is (or lives on) a red planet. Huh huh. I see what you did there, Greg. Tolat, aka Shargash, is a popular war god worshipped all around Glorantha. He’s a son of the Sun and the Night, and was born in the Underworld. He’s bad ass, has a big red sword, and he kicked Orlanth’s and Humakt’s butt a couple times.
  • Artia is the “Bat Goddess”. There are even Bat Hsunshen in Pamaltela who worship her as an ancestress. Bat people! Can you believe it? And since she’s a planetary goddess, you can point to her and say “Look! The bat signal!”
  • Moskalf is another planet, known as Entekos in Peloria. She’s the goddess of the calm, breezy summer air. She tells her brother Orlanth to take a chill pill and let the sun shine.
  • The Twinstars are weird: their associated deities allied with the Red Goddess in 1275 when some Imtherian hero named Jannisor almost sacked and destroyed Glamour. Part of his army was made of large number of Sable Riders. These people were somehow linked to the Twinstars, and whatever heroquesting shenanigans the Lunars did there helped “reveal” the association between the Sable Antelopes and the Red Moon. So the Sable Riders betrayed Jannisor and saved Glamour. Yay! If this all sounds super shady, it’s probably because it is. Anyway, these two planets change colours based on the Red Moon’s phase, a bit like Lunar traffic lights or something. Fun stuff.
  • Annilla is the goddess of the Blue Moon, responsible for the tides. She’s also good at hiding. Some trolls like her a lot.
  • And finally, the Red Moon of course. Not everybody likes her, but nobody can deny she’s there.

Air Gods Known by the Lunars

Okay let’s look in the mirror and see what air gods are known in the Lunar Heartland:

  • Orlanth, obviously. He’s big, he’s loud, he killed the sun god, fucked everyone with the Great Darkness, and then when he tried to fix his fuck-up he totally made it all about himself. What a jackass. Jeff adds this Lunar perspective: “Orlanth rejects Yelm’s authority and so the Red Goddess contends with him over the Middle Air, and many believe that if she succeeds, a new Golden Age will begin.
  • Valind is the god of the freezing winter cold. In theory, the Lunar Heartlands are far enough north that they should have very cold winters, with plenty of snow and ice, what with Valind’s Glacier nearby and all that. But Jeff mentions the Kalikos Expedition, which prevents this, or at least mitigates it. This expedition was originally setup by Emperor Reclusus in 1593. It’s an annual heroquest during which the best Lunar magicians and warriors go to the edge of the world to strengthen one of the four pillars that holds up the sky. Somehow that makes winters milder in Peloria? Go figure. It’s magic. Note that during the Hero Wars, Argrath also heroquests and fucks up the Kalikos Expedition to bring environmental warfare to the Lunar Empire. Because obviously that’s what heroes do.
  • We’ve already mentioned Entekos in the previous section.
  • Humakt is not really an air god but I guess he’s closely associated with them. “He is the Carmanian War God and is still worshiped there and in the Lunar Provinces. He was defeated by Yanafal Tarnils, who is the Lunar War God.
  • Storm Bull you also should know already. “He was the patron god of the awful Bull Shahs (and still worshiped by some Carmanians), and is worshiped by the hill tribes of Brolia and Talastar.

The Lunar Empire Armies

This follow-up note is about the war gods of the Lunar Empire. As expected it’s a lot of Yanafal Tarnils, Polaris, and Humakt, but also Shargash (which we just learned about above) and a guy called Avivorus, which I didn’t know before. He’s the “sun spear god”.

What’s interesting in this note is the break down of who worships who, between normal soldiers and ranking officers, and between different provinces compared to the heartland.

If you want to know more about the army, be sure to also check out this note on the military might of the Lunar Empire in 1625. The note compares the imperial armies to the other big powers of the time: the Kingdom of War, the Voor-Ash Pentans, Kralorela, Seshnela, and Loskalm. Sartar “barely even rates” at this point, but of course this will change.

There’s a lot of interesting observations in these two notes so I highly recommend reading them!

Thoughts on Gloranthan Religion

Jeff gets philosophical about Gloranthan gods and their worshippers.

Because the gods are powerful, but not all-powerful or all-knowing, the question of theodicy that so often consumes moderns just doesn’t show up. Ever seen a tornado close up? That’s divine power. Is it good or is it evil? It simply IS – a part of the cosmos. In Glorantha I can wield some of that divine power by initiating to the cult of Orlanth.

I was listening to a podcast about ancient Greece recently and this was a point that a guest historian was trying to make: that ancient Greeks did not really care much about whether this or that god was “good”. None of the Greek gods were “good”. Many of these gods were straight-up horrible people, and all made at least a few notable mistakes. The Greeks were aware of this, and did not hold up any of these gods on a pedestal…. well, ok, they did. They did build plenty of god statues on top of temples and so on, but I didn’t mean a literal pedestal, I meant a figurative pedestal. This wasn’t at all like modern religions that try to sell their god as being a perfect role model.

The Greeks, and virtually all polytheist cultures from the Stone Age to the Iron Age, only cared about gods that were somehow useful. Useful for everyday life, for work, for war, for love, and so on. In Glorantha, they are obviously useful since they let you wield their magic.

For those of you who keep referring to old HeroWars content (you know who you are!), Jeff also has some explanations:

Thunder Rebels really missed the point here – and Greg and I made the decision not to update it for HQ because we both agreed it really didn’t describe the Orlanthi religion in Dragon Pass. If it describes anything, it is the henotheism of the Chariot of Lightning movement in Ralios, where Orlanth is worshiped as the supreme god (instead of just “king of the gods”). But that is a topic for another thread.

Rule of Thumb for Rune Level Demographics

I’ve always hovered around 1% of a cult’s population at Rune levels (Rune Priest, Rune Lord, etc) but it looks like Jeff goes a bit higher than that for many cults:

[1% is] a little less than my usual rule of thumb. Most all adults are initiates, regardless of culture, and around 2% of initiates are Rune levels. So we’ve got about 1.2 million Lunar initiates (all cults) in the Heartlands, around 20-24,000 Rune levels, with around 10,000 Red Goddess initiates at max.

These are not hard numbers of course. Thanks to war, pressure, desperation, or whatever, with some cults the number might be over 2% and in others it might be closer to 1%.

So Sartar we have 34,000 initiates of Orlanth, but might have somewhere around a 1000 rune levels.

This is something you can keep in mind when doing some world-building for your campaign.

A Reminder About the Stafford Library

© 2022 Chaosium Inc.

Gloranthaphiles with too much free time often dig into the Stafford library books a bit too much, so Jeff sets the record straight about some of them:

The Heortling Mythology book was never intended to be canon. It just started from a desire that Greg had to have all the stories that appeared in various books in one place. He then added a bunch of additional stories, I added some more. It was a rough draft and notebook for what would eventually become Belintar’s book (which ultimately formed the basis of the Cults series). I proposed that we publish the book as a way of getting some revenue; Greg was ambivalent at best (just as he was about Arcane Lore) but went along with it. On retrospect, Greg’s ambivalence was well warranted.

Miscellaneous Notes

  • Gloranthan events in a historical context: this is another occurrence of Jeff putting Gloranthan and Earth history side by side to remind people that a lot of stuff happened “a long time ago” as far as adventurers and NPCs are concerned.
  • These photos of the Colorado History Center can help add a little bit of Western Native American flavour to your Glorantha. Plus, Jeff reminds people of the value of using multiple different real-Earth cultures to inform your world-building: “So for example, the Orlanthi concept of sex and gender is inspired by the Bugis people of Indonesia.

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.

Austin Conrad Reviews Duckpac

© 2022 Legion Games & Chaosium Inc.

Well, yes… what it says in the title.

In 1982 Chaosium published the innovative species-specific “splatbook” Trollpak. This boxed set detailed the culture, religion, history, and society of the Uz—called trolls by humans—thereby fleshing this species out as a player option, rather than a statblock. It seems rather fitting that a nice, round forty years later indie publisher Legion Games began to release their homage: Duckpac.

If you’re duck-curious, check it out and hopefully it will help you make up your mind before buying! Austin tells you about all the bits he likes, and the few bits he doesn’t. Not much, as you can tell by some of his conclusions:

Duckpac attempts to bring ducks to your RuneQuest table as a fully detailed species for players, and it succeeds admirably. […] In my mind, this is yet another book which is absolutely not “just” a fan publication. Rather, I would call Duckpac another indicator that the Jonstown Compendium is maturing into a full “indie” or “third-party” publishing platform for RuneQuest.

There is also some advice on which print-on-demand version to get (premium or standard), if you’re planning on getting a dead-tree version.

Lee’s RuneQuest Playlist

Lee O’Connor (which we interviewed on the podacast) has shared this Spotify playlist of music suitable for playing during Runequest Glorantha games!

Of course, everybody has different musical tastes, different visions of Glorantha, and different needs for background music… but hey, a playlist to start from is better than nothing to start from, right? Expect plenty of video game, TV, and movie soundtracks in this one, plus a few deep cuts of scandinavian folk music and australian gothic avant-garde dark wave ambient err something. There’s even some Philippe Glass!

Brace yourselves: there’s almost a thousand songs in there, enough for more than 24 hours of uninterrupted play!

Thank you for reading

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

As I write this it’s late April 2023, the Covid pandemic is still going on even though most people pretend it’s over, airline companies are still cutting costs by reducing leg space centimetre by centimetre, and the United States is an increasingly dystopian and depressing place. So what can possibly make me take a flight to the US and spend time at some crowded indoors event? Well, it’s ChaosiumCon of course!

Don’t Go To The Basement

A couple weeks ago was indeed the second iteration of Chaosium’s own convention, held in Ypsilanti, Michigan, near Chaosium’s Ann Harbor HQ. And by “HQ” I mostly mean Rick Meints’ house, I guess.

All packed up for gaming, I flew from Vancouver to Toronto, followed by a short flight from Toronto to Detroit… that second plane led me to the bowels of the Toronto airport, and at some point I wondered if I would step into some sort of urban portal fantasy…

Unlike last year, I didn’t stay at the Marriott hotel, where the convention is held. I was instead hanging out with my friends from the Sons Of The Singularity, at some Vrbo house that they rented for the occasion.

Sons Of The Singularity, or SOS for short (I’m not sure what happened to the “T”) are fairly well known in the Call of Cthulhu community for producing well researched historical campaign and setting books such as The Sassoon Files (horror in 1920s Shanghai!) or Journal d’Indochine (horror in French colonial Vietnam!) I wrote a scenario for the latter (look for it in Journal d’Indochine Volume 2, it’s called “The Parchments of Tam”) and did a few maps and illustrations. Their current project is the currently crowdfunding Blessed And The Blasphemous, set in North Africa shortly before the Second World War… think Casablanca, but with some Mythos in it. And they also recently released Between The Devil And The Deep, a GUMSHOE-based supernatural pirate roleplaying game.

Photo by Jason Sheets. Yes, I’m the weirdo on the left!

Anyway, we had this very nice house located in a rather, ahem, picturesque neighbourhood, complete with run down houses, roaming pitbulls, chain link fenced backyards, and leftover Republican election signs. High five to the person on the next block with a US flag featuring the slogan “kneel for the cross, stand for the flag“. When you also consider that our house had a weirdly empty and possibly recently painted basement floor, whose door had a lock on the outside (the kitchen), we were getting some strong Barbarian vibes, here.

Of course, for a while we were thinking of playing a Call of Cthulhu game in the basement.

Last year I was happy to have hung out extensively with the Gloranthan crowd, but I was also a bit sad I didn’t get to spend much time with the other part of the Chaosium fandom. This year I managed to spend more time crossing these boundaries, especially while hanging out with the SOS guys, but of course now I’m sad I didn’t get to chat with fellow Gloranthan nerds for very long. Oh well.

Thursday Meetup

This year’s convention was a day longer and started on Thursday. I wasn’t registered for any games since I landed in Detroit in late afternoon, so I went straight to the “social mixer”. Last year was a proper banquet with seats around tables and all that. This year was more of a buffet with standing tables, allowing more mobility between people during the evening.

As always, this social mixer is good to catch up with people you’ve met last year, and to put a face on those you’ve only ever talked online with. The highlight of that evening was probably getting a great rib-crushing hug from Bridgett (whom we interviewed once), one of Chaosium’s community ambassadors. I’m sure that’s the only kind of hugs she gives.

While the vendor hall was getting setup, I got to say a quick hello to Dustin, the ever-so-nice customer service guy for Chaosium. I hope everybody was nice to him too!

The hall had the usual things: a sizable booth for Chaosium themselves, another sizable one for Petersen Games, and a few other stands for various other third party publishers. Once the hall opened for business, it looked more like this:

There were many good things to be had, from fancy HPLHS prop sets to print copies of things like Bayt Al Azif, and more! I know what you’re going to ask and yes, the Prosopaedia was indeed on sale, along with the Meints Index to Glorantha and Rivers of London:

You could also, if you were lucky, dig through a Pendragon 6th edition Starter Set boxed set, but these were only sample copies or contributor copies. It wasn’t on sale yet, but the fact they’re printed means it should happen soon! And yes, it looks gorgeous!


The next day started with me being on a panel alongside Jeff Richard to get people to “stop worrying and make Glorantha theirs“. But there weren’t many people in the room, probably for two reasons: first, most panels scheduled at the same time as game slots were poorly attended in general (compared to panels scheduled at other times), and second, anybody attending a Glorantha panel at ChaosiumCon is bound to be well versed already in Glorantha anyway! But we did rant about varying Gloranthas, RuneQuest house rules, and more. I don’t know if it was useful for anybody, but it happened.

There was also Rick Meints’ usual “All Manner of Chaos” panel, in which he talks about the history of Chaosium through anecdotes and trivia, in his signature friendly and affable tone. Some of the stories had already been told last year, and some were new. It all depends on what questions the audience asks, so if you ever attend one of Rick’s panels, don’t hesitate to speak up!

In the afternoon was my RuneQuest game, “The Bloody Banquet“. I had run this last year already, but I slightly tweaked it to improve the finale. Here’s the game blurb to save you a click:

You are Telmori Wolfbrothers, from the fierce tribe of werewolves who live at the edge of Sartar. You have a strained relationship with the other tribes of the Kingdom, but the Dragonrise ushered a time of turmoil that you can use to your advantage. Your tribe wants to take back the hunting lands they lost to both Lunars and Sartarites over the past couple generations, and that requires negotiating with the neighbours. The problem is: you were invited to a banquet and you blacked-out. Now, you’re waking up, covered in blood, surrounded by corpses. What happened? How are you going to fix this? What are you going to do?

I think it went well? I don’t know, you’ll have to ask my players! I will probably release the adventure on the Jonstown Compendium in the distant future, since it’s almost all written up by now.

As always, I had some cheat sheets and references in case there were any newbies, but of course everybody was already a RuneQuest and Glorantha expert… so much, in fact, that we ended the game more than 30min ahead of schedule, since we spent zero time explaining the setting or the rules.

That evening was a 13th Age: Glorantha game by Evan Franke, the co-host of the Exploring Glorantha series. We got to play trollball with D20s!


Saturday morning was fairly open so I looked for games with open spots at the last minute. I could have gone to some of the RuneQuest seminars, such as the one on the upcoming Cults of RuneQuest books, but like I said I wanted to meet more of the Call of Cthulhu crowd. So if there was a scoop to be had during those panels, I didn’t get them! What are you reading this blog for again?

I ended up in an absolutely great game of Call of Cthulhu, as we played through Paul Fricker’s My Little Sister Wants You To Suffer. It was a lot of fun and… well I won’t say anything to spoil the scenario but I won! Yes, it’s an adventure in which you can “win”. For a certain definition of “win”… I’ve already said too much!

Around lunch time there was an announcement from Sandy Petersen that he’s writing some Call of Cthulhu material again, including a Cthulhu-focused campaign. I didn’t stick around and instead had a lovely hour playing a very short demo game of Rivers of London with Lynne Hardy.

I really like how the BRP system (which, you might well know by now, I’m not a big fan of) has been really streamlined to an almost minimalistic level. It’s even simpler than Call of Cthulhu 7th edition. Of course, it was a short teaser adventure that is meant to leave you hungry for more, and it succeeded on that front.

Having some spare time before the next thing, I visited some more vendor tables. One of them was a demo of “Elder” the AI-driven VTT assistant for Call of Cthulhu, which Chaosium announced just after the convention:

It was pretty good, and you can definitely see how ChatGPT-like software can help run games… you could ask it for stats of Mythos monsters, rules clarifications, random afflictions for bouts of madness, and even descriptions of creepy locales.

There was also someone from Aetherworks showcasing some upcoming RuneQuest miniatures. They are really gorgeous plastic miniatures, with nice fine detailing. They are planning a Kickstarter for them, with the first offering being miniatures of the Starter Set pre-generated characters. The plan is to also have some variant miniatures for mounted/on foot versions, and to soon go into monsters and other NPC miniatures.

Last but not least was the lovely Katrin Dirim, who was on the podcast once (but we’re hoping to get her on air again!) She was selling prints of her equally lovely art. I got a few of them, as my luggage allowed!

The main event of the afternoon was of course the Chaosium auction, in which Rick Meints and Mike Mason expertly presented various near-mint items from Chaosium’s warehouse with funny anecdotes and personal stories.

Like last year, a few “professional collectors” were in attendance, decidedly snagging many items at outrageous prices. After all, these items were in much better shape than anything you can find on the second hand market, including some shrink-wrapped items. If you just want a reader’s copy, you might not need to pay the premium of a near-mint condition at Chaosium’s auction… still, the presence of these wealthy bidders was, at best, controversial among the rest of the crowd. I had spoken to one of those collectors at Thursday’s mixer, so I knew what their motivations were, but I also understand the frustration of those who can’t get any of the items on their wishlist.

I still managed to snag a few things, including a copy of the much reviled RQ3 Eldarad: The Lost City. Many people asked me if it came with a lighter… if you don’t get the joke, email me! But no, it did not.

The auction ran late which pushed my second panel a bit, as it was hosted in the same room. This was the Podcasting 101 panel, which featured Seth Skorkowsky, Arthur Rothfuss, Mike Diamond, and… errr, me. Mike recorded it for The Old Ways Podcast so you can watch us here:

All these people have much better and popular podcasts than our little humble God Learners podcast here, so I’m not sure if any of my contributions to the discussion were of any help to the people in the audience wanting to start their own podcast? I have frankly no idea what I’m doing most of the time, but it still more or less works out so I guess that was my main point: don’t worry about it, and don’t let it become a source of stress or hurdle.

It was a busy day so I only have a quick stop to see Nick and Bridgett selling Jonstown Compendium POD books. I’m told they did sell quite well! Plus, Nick and Bridgett really know how to celebrate other people’s work, the mood was very positive and supportive around the creator community. Even my SOS friends noted how little ego there was to be seen anywhere.

In the evening I played a game of Pendragon with Bryon Ross (who makes a lot of RuneQuest reviews and commentary on YouTube, some of which we linked to from our weekly newsletter). It didn’t start well: we almost had a TPK during the first encounter! Luckily, things went better after that and, although my knight died heroically fighting an ogre, the party managed to complete all the quests.

Disclaimer: my knight might not have actually “died heroically”. He might have died after taking a bench to the head while trying to cowardly sneak out of a castle. But the tales will totally say he died heroically!

The rest of evening was spent hanging out with many people from various crowds: Gloranthan nerds, 7th Sea cosplayers, Call of Cthulhu gamers, and many other random people. Like I said, I ended up not chatting that much about Glorantha, which was a bit sad, but then again I also got to meet more varied people and talk about more varied things, which is good!


On Sunday I only had time for one game before heading out to the airport, and luckily I got a spot in a 7th Sea game that proved to be totally awesome. I believe that we even completely sidestepped the adventure, and the gamemaster ended up improvising half of it.

We fought thugs, met a ghost, broke a nun-fighting ring (yes), got swallowed by a giant sea serpent, and more!

After that I hung out in the lobby with a few cool people for an hour or so, and headed out to the airport for the long way home.

Loot And Achievements

I came out of ChaosiumCon with some cool loot, a mix of new books and auction items plus a few extras, like some prints of Katrin’s art, or a copy of Khan of Khans, a super great Gloranthan board game that Chaosium is getting rid of for free since their licensing agreement with the designer expired:

Second, I’m happy to have completed the achievement of playing every single currently published Chaosium game in one week-end: RuneQuest, Call of Cthulhu, Pendragon, Rivers of London, and 7th Sea. 13th Age was a bonus.

Oh and if you want to nitpick this and say that, I don’t know, Superworld is still officially published, I’m going to say…. “LA LA LA LA LA I CAN’T HEAR YOU“. Come on. I did it. Let me have this.

Finally, after much flying and waiting around in airports, I was greeted with the familiar Pacific Northwest native art of the Vancouver airport… I was home! And now you’re done with this report! As the saying goes: “sorry, I didn’t have time to make it shorter“.

If you want some better and shorter reports of the convention, check out:

Hopefully, see y’all next year!

After a hiatus last month we are back with another Glorantha Initiation episode in which we interview a newcomer to the tribe. This time, Ludo is by himself due to some scheduling issue with Joerg (it was Ludo’s fault), interviewing Michael Bernth.

Michael lives in Europe’s first… no, second (probably?) happiest country. He is a multi-skilled designer (among other things) so if you’re working on a Jonstown Compendium book, he might be able to help with some InDesign layout work!

Show Notes

In this episode we talk about:

  • Miniatures of the 1980s
  • Comics like Conan the Barbarian (Barry Windsor-Smith’s run) or Prince Valiant
  • Ivanhoe (1952)
  • D&D Basic and Expert, followed by Advanced D&D
  • Going bananas with RPGs: Traveller, Bushido, Golden Heroes, Rolemaster, and more
  • Games Workshop’s RuneQuest and Broos miniatures
  • Call of Cthulhu, Cyberpunk, GURPS, Delta Green
  • Avalon Hill RuneQuest, Sun County, River of Cradles
  • The Grognard Files podcast and coming out of the “deep freeze”
  • Jonstown Compendium, and in particular the Sandheart series
  • Playing in Prax
  • Not throwing too much at the players
  • How to put all the lore and metaplot events in the game
  • Dealing with the metaplot the same way you treat real history in Call of Cthulhu adventures
  • Not being so precious about the lore
  • Lots of gold lying around in the Glorantha materials… pick it up and do what you want with it
  • Playing with new fantasy tropes, different from the usual Tolkienesque stereotypes
  • Playing with rich cultures, mythology, and cults
  • Glorantha is not about good vs evil or even order vs chaos
  • Chaos is great, it can add a touch of horror in your fantasy game
  • Where to start? Are there actually too many places to start?
  • Lack of knowledge to “hang yourself onto”
  • Broos are problematic, Morokanths may need tweaking
  • Handwaving rules like ENC, varying crunch based on the story
  • Spirit combat easily gets into a dealock, possession can lead to player agency issues, shamanism and sorcery rules are complicated, and… how does heroquesting even work?
  • The rulebook has many editing issues, and its index could be improved
  • Wishing for spell cards, god cards, and a Gloranthan tarot deck. But overall, wishing for Gloranthan novels and short story collections
  • Romulus TV show

…and more!


The intro music is “Dancing Tiger” by Damscray. The outro music is “Islam Dream” by Serge Quadrado. Other audio is from the FreeSound library.

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 was a pretty quiet week. I’m still catching up from all the stuff I missed while I was at ChaosiumCon, and there was also a confluence of other unrelated things (such as playing a live gig with my band last Saturday, which feels good after several years of, well, not playing live gigs…)

Chaosium News

Here are this week’s Chaosium news!


James Coquillat (which we interviewed on the podcast!) talks to Jeff Richard about heroquesting, that elusive activity that is so important to Glorantha and yet isn’t really explained in the rulebook. Well, you know how the joke goes… (if you don’t, send me a message!)

The two main elements of a heroquest outlined by Jeff are a good start:

  1. It sends the PCs into the world of myths, where gods live and weird shit happens. Someone turns into a swan to have sex with a princess and together they have kids. That same someone gives birth to a fully armed and adult daughter which comes out of its head. Time jumps around as needed, space is malleable, causality is optional. That kind of shit.
  2. It lets PCs come back with powerful, non-rules-approved powers and magic items. And curses, too, if you mess up.

One element that seems to vary from table to table are the laws of heroquesting, that is: what’s possible and not possible to do via heroquesting.

This is a bit like, say, time travel. The first thing to know about time travel is “what are the laws of time travel in this game/story/etc?” Does time travel create parallel timelines, or is there only one timeline that keeps changing? If the former, can you jump to these parallel timelines or does your time travelling contraption lock you to a single timeline? Do small changes to the timeline tend to fix themselves through equivalent events, or do small changes to the timeline tend to snowball into a giant mess? Do paradoxes resolve themselves by erasing people out of existence, or do they completely break the space-time continuum? And so on.

There are equivalent questions to ask about heroquesting, and I get the feeling that different gaming groups handle it differently. How separate is the God Plane from the Mortal Plane? That is, can you change things in the normal world by changing things in the myths, or can you only bring back magical powers from the myths, which are then used to change things in the normal world? If the former, how hard is it to change the myths? We’ve got precedents like the God Learners’ “goddess switch” (in which they switched two goddess as objects of worship to see what would happen) or Prince Snodal’s murder of the God of the Silver Feet (which started the syndics’ ban, effectively a magical fog that prevented all travel and communication around that part of Glorantha). How much magic would your players need to throw that kind of shenanigan, is it a dozen Rune Points and a few good rolls away, or does it require thousands of followers and as many magic points?

You get the idea. And this in turn affects whatever house rules you might be using… at least until the official ones arrive.

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.

Late Stages of the Hero Wars

Jeff looks down the Gloranthan metaplot, all the way to 1639-1648, almost 20 years after the “starting time” of RuneQuest Glorantha:

One of the most interesting periods of the Hero Wars is the Lunar decade of 1639-1648. A new mask, Invictus, becomes emperor after the set backs and defeats of Argenteus, Kazkurtum, and Renovus, and rapidly rebuilds the empire. Like Khosrow II or Ashurbanipal, brought the Lunar Empire to its greatest height in 1645 before presiding over its collapse in 1646-1648.

Argenteus is the “current” Red Emperor (in the RuneQuest Glorantha timeline of 1625), but I have no idea when or how, in the Hero Wars, he’s supposed to die. He’s apparently succeeded by the several people name-dropped by Jeff here but I can’t find any references to them in my PDFs. If you’re shrugging, know that I’m shrugging too.

I can however save you a few clicks with a brief explanation of who Khosrow II and Ashubanipal are.

  • Khosrow II was the last great king of the Sassanid Empire, a 3rd-to-7th century CE empire that encompassed modern day Iran plus a few other territories. If you reach for “ancient Persians” tropes, there’s a good chance it’s them.
  • Ashubarnipal was much earlier. He was the last great king of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, a 10th-to-7th century BCE revival of the older Assyrian Empire. That empire had declined and withered (especially with the Late Bronze Age Collapse), but the Neo-Assyrian kings succeeded with redevelopment and reconquest for a while.

Invictus ends up being completely destroyed by Sheng Seleris. The whole 1645-1655 period is one like the Twilight Period in the GPC.

By “GPC” here Jeff refers to the Great Pendragon Campaign, with its “Twilight Period” starting 48 years into King Arthur’s reign. All magic is going away, or is already gone, from the realm. All remaining major NPCs die or disappear, it’s the dramatic end to the Arthurian saga. Just watch Excalibur again, I guess.

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 Gets an English Translation

© 2023 Uzz & Chaosium Inc.

We had already mentioned the free Gloranthan game system “Coeur de Runes” (and again here), which comes from the French side of the Gloranthan community. Its author Uzz has now done a first draft for an English translation of the rules.

You can get the PDF over here and send any corrections, feedback, and/or praise over here. You can also find Uzz on most of the Gloranthan Discord servers. If all else fails, send it to me and I’ll relay the message!

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.

A Malagasy Eurmali Tale

While listening to the latest season of the History of Africa Podcast, I rushed to my notebook to write down this tale of Malagasy mythology/history that can perfectly double as an Eurmali heroquesting power: a mighty rotten egg!

Creative Commons image

Okay so first let’s set the stage: we’re on Madagascar in the late 1500s, in the central highlands of the Kingdom of Imerina. Look for the “Merina” ethnic group in the map above to get a rough idea where there were.

The Kingdom was still pretty new at this time, having been founded in 1540, so its second monarch, Ralambo, needed a great idea to secure his legitimacy to the throne. Malagasy people at the time had magical amulets called “ody”. These were common and everybody had them, since they provided useful protection or blessings for every day life. Think utility Spirit Magic foci. But Ralambo came out and said “oh yeah you have some cool ody, but me? I’ve got some sampy“. These sampy are basically exactly like ody, but they’re super more powerful. They have magical powers that can affect an entire village or even, hey, guess what, an entire kingdom. And the king has them. What do sampy look like? Exactly like ody. But the king knows the difference, trust him.

Check out some ody and sampy:

So King Ralambo gets twelve super sampy (I’m sure the PCs in your Madagascar game were tasked to retrieve them, that was the whole premise of the campaign!) and gets them to be worshipped almost as individual guardian spirits of the community. These items would, under careful study by chosen adepts, “reveal” secrets that the King and his buddies could use to great effect. Think heroquesting powers provided by wyters, or something.

According to “oral history” (which very often steps into “complete myths”) one of the first sampy was called Kelimalaza. When some warriors from the nearby Sakalava tribes planned an attack on an Imerina village, King Ralambo said it would be easy to win the battle. He would simply throw a rotten egg at the coming army and Kelimalaza’s powers would do the rest.

Lo and behold, Ralambo throws a rotten egg at the one of the Sakalava warriors and magic happens! The warrior and his two buddies on either side step back to avoid the stinky projectile. Doing so, they impales themselves on the weapons of the second rank of soldiers. Those, and the soldiers around them, are spooked by this! So they also step back and impale themselves on the third rank! And again and again! After a comical wave of surprise followed by impalement, the entire enemy army was vanquished.

So there you have it: if your Eurmali adventurer heroquests for a great battle power, give them a rotten egg!

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’s newsletter is shorter than usual because I was at ChaosiumCon 2023 for the most part of last week… and in fact came back home very early today around 1:30 AM. I had a few naps to catch up on that missed sleep today! Big thanks to Joerg for writing a couple of short guest entries and make my life easier.

Chaosium News

Here are this week’s Chaosium news!

Chaosium Con 2023

The annual gathering of fans of Chaosium games in the USA has taken place in Ann Arbor for the second time, with most of the Chaosium crew and many fans from all over the world assembled. There will be a full blog post about it some time in the next couple weeks, similar to last year’s post.

Photo by Jeff Richard

For now, here’s a quick bullet point summary:

  • It was as great as last year. The small size makes it easy to meet new people that you run into a few times, and to catch up with people from last year. And of course, it makes Chaosium staff very easily approachable.
  • I played more games and went to less seminars than last year, and I hung around more with the Call of Cthulhu and 7th Sea crowds than last year’s almost exclusive RuneQuest crowd.
  • The creator community was great and very supportive. Bridgett and Nick did a great job selling a lot of POD books, too.
  • I have the Prosopaedia! It was available on sale as expected. During the Chaosium auction I also bought Eldarad: The Lost City! If you are facepalming right now, that makes me happy.
  • There were a few preview copies of the first three Cults books, and they look just about how you would expect. I only got to skim them quickly though. If you want to see a bonus feline, Noura has you covered.

Six Ages 2 Art Preview

Here is a great piece by Jan Pospisil for the upcoming video game Six Ages 2, in which you lead a tribe of Solar worshippers through the God Time’s Great Darkness.

© 2023 A-Sharp

A-Sharp, makers of the game, detailed their process:

Our process is typically: one-sentence description, detailed description (possibly with art reference), rough thumbnail, pencils, inks, and colors.

Jan Pospíšil’s illustration of battling ancestors developed from writer Robin Laws’s “In our clan hall, the spectral forms of our Rider ancestors on one hand, and our Ram ancestors on the other, square off as if reenacting a long-ago raid.”

You can see the original sketch and in-between steps from Jan’s art process in the original tweet. You can wishlist the game on Steam while waiting for it release.

© 2023 A-Sharp

You can also see more of Ian’s great art here.

Jonstown Compendium

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

To Hunt a Much Bigger God

Austin Conrad’s farewell issue to the Monster of the Month series was “To Hunt a God“, featuring the Old Woods of northern Esrolia and its protector god. It took a bit longer than expected by Austin has now completed the second half of the book!

This 139-page publication includes:

  • The longform cult of Hrunda, God of Bluepaw Monkeys, including rules for creating new adventurers, new Rune spells, and path to shamanhood.
  • The macabre Temple of the Bones at which humans and animals worship Gods of Nature.
  • A 50+ page adventure which sees the adventurers heroquest into the Old Woods—a forest near Dragon Pass inhabited by elves and talking animals—to perform an act of divine euthanasia.
  • Extra encounters, magic items, and more!

Disclaimer: I have a few illustrations in this book. There are some things that might seem related to me but are just Austin fucking with me (check out “Ludvik’s Liquor“… enough said!)

If you have already purchased “To Hunt a God“, the new PDF is already in your library as an update. If not, what are you waiting for? Get this now! Also, you can get all the Monster of the Month issues in two bundles, here and here.

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.

Outlining a Campaign 20 Years from 1625

Guest entry by Joerg

Jeff shares his latest Gloranthan idea, a game during what he calls The Second Lunar Occupation of Dragon Pass:

Jotting down a few notes for my RQ and Cthulhu games I’ll be running at Chaosium Con, and had a crazy idea of doing an RQ short campaign set around 1645, during the Second Lunar Occupation of Dragon Pass. Everyone would play characters born around 1624, heck maybe Yanioth’s kids could be the among the pregens.

[…] I’m fascinated by the Twilight period in both Pendragon and RuneQuest, and am really interested in playing around with it more.

If you want context for what Jeff is talking about, check volume 2 of the Guide to Glorantha, especially the Takenegi Stele on p.744, the Black Mountain Pictoglyphs on p.747-749, The Fourth Inspiration of Moonson (p.749) and the excerpt of Ethilrist’s My History of the Black Horse Troop on p.750.

Some of the earlier imagery of the Takenegi Stele is found in the history section of the Sourcebook:

  • The Battle of Grizzly Peak on p.26,
  • The Fall of Boldhome on p.29,
  • The Building Wall Battle on p.30,
  • Starbrow’s Rebellion on p.31,
  • The dismemberment of the Holy Country on p.34,
  • The Battle of Auroch Hill and the overthrow of Queen Hendira of Nochet on p.36,
  • The Battle of Pennel Ford on p.38,
  • The Dragonrise on p.39,
  • Kallyr’s failed Lightbringer’s Quest on p.42.

As artistic counter-propaganda goes, these pieces of art are almost completely impartial in their presentation, showing both Lunar triumphs and defeats.

Jeff is giving a preview of what the occupied Dragon Pass is going to have to suffer:

Even if you start the campaign in 1645, we still have a lot of story to go!

Argrath’s disappeared, the Empire is aided by broo, vampires, Vadeli, Ethilrist, dwarf mercenaries, and more. All of the True Dragons are awake. The elf forests have expanded (although the Red Emperor has destroyed much of the new forests in Peloria and Fronela), the trolls raid far and wide, and many can speak with the dragonewts.

And much of that may be the result of the actions of your players in your campaign.

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.

Found Counters of Dragon Pass

The Kraken convention (which Joerg knows very well) has done many “fundraiser chapbooks”, a lot of which are now on sale on the All Rolled Up store.

I wasn’t aware of this until now but it looks like the Kraken convention has also designed some extra counters for the Dragon Pass board game with Greg Stafford. As far as I can tell this was done in 2016, with a limited production run of 50 copies.

Anyway, this year’s Dragon Pass game at the Kraken convention was run with these extra counters! I can spot some elephants, maybe some other Teshnan, or Kralorelan units… listen, I’m not good at this kind of stuff, I’ll let the nerds figure it out.

Photo by Fabian

Gloranthan Short Fiction

Guest entry by Joerg, edited by Ludovic

Austin Conrad (him again) describes an Ernaldan summoning rite in his short story “Calling on Ernalda“:

This week’s post is a short story I wrote to explore what the process of summoning and binding an earth elemental in RuneQuest feels like to the characters. Originally I was planning to set this at the Clearwine Earth Temple, but my fingers put it in Sylthi instead.

The great thing is that while the story describes what happens in-character, the section at the end goes over what happens in terms of RuneQuest mechanics.

Austin’s blog has other Gloranthan goodness, too, take a look around!

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.

Bronze Age Female Beauty

Guest entry by Joerg

Dan Davis explores Bronze Age standards of female beauty in Bronze Age Europe, offering visuals from many archaeological finds.

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.

Next week’s newsletter will probably be late, or skipped altogether, since ChaosiumCon is happening later this week! Wish me luck!

Chaosium News

Here are this week’s Chaosium news!

Non-Human Adventurers for the RuneQuest Starter Set

The RuneQuest Starter Set has no character creation rules (although the RQWiki does have some simple ones for free if you don’t want to invest in the rulebook right away). As such, the box contained many pre-generated adventurers, more than enough to last all the adventures therein and more. But all these adventurers are human, and some people were curious about playing other races. Chaosium had promised a long while ago that they would release some non-human adventurers in PDF, and it looks like it’s coming up soon!

© 2023 Chaosium Inc.

Jason Durall has posted a preview of one of these adventurers. As you can see above, this looks like a trollkin (or maybe young dark troll, but I think it’s a trollkin) with a cute little beetle companion. They sport a giant insect’s chitinous shell as a shield. The rose-tinted glasses and Moon Rune necklace seem to indicate this is a Seven Mothers initiate, which is quite uncommon for trolls, I think, so I think we’ll get a very interesting backstory!

Prosopaedia On Sale At ChaosiumCon

Chaosium president Rick Meints has confirmed, on the Glorantha Discord server, that copies of the Prosopaedia will be on sale at ChaosiumCon! Expect me to run and crash into the sales stand as soon as I can.

Good News For Us Canadians

Rick Meints (him again!) has posted on BRP Central that Chaosium is “a few weeks away from having our new Canadian shipping partner ready to process orders.

You may remember that the previous Canadian warehouse contractor flaked on Chaosium, resulting in us Canadians having to order from the US fulfillment centres instead, which leads to higher shipping fees (plus custom fees!) It’s great to know that Chaosium went pretty fast with securing a new contractor. Fingers crossed! I hear we have quite a lot of new books to order this year…

Basic Roleplaying Out in PDF

We already said it was coming out, and now it’s out! If you get the PDF now, you’ll receive a discount on the physical book if you buy it directly from Chaosium.

While it’s not directly related to Glorantha, the BRP system did originate from RuneQuest, and this book contains many extra rules and sub-systems you may find useful if you want to tweak and customize your RuneQuest rules. If you don’t want to fiddle around with rules, or if you already have the Big Gold Book, you might not find this new release as useful.

Note that this is released under a draft version of the ORC license.

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!

Preview of To Hunt A God: Part 2

© 2023 Akhelas & Chaosium Inc.

Austin Conrad has posted this preview (above) of part two of To Hunt A God! This amazing painting is by Laura Galli.

Part Two is a free update to the existing To Hunt A God: Part One, so if you don’t have it yet, grab it now! (disclaimer: I did a few drawings in there) Part two will add another 70 pages or so to the PDF.

Preview of Highways & Byways Remastered

© 2023 Neil Gibson & Chaosium Inc.

Neil Gibson’s Highways & Byways is getting remastered ahead of getting a print-on-demand run! Look at those maps! Did I ever mention I love maps? I feel like I may have kept this to myself all this time… anyway, this is just a sneak preview courtesy of Neil. He says that it will contain “extra content and high resolution maps“. Yay!

I have used Highways & Byways a couple times already in my game to figure out travel times. The only problem is that my players are currently “off the map”, down there in Caladraland trying to fight off Greymane’s army… oh well, they’ll get their ass kicked soon enough and go back to Dragon Pass, right?

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.

Boats of the Pelorian Riverfolk

Peloria, where most of the Lunar Empire lies, has a big river and lots of wetlands, which makes reed boats a popular way to get around:

The Diros or Yestendos boats used by the Riverfolk and Weeders of the Lunar Heartlands are mainly reed or wooden in construction, with curved bows and sterns. Although we often associate that with ancient Egypt (such as the Khufu boat), we could also associate them with the reed boats of the Andes or other Native American groups.

Diros the Boatman is one of the earliest gods related to ships and river navigation. It provides magic to propel boats safely and quickly, and is often friendly with river cults, such as Prax’s Zola Fel cult. Interestingly enough, Diros is also related to the famous “Boat Planet” which disappeared when the Closing of the Oceans happened. It seems like maybe Dormal, who spearheaded the Reopening of the Oceans, made Diros come back… or found a way to treat the oceans like a big-ass river? Oh and during the heyday of the God Learners, we sort of subsumed the cult of Diros inside that of Wachaza, our seafaring war god. This is useful when all your ships are warships!

Yestendos is just the god of the reed boats. Not much else to this guy except that he’s a husband of a couple of wetland goddesses of Peloria, which sounds about right if you want to take your reed boat around a marsh.

Creative Commons photo by Kairoinfo4u

The Khufu boat is from ancient Egypt, and named after the monarch who erect the pyramid in which it was found, dating back to around 2500 BCE. It’s a “solar barque” which means it’s associated with the Sun God Ra. It’s obviously firmly in the “wooden” barque category.

Creative Commons photo by Dennis Jarvis

For the “reed boat” category, Jeff points us to the Andes. See for instance this traditional reed boat above on Lake Titicaca, Bolivia.

Collectively, the cults of Oslira, Bisenslib, and Surenslib number some 320k members, of which maybe half are Riverfolk or Weeders. They speak some variant of Boatspeech, thought to be more related to the language of the Zola Fel Riverfolk and the Right Arm Islands than to any of the Pelorian Farmer Languages (including New Pelorian).

Oslira is of course the goddess of the Oslir river, which dominates the Pelorian basin of the Lunar Empire. Bisenslib and Surenslib are those two wetland goddess I mentioned before. Surenslib is associated with the heron, too.

The Pelorian Riverfolk and Weeders can be found along the Oslira and Acos Rivers and their tributaries from Oraya to Saird, and a related group along the shores of the Sweet Sea and the Janube and Poralistor Rivers.

The Beast People

As the saying goes, nobody complains about minotaurs and centaurs, but everybody’s got an opinion on ducks! Well, there are way more ducks anyway:

There are some 25,000 Beast People and another 10,000 Ducks in Dragon Pass. The Beast Men include centaurs, ducks, minotaurs, satyrs, manticores, tiger-men, bird women, fox women, bug heads, and often many different shapeshifters.

Outside of the ducks, the largest number of Beast People are centaurs, some 8250. Now that is a LOT of centaurs! Most stick around Beast Valley, but bachelor bands can be found throughout Dragon Pass and beyond.

I hope one of those bachelors is a player character in your group… or maybe you have an all-centaur band! Centaurs are the most important after all: the King of all Beast People is the centaur Ironhoof (details and stats are available in The Smoking Ruin and Other Stories)

Beast People counters from the Dragon Pass board game © 2023 Chaosium Inc.

There’s also a lot of minotaurs, some 6250, in many small herds throughout Beast Valley. Male minotaurs tend to be dominant and defend the herds, and female minotaurs raise the children. Both male and female minotaurs engage in displays and fights to determine status among them. Minotaur herds often cooperate with centaur herds.

It’s surprising to see how many minotaurs there are, given how the Travels of Biturian Varosh make them sound super mysterious… I guess they are mysterious if you live in Prax and have never visited southern Sartar. Note that, still according to the Travels of Biturian Varosh, there are small enclaves of minotaurs in select elf forests.

Satyrs are a little less numerous, with some 4250 throughout Dragon Pass, although most reside in the Beast Valley. Although it is usually assumed they are all male, there are female satyrs as well as male. The female satyrs are generally considered better behaved than the male!

There are surprisingly many manticores, with some 2000 throughout Dragon Pass. They are very independent and individualistic, but do follow Ironhoof’s directives.

Finally there are some 4550 other Beast People, including tiger-men, bird women, fox women, bug heads, and other shapeshifters.

Note that the Glorantha Bestiary has short sidebars for creating centaur, minotaur, and duck adventurers! No sidebar for other Beast People adventurers though, but it shouldn’t be hard to come up with something based on the NPC stat block.

This is the first time I hear about tiger men. Sounds fun! Bird women and bugheads are mentioned here and there in published material but without any more details, so feel free to make something up. In fact, among these 4550 miscellaneous Beast People, I’m sure there’s room for any horrible chimera your imagination can summon!

And now, for your free license to sprinkle Beast People anywhere you want in your games:

A handful of Beast People have decided to live among the humans. There are some satyrs in the woods and hills, a few bachelor bands of centaurs and minotaurs, and the occasional manticore hunting livestock. There are also those Beast People who serve as mercenaries or bandits. And then there are the truly unusual Beast People like the famed satyr gourmand who lives in Boldhome or the centaur who joined Lhankor Mhy.

Beast People largely avoid human contacts. The Ducks are an exception of course, as they are passionately loyal to the House of Sartar.

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.

Dave Thaumavore on the RuneQuest Starter Set

Dave Thaumavore reviews the RuneQuest Starter Set, or at least the overall box and the Rules booklet (a follow-up video will look at the Glorantha booklet).

I found myself nodding a lot while watching this video… the good points of RuneQuest are the setting and the mechanics that tie the characters to it, the gritty combat, shamanism, etc. But Dave doesn’t shy away from pointing out things he doesn’t like, many of which I don’t like either: the resolution tables, the augment mechanics slowing down play, the (too) long list of skills, and Strike Ranks being, well, Strike Ranks. Dave even says Strike Ranks might be a barrier to entry to some beginners: I agree with this, but every time someone mentions it, fans and Chaosium people come out with anecdotes of newcomers who love the system. I’ll just put this link here and let you figure out what I think of that…

If you like Dave’s stuff, check out his Patreon.

Broos on a Dune

It’s been a while seen we’ve featured some Gloranthan miniatures here! Thankfully, Gabor Nagy (aka GabORK) has posted about painting some broos miniatures on their blog. This includes a short break down of the creative process behind it:

I had to keep two important things in mind during the process:

  • Runequest is a bronze-age setting, so – instead of steel – I used bronze, copper and brass for the weapons. Initially, it felt restrictive but I soon started to enjoy using these colours.
  • The Broos are the creatures of chaos. Normally I use a more or less uniform colour scheme for a warband but in this case, I did the opposite and aimed for variety. I picked multiple colours for their skin and fur, so that no two figures have the same colour combination.
Photo from OrkAngel

There are a lot more details, and photos of more Broos (including a winged shaman one!) over at the OrkAngel blog.

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 Assassin’s Teapot

Here’s a short video on a cool thing commonly called “the assassin’s teapot”. It’s a teapot with two chambers for storing liquid (with one being presumably poisoned of course) Using science, it lets you pour from one or the other chamber.

A cursory search on the interwebs indicates that the origins of this teapot are, at best, murky. It might originate from the Ming dynasty in China, but this sounds to me like some salesman’s hastily made up sales pitch. If it’s true, though, this is technically “too late” to put in a “bronze age world” like Glorantha, but when did this ever stop anybody, including the game designers? If you want to keep the teapot’s Asian origins, you can of course say that it comes from Kralorela or Teshnos, and somehow found its way to a scheming Esrolian grand-mother, or an ambitious Lunar politician.

But why would Gloranthans bother with this kind of stuff when they can, you know, use magic? Well I think that not using magic is actually of great advantage in Glorantha! Your schemes can’t be exposed by detection spells, guardian spirits, or whatever. I think you can for example easily circumvent the effects of a Create Market or Warding spell with this teapot and carry out assassinations in broad daylight at the market! And one of the players in my group is playing an Issaries merchant… mmmh. Trouble is brewing!

The Neverending Storm

This rather dramatic video shows the “Catatumbo Lightning” of Lake Maracaibo in Venezuela. The name Catatumbo (which means “House of Thunder”) comes from the Catatumbo River, which empties itself into the lake. From the Wikipedia article:

[It] occurs for 140 to 160 nights a year, nine hours per day, and with lightning flashes from 16 to 40 times per minute. […] The phenomenon sees the highest density of lightning in the world, at 250 per km2.

According to the NASA’s Lightning Imaging Sensor, it’s the “Lightning Capital” of the world.

Creative Commons Photo by Fernando Flores

This phenomenon seems to be caused by the confluence of warm air coming from the Caribbean Sea and cold air coming down from the Andes mountains.

I wish Jonas Piontek’s video was a bit clearer about which shot was a timelapse and which shot was an real-time film of the lightning. But I assume that the shots featuring people staring at the lake were played at normal speed — and given the number of flashes visible in the span of a few seconds, it looks like an awesome thing to witness.

The implications for Glorantha are self-evident, although Orlanth’s most sacred places tend to be mountain tops. For instance, there’s the very, ahem, Gloranthishly named “Top of the World” mountain between eastern Ralios and western Lunar Empire, which is said to be where the Storm God resides. But I wonder what we would have if Greg Stafford started his world-building efforts with a Storm God that was associated with rivers and lakes instead?

Creative Commons photo

Quickly looking into local mythology, I haven’t found what sorts of gods the people of northwestern Venezuela had… But, somewhat unrelated, I found out where the southeastern Venezuelan gods lived! They lived on tabletop mountains which the locals called Tepui. You might not be surprised to learn that this means “House of the Gods”.

Anyway, Jonas Piontek has many photos of Catatumbo Lightning on his portfolio website, and you can order them in print if you want. More here and 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.

God Learner Sorcery

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

Episode 22: People of Glorantha: The Lunar Empire

This week we welcome Nick Brooke, who tells us all about the Lunar Empire. We chat about what RuneQuest adventurers might know and think about the Lunars, the history of the Empire, playing a Seven Mothers initiate, and, of course, Chaos and Illumination!

As always, get our episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Chaosium News

Here are this week’s Chaosium news!

Some Book Previews

Photo by, err, I think, Jason Durall © 2023 Chaosium Inc.
Photo by, err, I don’t know who © 2023 Chaosium Inc.

Just some pictures of a few upcoming books… some of the Cults of RuneQuest books, and the Meints Index to Glorantha in print (you can already get the PDF here)

As usual you can spot both the “normal” and “leatherette” versions of the books, although the Prosopaedia doesn’t seem to have a leatherette treatment here. I don’t know if it’s just missing from the picture, or if it won’t have it at all… I don’t care, I don’t buy the leatherette versions anyway. I prefer the pretty colour cover illustration, and I like having all my book spines looking the same.

Six Ages 2 Announcement

This isn’t strictly speaking Chaosium news, but it is “official licensee news” or something. The sequel to Six Ages (itself a, let’s say, “spiritual sequel” to the cult classic King of Dragon Pass) is now formally announced! There is no firm release date, but there is a fancy trailer (see above)

© 2023 A Sharp

It sounds like you can import your clan data from the first Six Ages, or create a new clan. The new game is called “Lights Going Out” because you will experience the Great Darkness: some of your gods die, Chaos invades your lands, and bad things happen in general.

© 2023 A Sharp

You can see more pretty pictures here and here, and add the game to your wishlist on Steam.

Tribal Compatibility Charts

Here’s a little tidbit of information on the upcoming Sartar Homeland book: it will have some tribal compatibility charts, similar to the one for cults:

In the forthcoming Sartar Book there is a Tribal Compatability chart showing the relationship between all the tribes. There are a lot of tribes with hostility towards each other, but other than the relationship between the Telmori and several other tribes, only the Dinacoli and the Cinsina are enemies. The Malani and Colymar are hostile, but are not enemies.

Jonstown Compendium

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

The Book of Doom in Print

© 2023 Stormspearia & Chaosium Inc.

Simon Phipp’s Book of Doom is available in print-on-demand! This is the book for people who always want more “stuff” in their RuneQuest games, like new spells and skills, new optional rules, new magical items, and more.

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 Battle of Heroes

Jeff talks about the Battle of Heroes and the Hero Wars in general for RuneQuest:

During this period the setting changes. What was true in 1625 might be false 20 or 30 years later. New cults will appear. Some old cults will change or even die out. A lot happens and much of this is decided by your individual campaigns.

Now before anyone starts whinging about metaplots or other such complaints, remember that this has been the foundation of the setting since before RQ was even a concept. In fact, RQ was created for this – it is an unfortunate trick of history that it took fifty real years to get there!

[…] Anyone paying attention knows the basic contours of 1625-1628. Soon enough there will be guidelines for the whole Hero Wars period. I can’t wait to see what you all do with it!

I assume that, at the end of this quote, Jeff is talking about the upcoming “Dragon Pass Campaign” book he’s been working on for years. As far as we know it’s written in a style similar to the Great Pendragon Campaign, a generational campaign framework with a year-by-year high-level view of the “metaplot events”, along with many adventure seeds.

It’s going to be interesting to see how Chaosium will handle the RuneQuest timeline, and whether they will end up “stuck” in 1625 the same way previous RuneQuest editions were stuck in 1621-or-so. On the one hand, Chaosium promotes this upcoming world-shaking series of events, broadly known as the Hero Wars. On the other hand, we know the downsides of published products that advance the timeline: a book of adventures set in an Argrath-occupied Far Place, for instance, will be of little use to many people whose games have Argrath elsewhere, possibly still in New Pavis as per the RuneQuest rulebook.

My own naive prediction on the matter is that Chaosium will have one sequential line of books for the Hero Wars, and everything else being loosely tied to it or not at all:

  • So there would be a series of “Dragon Pass Campaign” books, each advancing the plot by a few years. These are absolutely dedicated to the “metaplot”, but presented in a way that makes it easy to tweak the timeline as needed.
  • All adventure books would be either loosely set in 1625 (the “starting” year), or have adventures that don’t get tied much with the political landscape. The “village threatened by a monster hiding in the woods” sort of adventure, with possibly some suggestions for integrating it with this or that year of the “metaplot”.
  • And then all kinds of book independent from all this, such as the Cults of RuneQuest books, Gamemaster Guide, various Homeland books (which describe their areas “up to 1625”), and so on.

This way you get the benefit of the “metaplot”, but all tucked inside a designated campaign book that gets a sequel once every few years. What do you people think? What would you like to see from Chaosium?

The Two Suns of Glorantha

Technically, Glorantha has two suns (a bit like Earth having more than one moon):

To me, one of the more interesting celestial phenomena in Glorantha is the relationship between Lightfore and the Sun. Lightfore rises each dusk in the east, and sets each dawn in the west. It is the brightest object in the sky after the Sun and the Red Moon.

[…] At the Dawn, the Little Sun set and the Sun rose. Many religions link the two, as Lightfore and the Sun follow exactly the same path. Some versions of the story have the Little Sun carry or pull the Sun through the heavens.

It’s super interesting to think about how the people at the Dawn would have reacted to this. They had only known the Great Darkness, with maybe Lightfore’s dim light as the only “natural” source of light. Maybe they remembered (or had stories of) the previous Ages during which it was just, like, day all day long. But now the Sun is back but it’s moving across the sky (“what?! that’s new!“) and then going away (“oh shit! not this again!?“) and then back the next morning (“phew! that was stressful! is this going to happen all the time now? what the hell?“)

© 2023 Chaosium Inc.

To look into this kind of thing, Jeff points at The Glorious Reascent of Yelm (GRoY), one of the Stafford Library books. It deals with the Solar cults around the 3rd century. But Jeff also warns that it needs to be taken into that historical context:

One of the problems with GRoY is that it is a document from the mid-First Age when a lot of stuff was still being explored. […] It is trying to make sense of phenomena that from the Third Age perspective have long been resolved.

See also Jeff’s list of the brightest-to-dimmest objects in the sky.

Calyz, the Fire of Men

Argan Argar Atlas © 2023 Chaosium Inc.

Teshnos is a place I don’t know much about. It’s a sub-tropical region in the southeast corner of Genertela… if you look at the map above and go northwest from Teshnos, you end up in the Badlands and other Wastelands east of Prax. South of continental Teshnos (off the bottom of the map) is the island of Melib, which is also considered part of Teshnos.

Teshnos has fire-worshipping people, a bunch of custom Sky Gods, cool exotic Hsunchen tribes (including tiger people!), war-elephants, rice fields, opium dens, pirates, many dwarfs, and a shitload of elves. Have I sold the place to you yet?

And this brings us to Jeff’s note on Calyz, one of those custom Sky Gods:

The most interesting of the Teshnite gods to me is Calyz, the Fire of Men, inventor of cooking, smelting, and sex. Calyz is beloved by the common folk of Tesnos and one of the most popular cults in Teshnos. He serves as a protective deity in many Teshnite households.

The cults of Teshnos include:

  • Calyz, as already mentioned.
  • Solf is the “lord of volcanoes”, and basically an aspect of Lodril. But Solf “burned himself out” (I assume Teshnos has many dormant volcanoes) and now he’s a “lazy god of decadence”. If you want to do drugs or other kinds of depravities, he’s your guy.
  • Somash is the god of the Sun, plus all kinds of fancy things (government, warriors, poets, etc) Probably an aspect of Yelm.
  • Furalor is the Cleansing Fire and Goddess of Death. Jeff says the God Learners identified her with Oakfed, which… is a bit a let down if you ask me. Someone probably messed up their thesis and nobody bothered to redo the experiments.
  • Tolat is a war god, associated with the Red Planet. He might be an aspect of Shargash, the Dara Happan war god. He’s also related to some kinds of moon stuff… I don’t know, moon stuff gets complicated. I’ll just slowly walk away and mention that there’s a pile of material related to this guy in the Guide. Some reading for another day.
  • Zitro Argon is the god of old people. I suppose you can worship him to get coupons for that all-day-breakfast place around the corner.

Here’s where it gets really interesting. The son of Solf, the God Learners identified him with both Gustbran the Workfire and Mahome the Hearthfire.

[…] Now Calyz is a pretty complex deity compared to Gustbran and Mahome. He’s an inventor and crafter, crafty and clever, and also one who cares about ordinary mortals.

I can’t find any good reference to Calyz being a son of Solf, but hey, why not. But it’s indeed interesting that Calyz is identified as two deities, here. Gustbran is a minor redsmithing god, and Mahome is a minor household fire goddess. How the hell do two minor deities fuse into a major deity in Teshnos? This opens up some… interesting avenues of research for us God Learners. I mean, can you Voltron-up a couple minor gods and make something cool? Or are Gustbran and Mahome actually inferior, partial masks of Calyz? Let’s start fucking around the God Plane… I’m sure nothing bad will happen.

By the way, Jeff also mentions that many Lightbringer cults are found in Teshnos, brought by the God Learners and by ongoing trade. I figure that Teshnos is a good intermediate stop between the Holy Country, Kralorela, and the East Islands. This means that a lot of silk, spices, and other luxury goods would be found transiting through Teshnos… something to think about if your players want to take their commercial business to the oceans! Watch out for those pirates, though.

Miscellaneous Notes

Here are this week’s notes for which I don’t have any commentary, or for which I ran out of time, but are still worth a quick read:

  • Some notes on shamans, and how some practice their shamanism as a sort of side-gig to their main cult (like Earth witches or Kolatings), while other cults integrate shamans in their cult hierarchy as “shaman-priests” (like Daka Fal or Gorakiki).
  • It’s not the size of the cult that counts, it’s the, ahem, place in the Cosmic Compromise, or something. Anyway, here are some more membership figures in Sartar (including the Far Place) for the “small cults”, along with a few comments. And a bonus note for the Valind cult.
  • A reminder that Sartarite clans generally have mixed membership systems, as opposed to strictly patrilineal or matrilineal.

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.

Vistas of New Pavis

© 2023 Matthew Cole

Matthew Cole continues his “Vistas of New Pavis” project, which includes the 3D modelling of New Pavis. The picture above is a view of Parade Way from the Pavis Temple on a day of some city celebration.

© 2023 Chaosium Inc.

The Pavis Temple is that thing at the bottom of the map above, leaning against the old giant wall. Parade Way is the north/south street leading to it. You can get a nice PDF of this map of New Pavis here.

For another vision of Parade Way during a bit worship celebration, see the cover of the now out of print Pavis: Gateway to Adventure.

All Fool’s Day

It was of course April Fools day last week, and Austin Conrad, who loves playing tricksters, has an appropriate new bit of world-building on “All Fool’s Day”:

A Sartarite custom declared by the local chief or Rex’s bonded trickster on an irregular basis (usually some time during Disorder week of Sea Season).

On All Fool’s Day, the trickster priest declares themselves the new King of the Gods. They drag out the local Inner Ring wearing ox’s harnesses and begin ritual abuse of the council. This ranges from verbal mockery to physical assault. Chalana Arroy’s representative can ransom themselves with a kiss, but no one else is exempt.

The trickster then holds open-air court, declaring judgments over any dispute brought before them. Once all judgments have been proclaimed, they leave to begin a secret ritual known to lay persons as “Getting a Head Start.”

After sunset the community typically frees their leaders. Any member of the Inner Ring not released by popular acclaim is surely doomed to lose their position!

Find more of Austin’s stuff on his website, and on the Jonstown Compendium!

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.

Roman Road Construction

Okay so yes, yes, I know, not everybody wants their Lunar Empire to look like Romans but hey, it’s an easy pop culture way to picture parts of your Glorantha, and it’s the way our most recent guest, Nick Brooke, promotes in our interview with him. So let’s look at some Roman stuff! Namely, Roman roads!

Creative Commons image

At the height of the Roman Empire, there were 400,000 kilometres of roads. One of the most famous of these roads is the Appian Way, which connected Rome to southeastern Italy. But with its famous stone pavement, the Appian Way sort of gives the wrong impression about Roman roads:

Photo by Carole Raddato

It looks like only about 20% of all roads were paved, and that was mostly inside cities. The majority of Roman roads were made of packed material, as explained in those two short videos:

The interesting bit in the second video are of course the ditches, 20 meters away from the road on each side, to make life difficult for “unauthorized vehicles” and highway bandits. Feel free to add similar measures to your Gloranthan roads, whether it’s the Sartarite King Roads or the Pelorian highways…

But most importantly, you know those Hollywood movies where an action scene ends near a construction site for a highway bridge? Yeah, now I want to do that sort of stuff in Glorantha too, with out-of-control road construction animals, carts of big rocks knocked over in front of the adventurers, and people falling off an incomplete aqueduct!

Do you have more ideas for cool RuneQuest action scenes? Share them with us!

Thank you for reading

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