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 8: The Early Days of Glorantha (Part 1)

Episode 8 of the podcast is out! We are joined by Andrew “Doc” Cowie, who has more than 40 years of experience with RuneQuest. He talks about what it was like to play RQ2 as a teenager in the UK, how the complicated publishing history of Glorantha affected his gaming, and lot of other tangentially related topics.

A Short Detour is now Copper Best Seller!

© 2022 BOLT80 & Chaosium Inc.

Thanks to all of you who bought the book, left reviews, or sent me private messages via email, Facebook, and Twitter! It’s all very much appreciated!

Chaosium News

Here are this week’s Chaosium news!

A Few Jokes at Glorantha’s Expense

I love the “Out of the Suitcase” articles from Rick Meints, and here’s a new one! It deals with Gloranthan jokes making it onto some of the order forms found in Chaosium products… I won’t spoil the punchlines so go read those (arguably terrible) jokes here!

New Upcoming RuneQuest Actual Play

Chaosium has just started advertising an upcoming Actual Play for RuneQuest… and no, it’s not the return of Jeff Richard’s “White Bull” campaign, but a new campaign with James Coquillat as the gamemaster! And not only that, but a few players from Brian Holland’s recent one-shot (below) are also coming back, such as London Carlisle (playing Varakos), and Cynthia Marie (playing Vasana).

Rounding up the group are Chaosium’s Miskatonic University ambassador Bridget Jeffries (playing Yanioth) and Chaosium’s digital content manager David Naylor (playing Mago).

© 2022 Chaosium Inc.

The game will start on Monday, February 14th at 3PM Pacific on Chaosium’s Twitch channel. I’m certain that episodes will later show up on Chaosium’ YouTube channel for those not watching live.

Complementing the RuneQuest Starter Set Dice

If you are looking for getting more of the same dice that came in the Starter Set, Rick Meints shared what they are: Hengda Dice SKU HDP-08.

Photo by Dice Market

I think that they’re the “Golden Pearl” model pictured above, which you can get here on Dice Market (but you should ask your friendly local gaming store for them).

Giving the Nod

© 2022 Chaosium Inc.

Here is a nice post from Ian Cooper, talking about how much he tried to “give the nod” to fan material when writing The Coming Storm:

We incorporated ideas from material that had been developed in TradeTalk (I tried to at least ‘give the nod’ to much of the fan creativity of the 90s if we could).

Interestingly, I originally wrote Jonstown, from the Sartar Companion, as part of The Coming Storm, with the idea being a campaign that moved from clan to city and back, but we moved it to SC. Again I tried to ‘give the nod’ to that earlier material.

Where Do Morokanths Come From?

Well, obviously, when two Morokanths love each other very much… but no, this is a question on BRP Central about what gave Greg Stafford the idea to make sentient tapir creatures. David Scott posted this page from a book presumably owned by Greg, with the following quote:

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the Moeritherium is on the same page (read the entry). I think he was leafing through books to find cool things to use. […]

I also think that Moeritherium is mashed with an -akanth tail from another creature (see chaos-ium)

Swedish RuneQuest News

Joerg is pointing me to this Facebook post which mentions progress on the exclusive campaign book that will accompany the Swedish RuneQuest.

If I am to trust Google Translate, this new material is focused on Skanthi and its capital of Oxhead. This is an Orlanthi region stuck between the Lunar province of Aggar and the Chaos infested Dorastor. Skanthi itself is not quite yet a proper Lunar province, and the Guide mentions a very familiar struggle between the rebellious traditionalists and the pragmatic collaborators. This sounds like a fun way to bring back the “Lunar occupation” gameplay of RQ2’s earlier timeline, while at the same time giving an entirely new spin on things due to the new location.

Anyway, the post says that you will do, among other things:

– Pull out on raids and looting trains. Everything from stealing a few dozen sheep from a neighboring clan to a large-scale raid on the lowlanders in Lakrene.
– Negotiate a marriage with a person from the neighboring clan to strengthen the bonds between the two families.
– Escort the trolls’ winter caravan to the town of Oxhead, where they will sell their exotic goods.
– Participate in the annual Great Hunt, where the country’s foremost hunters are chosen, and where the winner must have laid a magical quarry.
– Sent by the chief to spy in the border areas where the chaos beasts came from during the war, and to investigate whether new attacks are in the trade. One consequence may be that the adventurers get the honor of fighting next to Stormbull’s cultists when Chaos once again threatens to pour in from Dorastor.
– Help the fraternal clans of Aggar rebel against the Moon Empire and fight the brutal General Roan-Ur. At the same time, the adventurers can examine the truth of the rumors that the Moon Empire is preparing an expedition to Aggar (Skanthi’s eastern neighbor) to lay the foundation for a new temple for the Red Goddess cult.
– Fight the ice demons to drive back the winter – for this year.
– Follow a shaman – maybe one of the adventurers? – into the spirit world to annihilate an old curse.
– Make their own social, political, religious and magical careers. An adventurer who starts as a young adult has a whole life ahead of him with unimaginable possibilities! It is even possible to participate in shaping the next age, now that the third age is suffering towards its inevitable end.

Sounds great, but I sadly don’t think the 8 hours of Swedish lessons I once took will be enough to read this…

By the way, Joerg tells me that General Roan-Ur had previously appeared in none other than the Life of Moonson freeform. You can get the new version 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!

Jonstown Compendium 2022 Index

Nick Brooke has left behind his previous Jonstown Compendium index and made a new one for the new year. And guess what: it currently features my art for A Short Detour on its cover! (although I expect Nick to rotate the art with every major update to the index)

These index….es? Indices? Err…. these compilations are useful for gamemasters looking for the best Jonston Compendium book to buy and fit into their ongoing campaign.

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.

Belintar

Jeff talks about Belintar, the mysterious heroquester and founder of the Holy Country:

We all know about Belintar’s first incarnation – from when he appeared off the shore of Kethaela in 1313 and his titanic struggle with the Only Old One that resulted in his apotheosis as the God-King of the Holy Country. We also all know that Belintar’s mortal shell expired many times, and that the Tournament of the Masters of Luck and Death was a great magical-mythical contest that selected the new incarnation of Belintar and kept the Divine Realm in close proximity to the Holy Country.

The Only Old One was some kind of half-troll (or something), the son of Argan Argar (the troll God of Surface Darkness) and Esrola (an Earth goddess). As far as I understand, Belintar sort of cheated: he was killed by the Only Old One, but came back the next year to try again, succeeding.

The “Divine Realm” mentioned here is, I think, the Holy Country version of the Proximate Holy Realm, which was mentioned in issue #30. Basically, the mythical design of the Holy Country, and the regular Tournament of the Masters of Luck and Death (MOLAD), maintained some kind of magical field over the whole place, which made it easier to… do stuff. But, like, cool stuff.

Belintar had a cult and many priests in each of the Sixths who offered him magic points, incense, and other accoutrements of worship. This worship aided him in doing many miracles, such as extending the Magical Roads that connected the Sixths to the City of Wonders or indeed in maintaining the City of Wonders itself.

The City of Wonders was in the centre of this magical mythical Disneyland we call the Holy Country. The “Sixths” were each of the themed lands of the metaphorical amusement park. Clockwise from the south, the Sixths were the Rightarm Islands (Water), Caladraland (Fire), Esrolia (Earth), the Shadow Plateau (Darkness), Heortland (Air), and, God Forgot (Joerg tells me it might stand for the Man Rune, but also points out that Prince of Sartar hinted more simply towards the last elemental Rune, aka the Moon Rune… but maybe to represent spirituality rather than the present Red Moon).

© 2022 Chaosium Inc.

The prime function of each incarnation of Belintar was to maintain the proximity of the divine realm with the Holy Country. In some ways, Belintar can be thought of as a high priest of each of the gods whose job was to communicate between the gods and their worshipers AND between the gods and themselves. He reconciled the needs of the gods and their many different cults.

Now Belintar was rarely powerful enough to impose his will on the gods. Instead, he needed to work with the gods, and often interacted with them in the divine realm for the benefit of the people of the Holy Country. This involved near constant heroquesting. Like the time Belintar brought the Jolly Fat Man to Nochet so he might reside within the city. Or the time Belintar brought Heort to Stormwalk Mountain so they could both view the Holy Country. Or when Belintar got Argan Argar to invite him to share a meal with the Mistress Race Trolls beneath the Tarpit.

Each incarnation, regardless of their mortal identity, always appeared as Belintar in the Hero Plane. The gods recognized him regardless of incarnation and the many pacts and bargains he made were always upheld by the gods. Because of the proximity of the divine realm with the Holy Country, gods often manifested in the Holy Country, visiting their worshipers even outside of the worship ceremonies!

Belintar rarely got directly involved in governing the mundane affairs of the peoples of the Holy Country. Each of the Sixths more or less followed their traditional ways – of course those traditions were changed by the very presence and role of Belintar. When a cult’s leaders might refuse to accept Belintar or reject his advice, Belintar was known to bring the cult’s own god into the discussion! But Belintar’s demands were few and always reasonable, and it was usually quite easy for cults and tribes to accept what he had to say.

We’ve already read Jeff mention it before, but a lot of the important people in modern Sartar gained heroquesting experience in the Holy Country, especially while Lunars occupied their lands:

Belintar and the Tournament of the Masters of Luck of Death served as a heroquesting school for the Sartarites. Heroquesting techniques that were lost or rejected by most cultures were developed and refined in the Holy Country.

If you read older material, you might see Belintar referred to as “pharaoh”, but that term is now abandoned because it obviously gave the wrong idea. Similarly, don’t imagine Belintar’s Holy Country as a well organized machine (which is probably where the comparison with Disneyland falls down). It sounds more like some underground artist venue:

What never really developed around Belintar was the sort of court administration as you see in Glamour. Belintar surrounded himself with philosophers, mystics, magical individuals, adventurers, and vacationing gods. When young Tarkalor visited the City of Wonders, he met:

– Belintar, who was a woman at the time
– Enamyx, the “False Daughter” of Belintar (she was the daughter of a previous incarnation)
– Darkasten, Prince of the Hendriki
– Antagorn, the Rich Thief of Nochet
– Bardranu, the Teshnite nobleman
– Mister Bondaru, the philosopher
– The Tanist, Belintar’s identical stand-in

As well as such strange beings as the Dwarf Giant, the Spirit of Freedom, The Constant Guard, The Five Physical Spirits, The Reef Master, and the Tide Lord.

I’m getting Andy Warhol & The Velvet Underground vibes here.

Anyway, the Lunar Empire wanted access to the sea, and to the trade that comes from it. As a point of reference, Jeff mentioned in passing that the Kingdom Sartar was richer than most Lunar provinces thanks to this trade… so they got Jar-eel ( the bad-ass Xena Warrior Princess daughter of the Red Emperor) to remove the only thing that stood in the way:

But now Belintar is gone. No heroquest is going to bring those tattered webs back into place, or rebuild Humpty Dumpty’s broken egg. Jar-eel tore it into parts, shattered the pillars, and broke the Tournament of the Masters of Luck and Death so that it always fails. That magic is still churning and looking for an outlet, but can’t find one. The divine realm is still in proximity with the mundane world and is now easy to grab. And that goes a long way to understanding the Hero Wars.

As I understand this, because there’s so much magic hanging around, instead of a “normal” war between the Lunars and everybody else, it’s now a war between gods and heroes and spirits too. The Third Age was due for a reboot anyway.

Later, Jeff talks about Belintar’s effect on the neighbours:

Increasingly I view Belintar as the mentor or godfather of the Sartar Dynasty and later the Sartar Magical Union. He is a big reason why the Orlanthi of Sartar really don’t resemble the Orlanthi of King of Dragon Pass or Thunder Rebels.

It sounds like after looking at Sartar in relation with everything around it (Peloria, Prax, the Holy Country), Jeff realized that it would be better to emphasize the trade and heroquesting aspects that the Kingdom gets from its neighbours. That makes it a lot less about “isolated hillbillies” and a lot more about “proud tax-taking hosts and

And Belintar was there for centuries. Not really a single individual, not really an office, but definitely a single soul that had many incarnations.

That’s the hardest thing to get around – that Belintar had many incarnations, each with their own personalities and appearances, but the same powerful soul. And each incarnation knew secrets that only Belintar could know.

Who is the other big guy with multiple incarnations again? Oh, right, Moonson, the Red Emperor:

Moonson is certainly similar. But if you dig you find some big differences. Moonson was created by the Red Goddess to manage her worldly affairs after she rose into the sky as the Red Moon. Belintar made himself through contests, pacts, and proofs that he made throughout the Holy Country and now must make anew roughly every generation through the Tournament of the Masters of Luck and Death.

And remember, every incarnation of Belintar has managed to succeed in the Tournament of the Masters of Luck and Death, which is a far more “experimental heroquest” than the Ten Tests of a Dara Happan Emperor (and much harder to rig in your favour). Politics plays much smaller role in selecting the new incarnation of Belintar (usually none at all) than it does in selecting a new Mask.

The “Ten Tests” are a bunch of magical challenges meant to prove that you can be the rightful Emperor of Dara Happa. By now, I’m not sure if the Red Emperor needs to do them anymore, but historically several Red Emperors completed them to prove their rule over the former Dara Happan lands that make up a good chunk of the Lunar Heartlands.

Anyway, we have a guy who has a “mortal element” that he swaps with a new one when the previous one dies, and an “immortal element” that carries on, like some Methuselah from Altered Carbon. Who else does that in Glorantha besides the Red Emperor?

[…] there’s probably a dozen or more entities in Glorantha that do that.

Just off the top of the head – Mani, Jaldon Goldentooth, the Founder Khans, Aronius Jaranthir, the Only Old One, possibly Waha, and Arkat.

Oh boy, I don’t know half of these names… time to look into some PDFs!

  • Mani is the guy who gives his name to Mani’s Fort in the Big Rubble in Prax. He’s known as Mani Tor or Mani of the Many Lives. He reincarnates into his tribe (the well named Mani tribe) every two or three generations.
  • Jaldon Goldentooth was a Khan of the Bison tribe who kicked the Pure Horse People out of Prax (they went to the Grazelands), sacked Pavis a few times, fought the Empire of the Wyrms Friends, and is generally considered as a hero of all Praxian tribes, having united them against a common enemy during his lifetime. He has been “summoned” a few times since, whenever the Praxian tribes needed unified again, including by Argrath during the upcoming Hero Wars. Several of his bodies lay at Jaldon’s Rest, which you can find in a Dragon Pass map somewhere between Dangerford and Moonbroth.
  • I had no idea who the “Founder Khans” were until Joerg pointed me to Nomad Gods (whose rules booklet is available in PDF here). Without much surprise, they are the original founders of each of the Praxian tribes. In the Nomad Gods board game, a current tribal Khan can “call” upon their Founder and make them appear on the board.
  • Aronius Jaranthir is a Carmanian hero who helped the Red Emperor twice, more than a century apart, having died in between.
  • We already mentioned the Only Old One, the sort-of-troll who ruled the Shadow Plateau.
  • Waha is one of the cults in the RuneQuest rulebook so we know who that is, but it’s indeed worth mentioning that he seems to show up occasionally in history. I’ve got no idea how that happens though… he seems to just be there.
  • Arkat is the big scary guy who fought Nysalor’s Empire of Light and ended the Second Age. He was killed a few times, but that didn’t stick. It seems more like self-resurrection, or enough bad-assery to walk out of the Underworld, rather than some reincarnation shtick like Belintar, but what do I know.

I think that King Ironhoof might qualify too — he’s the leader of all the Beast People of Beast Valley, and every now and then (when needed) he reincarnates into the current Centaur King’s body.

What does it take to be the next Belintar?

I think we modern Westerners tend to have a very ego-centric sense of the self. Think of Belintar as a hero out of some young adult fantasy series. Belintar is dead, so now we have a big contest and tournament to choose the new Belintar. During this contest, our hero succeeds in making the pacts and winning the contests that are necessary to magical unify the six lands, including displaying the necessary temperament and self-discipline to serve as Belintar, and in the process starts to communicate with all the previous Belintars. Many Who Are One. In the end, our hero triumphs and becomes the new Belintar, aided by all those who came before.

And our new Belintar is capable of calling upon all their prior selfs. But is also their own self. And all share in that mighty soul called Belintar, which is recognized by the gods and spirits of the Holy Country.

Jeff offers Avatar as the closest pop culture reference for Belintar. And he means the excellent “Avatar: The Last Airbender” animated series, here… not the James Cameron action movie with giant blue people. By the way, if you’ve been living under a rock and don’t know about the immensely popular crowdfunding campaign for the Avatar RPG, learn more here from Magpie Games.

The Only Old One’s Return

There were a lot of interesting comments on the previous item, so I’m taking some of them into their own item:

The Only Old One had endured for over a thousand years. He was the offspring of Argan Argar and Esrola, but also at some means a mortal or demigod rather than a full god subject to the constraints of the Compromise. He regularly acted in Time, but is thought to have had several incarnations. He definitely did not require something like the Tournament – instead it would appear that his connection to the divine realm was his Palace of Black Glass that enabled him to directly access the Underworld.

He was destroyed by Belintar, but it might not be the last we hear about him:

There are rumours that the Argan Argar cult seeks to reassemble [the Only Old One’s] pieces so that he may return to the world, but nobody other than the Argan Argar cult thinks that would be a good idea. There isn’t exactly a lot of nostalgia for the OOO in the Holy Country, outside of Argan Argar and the trolls.

Belintar was fair with the trolls and took no action against them despite his war with the OOO. The trolls participated in the Tournament and even won on at least one occasion. But now that Belintar is gone, I wouldn’t be surprised if there are some trolls searching through the Underworld for a way to find the OOO.

The Red Emperor’s Titles

And here’s another comment from the Belintar thread that I think is worth reading:

Remember that the Lunar Empire is not truly a “state”. It is dynasty appointed by the Red Goddess to manage her worldly affairs. The head of that dynasty holds several “state titles” like Emperor of Dara Happa and Shah of Carmania, etc., but in the end his rule rests on things like:

1. His position as the head of the Lunar Religion
2. His ability to command the Yelmite nobility
3. His personal power
4. His ability to give out gifts to powerful supporters, soldiers, and magicians.
5. His command of the Crimson Bat
6. His ability to keep other powerful individuals and groups satisfied.
7. His ability to maintain his system of satraps and client kings.

And so on. The Red Emperor has tremendous power but in none of these categories is it unquestioned. For example, his position as the head of the Lunar Religion requires accommodating Great Sister and Jar-eel. His ability to command the Yelmite nobility means doing Yelmite things. And so on.

I had never heard of Great Sister before so I assume some of you might need this: apparently she’s a demigoddess daughter of the Red Moon, and as such she answers directly to her, and not the Red Emperor. She controls an independent military unit (the “Sister’s Army”), and reincarnates every now and then — although her current incarnation is more than a century old.

Argrath’s Life (up to 1627)

Here is Jeff’s “short” summary:

So the basic story is that Argrath was exiled to Prax as a youth. He was taken as a slave by the Bison Tribe, but while a slave he found/freed the White Bull spirit. The White Bull is a son of Storm Bull/brother of Waha who the Praxians believe will lead them to fight a final battle against Gbaji or Chaos or whatever.

Argrath, as the person in direct contact with the White Bull, becomes the leader of this new magical society, which thanks to the Lunars spreads quickly within all the Praxian tribes.

But meanwhile, Argrath is part of the Sartar Dynasty (from a minor branch, but thanks to the Lunars that’s really all there is) and is an Orlanth Adventurous cultist. He is an experimental heroquester (where do you think he found the White Bull?) and is seeking things in the weird recesses of the Hero Plane – the Drinking Giant’s Cauldron, the Dragonteeth, etc. When a baby giant is born as an unexpected side effect of one of these quests, Argrath protects her on her voyage to the sea. This brings him into contact with Harrek the Berserk.

The Lunar ran an assassination campaign against all heirs to the Sartar throne in the early 1600s, which is something you can see in the RuneQuest Glorantha character creation, during the family history step. So that’s why Argrath is “viable” as a Prince even though he’s like a grandson of a cousin of something.

It’s interesting however that he’s an experimental heroquester from the beginning of his “career”… as far as I know, he went pretty quickly from his adulthood initiation to being exiled to Prax, so he’s doing all this on instinct, as a prodigy. It’s probably only later that he goes to the Holy Country and gets even more experience heroquesting.

It’s also interesting that the giant’s cradle, which is such a big element of the old RuneQuest Praxian campaigns, is directly linked to Argrath’s heroquesting.

After a rocky start, Harrek and Argrath become allies and they circumnavigate around the Homeward Ocean, plundering and adventuring, and seeing all sorts of things. Teshnite sun priests, Teleosites, bat-hsunchen in Laskal, Doraddi, Fonritian Ompalam cultists, the ruins of Jrustela, Seshengi sorcerers, and so much more. By the time Argrath gets to the Holy Country, he is one of the most broadly adventured people in Glorantha.

From the Holy Country, Argrath returns to Prax where the White Bull movement has spread during his absence. He gathers members from all the tribes and summons Jaldon Goldentooth so that he can conquer (liberate) New Pavis from the Lunars. After that he quickly unrolls the Lunar garrisons in the River of Cradles.

Shortly after, he gets his first major set-back. Argrath tries to conquer Dragon Pass with his Praxian allies, but is beaten by the Lunar College of Magic at Hender’s Ruins. He returns to New Pavis to recoup, but in the meanwhile the Dragonrise happens and Kallyr Starbrow is acclaimed Prince of Sartar.

Art by Anna Orlova © 2022 Chaosium Inc.

This brings us to 1625, the starting date of RuneQuest Glorantha.

Kallyr’s rule of Sartar is short-lived and Argrath returns to Dragon Pass with an army of Praxians and adventurers. After forcing the Lunars out of Alda-Chur, Argrath marches on Boldhome and is acclaimed Prince of Sartar. He has little direct relationship with the traditional Sartarite leaders – the tribes and the city councils, but he is backed by Orlanth Adventurous, Storm Bull, tricksters, an army of Praxians, plenty of misfits, adventurers, outlaws, hedge priests, shamans, and weirdos – basically everything that Thunder Rebels says isn’t there.

Its clear that the new Prince with a seasoned army (and plenty of cavalry) plans to strike against the Lunar Empire, but first he needs to get his ducks in a row, so to speak. But the clock is ticking as the Red Emperor and Jar-eel have suppressed the revolt in the Redlands, and are restoring order to the Lunar Provinces.

That’s the scene in 1627 when the ball really starts rolling. At that point we are in the White Bear and Red Moon board game.

I’ve heard before of the “Multiple Argraths” theory, which stipulates that all the deeds attributed to “Argrath” were actually done by multiple people, because obviously one guy can’t have done all these things. Even the Glorantha Wiki (at the time of writing) embraces it completely with their article on Argrath. But that theory is officially non-official:

Greg and I both concluded that the “multiple Argraths” turned out to be a failure and an obstacle for gamesters. And a nightmare if we ever want to do RQ fiction. You’ll see that we abandoned that approach in the Guide to Glorantha, Glorantha Sourcebook, and everything since.

Like any major historical figure, he has many contradictory stories about him. For example, a story might put in him in Nochet at the same time he is supposed to be in Pavis or tomb raiding in Jrustela. That’s totally fine – and the same thing is true of Jar-eel, Harrek, Arkat, etc.

Lunar Point of View

Jeff commented on this question on Facebook with his take on the average Lunar’s opinion of the Empire:

In character: because I grew up in Furthest or Jillaro or Yuthuppa or wherever. I am a citizen of city X and a loyal person of our Red Emperor, the Moonson and the ruler of the world. The Red Goddess is our patron and she remade the world in our benefit.

Look into the sky! There She is – the Red Moon. She blesses us with Her very presence. She tasked Her son with ruling the mundane world and protecting Her people.

Many enjoy Her blessings but do not know Her secrets. However, I was initiated into the Seven Mothers as a young adult, just as my parents were before me. I have felt the desperate need that drove the Seven Mothers to find *something* that could remake the world and save them – that *something* is none other than the Red Goddess.

This was followed by some extra notes:

I think the overwhelming majority of Lunars justify being a Lunar in some manner like the above. To be outside of the empire is to be a barbarian, a rebel, a monster. The Red Goddess is the patron of the empire and her son is its ruler.

If I wanted to be outside of the empire and justify it, it is easiest to point to the millions of Pelorians who have enjoyed peace and prosperity over the last century and a half. Most Lunars have not seen or experienced war or privation in their lifetime or that of their parents or that of their grandparents or that of their great-grandparents or…

I personally think very few – if any – Lunars justify their religion or empire by referencing the Orlanthi or Pentans or who ever – the year is 1625 not 1275 after all! The Lunar Empire is its own justification, as is the Red Moon in the sky. It is there, we benefit from it, and have benefited from it for as many generations as we can recall. The Red Goddess has proven herself, and for countless generations, her initiates and religion have blessed us. It is simply who we are now.

Similarly, the conflict between the Lunar Empire and the barbarians/rebels/monsters outside of it is taken for granted by most people. The Lunar Empire has all sorts of ceremonies that define the world and if you are a Lunar, you are on the inside. The Orlanthi, Praxians, Pentans, trolls, dwarfs, elves, dragonewts, etc. are by definition on the outside.

Most Lunars fear Chaos in the same way that they fear Death, although perhaps even more viscerally. Everyone knows that the Crimson Bat is a terrible monster, but one that serves the Red Goddess (and more immediately, the Red Emperor). Everyone knows that broo, ogres, and other monsters are evil, but they can serve the Red Emperor if they submit to him and obey his commands (like do not kill my people). Philosophers and mystics may raise questions about the Compromise, but the Red Goddess overcame the limitations of the Old Gods and proved her power at the Battle of Castle Blue, so why are you going on about that?

Another thing is to think of the Lunar Religion as a series of mystery cults placed inside of each other. We start with the Seven Mothers or their equivalent (Hon-eel, Hwarin Dalthippa, etc). That’s about as deep as most Lunars ever go. It celebrates the birth (and life) of the Red Goddess, and embraces both Life and Death – but is not Chaotic.

Let me repeat that for emphasis – the Seven Mothers are NOT Chaotic.

But the Seven Mothers grounds us for the next level. See chief priestesses CAN Bless folk with Chaos through the Red Goddess. Sparingly, and the Chaos Blessing is temporary. Priestesses learn more, experience more, and can study the Nysalorean Riddles.

And once Illuminated, a priestess can go much deeper and learn the mysteries of the Red Goddess. They can learn to warp the Spirit World. And they can learn to call upon Primal Chaos. Because the Red Goddess embraces both Life and CHAOS – a deeper understanding than what the Seven Mothers can provide. At that point we are ready to explore like the Red Goddess herself did.

But this final group is a tiny percentage of the Lunar population. There are probably fewer than 10,000 Red Goddess initiates in the entire Lunar Empire. Probably half of them are in Glamour. The next big batch is the Lunar College of Magic, key officials in the satrapies and provinces, etc. The ruling elite.

The Winter Deities

Looks like it’s snowing in Colorado, so Jeff is thinking about winter:

It is the right time of year (at least in Colorado) to talk about the trinity of winter deities – Valind, Inora, and Himile. These gods are much more important than their tiny cults would suggest.

Valind is the Winter King. He is a dangerous and powerful god who brings the winter storms, snow, and ice across Genertela. In the Lesser Darkness he ruled much of the world, and his glacier – a vast accumulation of ice and snow – displayed his might. Each winter, he advances from his glacier stronghold and tries to conquer Genertela. He is initially aided and later opposed by his storm god kinsfolk, but he always is eventually forced back so that spring can occur.

In recent decades, the Lunars send an annual group of heroquesters to fight him on the glacier and force him back, as the ancient hero Kallikos did before Time. This has weakened his advances into Peloria, and shortened winter. But Valind himself remains powerful and has built up resentment against Peloria like a river against a dam. Now if the Lunar heroquesters ever fail, winter will return with a terrible vengeance.

I wonder who’s going to make these heroquesters fail? Mmmmh…

Inora is the goddess of the snows, particularly the mountain snows that remain year round. In some lands she is viewed as an enemy; in others she is the primary source of water and fertility. She is the half-sister of Orlanth and an ally of Valind.

Huh, I didn’t know about Inora before (although I think I came across her name once or twice). I guess I should mention her in my Alone Confederation campaign, since the Indigo Mountains have a few glaciers… although Skyfall Lake and Engizi might be more important for bringing water and fertility to the valley in this particular location.

Himile is the god of cold itself, a dark and hungry god, even more terrible at night than day. He is perhaps the most dangerous of the three gods of winter, but the least obvious.

That’s interesting… Himile is related to the Darkness pantheon, and is said to be worshipped in “cold places”. Trolls in Pent have a sizable worship of him, for instance. I’m getting Wendigo vibes here. Which is a good thing.

Safelster

Here is a region of Genertela I don’t know about, even though I’ve seen it mentioned many times!

Safelster is a fascinating area, both familiar and very different. Some 2.9 million people are within 100 km of Lake Felster, which itself is about 200 km long. The area is densely populated, with an overall average density of 21 per square km. However, it gets closer to 80 per sq. km near the lake and lower the further away you go.

Let’s put this on the AAA maps. Lake Felster is west of the Mislari Mountains, and northwest of Maniria. It’s two-thirds of the way from the Holy Country to the west coast.

© 2022 Chaosium Inc.

There’s also a lot of people living there: about 3 million humans according to the Guide. Compare that to the mere 655,000 humans in Dragon Pass…

Lake Felster is somewhat smaller than Lake Ontario, just to get a feel for it.

Which means it’s big enough that when you’re standing on the shore, you can barely see the other side, and on most days, it’s like standing next to the sea.

Rokari, Orlanthi, Old Gods, Stygians, and numerous other Malkioni sects and heresies all can be found here. There are trolls and elves, but few dwarfs. The Lunar Empire is nowhere to be seen, but an ascendent Kingdom of Seshnela aspires to hegemonic power.

Malkioni sects are basically different schools of thought for western sorcerers, and each often comes with a different focus. So just like RuneQuest cults are more than character classes because they come with a culture, traditions, specific world-views, and so on, Malkioni sects are also a bit more than just “Fire College of Magic” or whatever.

  • The Rokari school are, as far as I can tell, the “die hard” Malkioni people who follow the Abiding Book to the letter, and put everybody in castes for life (noble, wizard, soldier, farmer), as opposed to, say, the Hrestoli who encourage caste mobility so that a small elite becomes “Men-of-All” (i.e. people who can do everything).
  • By Orlanthi, I think that Jeff here means some sort of henotheist school where they consider the Invisible God to be the supreme divine entity, but still acknowledge and worship whatever “lesser” gods (in this case, Orlanthi) is appropriate for the area?
  • Stygianism is the Malkioni school that holds Darkness as the source of everything, and that everything will eventually go back to Darkness. Possibly related to Arkat (he’s a big deal around here), but regardless, this is your ticket if you want to do cool Dakrness sorcery.

The Kingdom of Seshnela used to be to the southwest of Lake Felster, but it was destroyed in the Second Age, literally: their peninsula was shattered and only islands and ruins were left behind. The new Kingdom of Seshnela is now futher east from where it was before, and therefore close enough to Safelster to cause trouble.

Politically, the area is divided among more than a dozen autonomous or semi-autonomous city-states. Most are more populous than Sartar. In the Third Age many hegemons have momentarily unified Safelster:

1100 – Kingdom of Jorstland
1240 – New Dangim Alliance
1325 – Nedurant
1350 – Estali
1400 – New Dangim Alliance
1455 – Kingdom of Seshnela

Since 1515, no power has been able to dominate Safelster, although many have tried and failed, most recently the Duchess of Sentanos with her Proven Appearance of Arkat. Many fear the alliance between Kustria and Galin is a new attempt to dominate the region.

So you can imagine this area as something politically like the Italian city-states in the Late Medieval or Renaissance eras.

I love city-states, because there’s so much gaming opportunity to be had everywhere you go. But anyway, let’s look into all these unknown (to me) names:

  • Sentanos is a state that includes the handful of cities immediately north of the lake (you can spot it on the map). The Duchess’s “Proven Appearance of Arkat” is a political movement that apparently has totally failed to make Arkat appear lately (whatever that means), which is why it’s losing steam.
  • Kustria is another state that includes another handful of cities, immediately west of the lake (you can also spot it on the map).
  • Of course Galin is not a state, because in Gloranthan fashion we never quite know when a name relates to a geographical region, a country, a cultural land, a city, or what… So Galin is a city: it’s right at the eastern tip of the lake. The new city queen is politically on the rise after marrying the King of the aforementioned Kustria, which is the allegiance Jeff is talking about here.

There are only a few paragraphs for each of those places in the Guide, but there are so many cities and states in Safelster overall that you still end up with more than half a dozen pages of material anyway. And it’s all so evocative that you’d have to be dead inside if it didn’t fire up your imagination… by the way, if you are indeed dead inside, please report to the Upland Marsh for updated orders, thank you.

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.

News About the Pavis Companions

In the early 2000s, Ian Thompson wrote a piece on Pavis and the Big Rubble for the fanzine Ye Booke of Tentacles (volume 3). This was quickly followed by four other “Pavis Companion” fanzines, which are now long out of print (more information also on the Well of Daliath).

Well, Ian Thompson is currently looking at the possibility of updating and releasing these books in PDF, most likely on the Jonstown Compendium:

I am talking to Fabian about the practicalities of this. We wouldn’t just re-release them though, but update them as well. So a fair bit of work, but feels worth it to get the material out there again. Anyway, practicalities talks have begun

In the meantime, have a look at some previously unpublished appendix to the Pavis Companion books!

Dicebreaker’s 10 Best Beginner Friendly RPGs

© 2022 Chaosium Inc.

Gaming news website Dicebreaker has a roundup of the 10 best tabletop RPG boxed sets for new players. They have a few classics and obvious choices, but they also have a few surprises. Meanwhile, they have both the Call of Cthulhu Starter Set and the RuneQuest Starter Set! Not bad, Chaosium. Not bad.

What Would The Smart Party Do Podcast RuneQuest Episode

Guest submission by Jörg

In this episode Baz and Gaz discuss the history of RuneQuest from the perspective of players in the United Kingdom, a perspective which may differ from the experience in North America. We learn how RuneQuest ended up being the alternative Baz did not choose to pursue when an opportunity presented itself.

The episode has a few memorable quips, like “the game should come with a grognard in a box” as a GM, or the Gloranthan/RuneQuest “fan base is like barnacles – you cannot shift them.

I find it interesting that Baz did attend the German RuneQuest and/or Glorantha conventions Tentacles and Kraken without getting much exposure to the setting, but the lack of exposure to RuneQuest results from these conventions happening during the HeroQuest era, before RuneQuest and Glorantha were re-married by Chaosium. The lack of Mongoose’s Second Age Glorantha on these conventions may have something to do with the history of how our conventions spread into the UK and North America via the digests.

RuneQuest Year Zero Podcast

Guest submission by Jörg

Baz continues his examination of the RuneQuest Starter Set and whether RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha hits his sweet spot.

To recapitulate Baz asked Chaosium for a copy of the Starter Set Box for this solo project of his, which he has planned to do for 101 days this year, and Chaosium complied.

The podcast is quite honest and offers a really fresh view from a long-time D&D/D20 player looking out for what makes both RuneQuest and Glorantha special, and doesn’t spare the authors from expectations not quite met or being underwhelmed by some of the content, although the later episodes slowly see the sparks draw not just smoke but also some flame.

One telling question was the question whether it was wise to produce a starter box that offers content for long-time players of the game, but as we can see from the fact that the UK warehouse completely sold out the first delivery of starter set boxes, economically this made a lot of sense as the sales volume by those old timers easily supported the probably rather marginal net revenues of this really tightly packed box. One criticism Baz mentioned about Book 4: Adventures is that the box doesn’t really address people who are new both to roleplaying/GMing and to the setting.

While he liked the first two Scenarios, I found the comparison with the D&D approach which leaves the dungeon with sessile monsters only after the DM has leveled his players and his GMing skills to level 3 rather telling. But then, Chaosium’s participation with the New Gamemasters Month is addressing exactly that problem.

Speaking of that, the New Gamemasters Month February post now is asking for feedback on a quick form, or on one of the discussion platforms. Unfortunately, those have only very few posts yet. We’d be interested to hear about participants’ experiences trying out RuneQuest, too.

Kitbashing Sable Riders

Photo by Phil Leedell

Phil Leedell is at it again!

Austin Conrad Reviews the Armies & Enemies of Dragon Pass

© 2022 Martin Helsdon & Chaosium Inc.

It’s a short but very useful review by the author of Monster of the Month (among other things) for people who don’t have this big book yet:

My favorite part of the book is how much new detail (well, new to me, anyway) it provides about Peloria and Dara Happa.

[…]

On my “tabletop/armchair” spectrum, A&E fits firmly in the “armchair” category. The gamemaster will get a lot of use from A&E—inspiring story hooks, antagonists, etc.

[…]

To be honest, if you’re going to buy only one “reference” book to support your RuneQuest collection, don’t buy the Guide to Glorantha—buy A&E. I feel A&E is more relevant to the action of an RQ campaign than the Guide, providing useful, story-generating details.

That’s pretty high praise! Read the entire review here, and get Armies & Enemies of Dragon Pass here.

Some More Zoja Barylko Art

Previously featured Zoja “ladygolem” Barylko has been drawing Rhino Riders lately, and they’re… well, I want to say “lovely” but I’m pretty sure I would get punched in the face. Check out more of her art here!

Elsewhere on Arachne Solara’s Web

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

Pentan Inspirations

I don’t know whether these pictures are staged or legit (one more here), but I think they can be used as inspiration for Pent nomad children?

For more steppe nomad goodness, you can check out the Eagle Huntress movie, about a Kazakh girl who strives to become an eagle hunter. Trailer here:

Eagle hunting in the steppes looks pretty bad-ass, so here’s some more imagery to fire up your day:

Egyptian Beadnet Dress

And now for something totally different: a 4500 year-old Egyptian beadnet dress:

Thank you for reading

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

Edits:

  • A previous version of the article mispelled Zoja’s name.
  • Bridget Jeffries was incorrectly listed as playing Vasana, instead of Yanioth.

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.

A Short Detour

My first Jonstown Compendium contribution is finally out!

Art by me (Ludovic Chabant) © 2022 BOLT80 & Chaosium Inc.

When the adventurers stumble upon a mother and her son being attacked by wild boars, they are thrown into a tricky situation in which multiple powerful factions are on a collision course. What will your players do when they can decide who lives and who dies?

Art by me (Ludovic Chabant) © 2022 BOLT80

A Short Detour is a straightforward adventure for RuneQuest Glorantha that will take about one big or two short sessions of play. It can be placed anywhere around Sartar, with the text assuming that your campaign is based in or near Colymar lands.

In addition to the adventure, A Short Detour provides an insightful look at the nature of Chaos, with rules for Chaotic corruption.

Of course you should buy the book because it’s great (hopefully)… but if you want to support the God Learners newsletter, blog, and podcast, then you can buy the book to make me think it’s great, and encourage me to continue the other things too!

Characteristic Rolls vs Skill Rolls

I also wrote a new Runic Rants column this week on one of my pet peeves with the Chaosium’s system:

It’s kind of funny: BRP games like Call of Cthulhu or RuneQuest are among my all time favourite RPGs, but BRP itself is not even close to my top 5 systems. One of the reasons for this is the split between characteristics and skills, which don’t interact much with each other. I’m a kid of the 90s: characteristics and skills are meant to be added together, damn it!

Anyway, this split means that the gamemaster needs to decide when to ask for characteristic rolls, when to ask for skill rolls, and what to do when both could apply. Here are some thoughts.

You can read my advice on dealing with characteristic rolls here.

Chaosium News

Here are this week’s Chaosium news!

New Gamemaster Month is Wrapping Up

RuneQuest Starter Set cover at by Ossi Hiekkala © 2022 Chaosium Inc

New Gamemaster Month has posted their final lesson about running your first game. Here’s the one for RuneQuest. You can still catch up with all the previous articles!

The First Sold Copy of Dungeons & Dragons

Most of you might already know the story, but it came up again recently so it’s always good to repeat it: Greg Stafford owned the first copy ever sold of D&D.

Here’s what happened… Greg and a buddy had been working in Lake Geneva WI area as itinerant belt buckle salesmen (“Real hippy job. I’d take buckles, hitch hike around and sell them to shops, etc.”)

It was Greg’s buddy who met Gary Gygax in a Lake Geneva print shop one day in early 1974: Greg by then was back in the Bay Area, working on his own first game ‘White Bear & Red Moon’, which was eventually published the following year by his new game company The Chaosium.

The Chaosium Twitter account has the rest of the story, plus some links.

Progress on the Fantasy Grounds RuneQuest Module

© 2022 Fantasy Grounds & Chaosium Inc.

It had been a while since we heard about this, but it looks like work is still going on. Details on Passions are now accessible in the VTT interface.

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!

Blue Moon Plateau Area Map

Art by Mikael Mansen © 2022 Mikael Mansen & Chaosium Inc.

Here is another Mikael Mansen map! This time it’s about the Blue Moon Plateau, up in Peloria.

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.

About the Grazelands

A few notes about the Grazelands:

Let’s keep in mind quick how the Grazeland functions in the present age (rather than how the Yelm cult likes to tell stories about the good old days).

There are about 40,000 people living in the Grazelands, divided into three groups: agriculturalists, horse herders, and townsfolk. All land is “owned” by the Feathered Horse Queen who resolves all disputes between the groups, interacts with outsiders, and unites the nation.

Here’s the Feathered Horse Queen:

Art by Anna Orlova © 2022 Chaosium Inc.

The groups are in a symbiotic relationships – the agriculturalists provide grain, fruits, vegetables, and “lesser meats”, the townsfolk provide crafted goods, and the horse herders provide military protection and animal products from their herds. The horses benefit from this – the horse herders raise them and tend them, the farmers provide them with additional fodder, and the townsfolk trade part of the herds to outsiders in exchange for goods and coin which benefits everyone.

These groups are actually pretty small – there are about 18,000 farmers, 18,000 horse herders, and about 4,000 townsfolk. The area is geographically not all that big, only about a 1000 square kilometres, which actually means that the Grazelands are about as populated as the settled parts of Sartar.

Ernalda, not Dendara, is the Earth Goddess. She is the spouse of Yelm AND Orlanth, and unites horse herder and farmers together. Her cult is the largest in the Grazelands – as large as Orlanth and Yelm’s combined! The Ernalda cult is led by the Feathered Horse Queen. When the Pure Horse People and the Orlanthi farmers seemed destined to destroy the Grazelands, a priestesses descended into the womb of the Earth and returned with the secrets and power of Ernalda the Earth Mother, whose favors both Yelm and Orlanth must contest for.

This is the story of first Feathered Horse Queen. As far as I can tell, the historical context starts with the settling of Tarsh’s Twin Dynasty, which we talked about last week. When they entered what would become Tarsh, they met the Purse Horse People, the horse herding Grazelanders we were talking about. There was some falling out between the two, so that the Purse Horse People stuck to their side of the land, and the Tarshites to the other side.

For a while it seemed like the Grazelanders would be stuck in the hills for a few generations until they faded away from their reluctance to spread around, and their growing infighting. But in the early 1450s a priestess of the ancient Earth cults of the Grazelanders went into the Earth and gained the blessing of the local goddess, which was revealed to be Ernalda, I guess. The priestess came back with not only the blessing, but also some really cool headdress that reminded everybody of old Earth traditions of the Pure Horse People. The Sun King of the Grazelanders tried to protest but he lost the contest against the new Queen.

And so this new Queen is yielding a lot of power while also walking a fine line between the solar and storm cults. The interesting thing is that against the worse instincts of the concerned parties, the Feathered Horse Queen is making this cohabitation work: storm-worshipping farmers and sun-worshipping horse breeders, kept in check by a powerful earth-worshipping population. Talk about a menage a trois… literally. I imagine that heroquesting the Grazelander mythic realm is like some kinky sitcom. But that’s what the Earth is good at: weaving communities together, finding compromises, loving everyone. And everybody gets something from it anyway: the farmers get protection, and the Pure Horse People have the support system that lets them live their magical nomadic life “purely”.

The other Lightbringers are also important – more than half of all townsfolk follow one of the Lightbringers. And Humakt is also important as the primary War God.

The prevalence of Humakt’s cult in the Grazelands also seems to be a consequence of the early Feathered Horse Queen’s political moves. She restored a Humakt-related cult among her ranks and got some scary looking bodyguards, just in case.

Jeff adds a few comments:

A lot of the wrong assumptions about the Grazelands is a result of looking at Dragon Pass from stories that largely predate the Feathered Horse Queen or Sartar.

In the 1450s, the Pure Horse People were staring at extinction. Tarsh had built up its own cavalry force and no longer needed the Pure Horse People – even worse, they were importing Praxian mercenaries! The local Orlanthi farmers who had been forced to raise grain for the Pure Horse People needed only ally with Tarsh and could be rid of the Pure Horse People. Worse yet, the Sun Lords of the Yelm cult couldn’t see this and insisted that the Earth priestesses remained subservient in the traditional “Dendara role”. One of the Earth priestesses descended into the womb of the Earth in search of secrets.

Queue the history I told above.

The Feathered Horse Queen is who emerged. She placed the farmers under her personal protection and defeated the Sun Lords in magical contests, forcing the Stallion King to submit and pledge obedience. She issued the Marriage Contest to find allies and it was Sartar the Prince who proved his worth. Sartar built trade posts with temples to the Lightbringers, issued coins, and facilitated trade through the Grazelands. The trade posts became towns where crafters congregated. In short, the Grazelands were radically transformed by the Feathered Horse Queen AND by Sartar into something new. Horse breeder and farmer found a way to coexist through the person of the Feathered Horse Queen. The trading posts brought wealth – but also scribes, merchants, crafters, healers, mercenaries, and the rest of the accoutrements of civilization. The Pure Horse People certainly tell stories about how they are Yelm’s chosen and the spiritually elect and all that jazz. But it was the Feathered Horse Queen that allowed them to survive. And everyone knows that.

And thus just like the Orlanthi tribes of the Quivin Mountains were transformed by Sartar, the people of the Grazelands were transformed by the Feathered Horse Queen. Add more than a century to build upon that transformation and you have the Grazeland Pony Breeders we first saw in White Bear and Red Moon.

Lunar Provinces Cult Demographics

Jeff talks about cults in Aggar, Holay, Imther, Tarsh, and Vanch:

There are a little less than 1.4 million humans in the Lunar Provinces. Looking at the Provinces as a whole, the largest cults (those with over 10k cultists each) are:

– Ernalda 167k
– Seven Mothers 164k
– Orlanth 132k
– Yelmalio 72k
– Pelora (Oria) 52k
– Hon-eel 51k
– Lodril 41k
– Hwarin Dalthippa 40k
– Issaries 20k
– Oslira 20k
– Chalana Arroy 18k
– Lhankor Mhy 13k

Etyries is at less that 10k, so doesn’t make the list… the Provinces are mostly Orlanthi culturally speaking so their merchants are probably leaning towards Issaries.

Looking at it as a whole, there is a big Lunar belt stretching from New Lolon to Furthest and centered on Mirin’s Cross. But beyond that, the Provinces are pretty much Orlanthi. And it also has a few interesting localized cults like Jajagappa (with less than 10k cultists in total), some enclaves of the Shargash cult and over 5k wagoneers. There’s also a lot of Storm Bull cultists in Aggar – there are about three times as many Storm Bull cultists in Aggar than in Sartar!

Jajagappa is a psychopomp of the Dara Happan pantheon, a deity who fights the dead who escape their place in the Underworld. Shargash is a primal war god who destroyed the world.

I’m not sure why there are lots of Storm Bull cultists in Aggar though. Looking at the maps, I figure that it’s probably because Dorastor, land of Chaos, is nearby. These Storm Bull cultists might have less to travel if they were based out of Skanth or Bilini, but according to the Guide the Bilini tribes are little more than a bunch of bandits, so maybe Aggar is the nearest best thing to get some good drinks.

Here’s a little more about the Lunar cults themselves:

The way it works is that we have many Lunar cults, each founded by a heroic figure who achieved god-hood in Time, plus a handful of associated cults (Yelm, Gorgorma, Natha, etc.) who have ties to the Red Goddess cult itself. The main vehicle are the Seven Mothers – Danfive Xaron, Deezola, Irrippi Ontor, Jakaleel the Witch, Teelo Norri, and Yanafal Tarnils (She Who Waits has no real cult) – either individually or collectively. They are the mortals who “gave birth” to the Red Goddess and form the mainstream mortal path to her secrets.

I’m not super knowledgeable about who the Seven Mothers are so let’s quickly look into it:

  • Deezola was an Earth priestess, and now the “Keeper of Vows” and “Avenger of Wrongs”. Sounds a bit like a Babeester Gor sort of cult to me.
  • Irrippi Ontor was an outlawed sage, which shows you can still do great things even after you get kicked out of school. He’s the “Master of Secrets”.
  • Yanafal Tarnils was an exiled nobleman who somehow “defeated his master, Humakt, in battle”, and became the immortal Lunar war god.
  • Jakaleel the Witch was a shaman-priestess, and became… err, wait, another “Keeper of Secrets”. Well I think Irrippi Ontor is more for knowledge, and Jakaleel is more for magic. Sounds to me like maybe she’s doing secret Lunar sorcery stuff.
  • Danfive Xaron was a “bloodthirsty outlaw who volunteered for the most dangerous task” in the ritual to recreate the Red Goddess. He’s now the “Gatekeeper”, whatever that is. I seem to recall his cult is also good for atonement of crimes in the Lunar society.
  • Teelo Norri was an innocent child, plucked from the streets, who didn’t know anything about the ritual… because apparently that was an important element of the ritual. She’s now the goddess of Innocence and Experience. Whatever that that is too.
  • She Who Waits was a mysterious person whose identity is only known to Illuminated followers of the Red Goddess. My theory is that this was the Red Goddess herself, coming from the future or whatever. She helped with her own rebirth because she’s also cyclical overall inside of Time. Don’t listen to me though, this is nonsense… OR IS IT?

There are other vehicles as well – Hon-eel, Etyries, Hwarin Dalthippa, Glamour, Yara Aranis, Aronius Jarathir, etc. Plus there are those old gods who were associated with the missing goddess – Yelm, Gorgorma, Natha, etc. and of course Nysalor. So Natha has a tiny little cult that is associated with Gorgorma and Danfive Xaron.

Hey, plenty of names that I only vaguely know, or don’t now at all! Let’s get through them:

  • Hon-eel is one of the daughters of the Red Emperor, who conquered many lands and discovered maize… because apparently everybody forgot about it.
  • Etyries is basically the Lunar version of Issaries, the trader god.
  • Hwarin Dalthippa is another daughter of the Red Emperor, also known as the Conquering Daughter, which we already talked about previously.
  • Glamour was I think the first daughter of the Red Emperor but is also the city of Glamour? I’m not sure that Glamour ever walked around like the other daughters, though: I think she might have been created as a city from the start.
  • Yara Aranis was the next daughter after Glamour, and the one whose powers maintain the Glowline, which we talked about here and here. Plus my look into the different versions of the rules.
  • Aronius Jarathir seems to be a noble who became famous for his wars in the West Reaches. Somehow I suppose he built a hero cult for himself, but I don’t know more.
  • Yelm you should know, that’s the sun god, duh!
  • Gogorma I don’t know much: she has two mouths, devours things, and is Dendara’s sister Dendara is Yelm’s wife, the docile and well-mannered version of Ernalda, I think… so maybe Gogorma is sort of a Maran Gor?
  • Natha is the “Goddess of Balance”, and I don’t know much either. She can bring all kinds of opposites, from Life and Death to Light and Darkness and whatever. It sounds like she’s scary and better kept propitiated without asking questions.
  • Nysalor is, well, a whole thing. He was created by the Broken Council, founded an empire who was supposed to bring Light and crazy-ass Illumination to the world, wounded Kyger Litor and create the trollkin curse (woopsie), and got into a big war with Arkat.

Each of the Seven Mothers is associated with a moon phase:

Black Moon – She Who Waits
Crescent Come – Danfive Xaron
Empty Half – Yanafal Tarnils
Full Moon – Irrippi Ontor
Full Half – Teelo Norri
Crescent Go – Jakaleel
Dying – Deezola

See – each of the Seven Mothers represent a phase of the Red Moon, but only the Red Goddess represents the whole.

Now some Lunar scholars try to map some other old gods onto that scheme to aid in heroquesting. So Orogeria gets associated with Crescent Come, Natha gets associated with the Full Half, Gerra with the Dying Moon, etc. Even poor Dayzatar gets associated with the Full Moon in some schemes. But this is more of an attempt to create a Lunar heroquesting map than anything that is widely practiced.

Lunar Heartlands Cult Demographics

And now, for the same thing in the Lunar Heartlands:

The Lunar Heartlands are home to almost 5.4 million humans. This is the center of Lunar culture and the Lunar religion, a fact made omnipresent by the presence of the Red Moon looming over the Crater.

The largest cult in the Lunar Heartlands is, not surprisingly, the Seven Mothers. If we combine their worship collectively and individually, we come up with a grand total of an amazing 850k cultists. That easily makes the Seven Mothers one of the largest cults in Glorantha, and one of the Big Three in Central Generela. Not bad for a desperate cabal of heroquesters!

And when we add the Lunar Provinces and the Western Reaches we easily get above 1 million members (probably above 1.1 million). So that is one BIG cult.

After the Seven Mothers, the largest cults in the Heartlands with over 100k cultists each are:

– Lodril 500k
– Oria 350k
– Dendara 170k
– Oslira 165K
– Yelm 150k
– Hon-eel 135k
– Surenslib 115k

Yay, once again names that I don’t know much about. Let’s gooooo:

  • Lodril is a lustful fighter god of the Sky. He love to get down with the Earth deities, and he became the Volcano God. I’ll wait over there while you unpack the not-so-subtle phallic ejaculation references here. I’m not sure exactly what good Lodril is for nowadays… given the number of worshippers, I imagine he’s good for anybody who Works Hard, Plays Hard? But more seriously, I think he’s the farmer/fighter god of the Pelorian farmers. Sort of like Orlanth/Barntar for the Orlanthi, but with more dick drawings.
  • Oria is the Pelorian Earth Goddess, and the Maize Mother. Her and Lodril are the main Sky/Earth power couple for the Pelorian masses, I suppose.
  • Dendara, as we mentioned earlier, is Yelm’s wife. Although she’s associated to Earth goddesses, I get the impression that she’s more linked to the household, with good manners and well behaved children, rather than linked to the crops and fertility. This split between Oria and Dendara sounds interesting for Pelorian world-building because it doesn’t exist much in Sartar as far as I know.
  • Oslira is the goddess of the Oslir river, and as such probably comparable to Engizi in Sartar. Her cult must be important for all the irrigation needed around the rice paddies that dot the Pelorian landscape.
  • Yelm is, again, the sun god, duh. He’s historically important given that the Lunar Empire used to be a Solar Empire at some point.
  • Hon-eel we also already mentioned. Lots of maize fields here.
  • Surenslib is… err wait, Jeff talked about that one.

Now that last one is a bit surprising – that’s the ancestress of the Darjiini, and is a rather big cult. She didn’t make the cut in the Cults Book despite her size because her influence is totally localized and she’s not really of cosmological importance outside of Darjiin and Doblian.

Ok so that didn’t help much. As far as I can tell, Surenslib is the Heron Goddess, responsible for marshes and other wetlands, and… (checks notes) known as “lewd”. Yes, she’s wet, and lewd. My god, Lodril and Surenslib is what happens when game designers get horny.

Anyway, I checked out Darjiin and it’s a very densely populated Lunar province with lots of rice farmers, marshlands and small lakes, and a tight grasp on their old gods. Hence an obscure wetland goddess making the cut of the top 10 cults in the Lunar Empire.

We can think of Yelm+Lodril+Oria+Dendara+Oslira as being the backbone of the old Dara Happan civilization before the Red Goddess. But the Seven Mothers have now definitely eclipsed the old Solar Pantheon. They are still there, but more in the background. With the Red Emperor recognized as the avatar of Yelm Imperator, the old gods of Peloria now serve the Red Goddess.

And speaking of the Red Goddess, what’s her cult like, given that the requirements to join it are pretty insane? (you need to be a Runemaster of a qualifying cult, and be Illuminated) Well, Jeff thinks there might be around 8000 Red Goddess initiates.

The Eel-ariash Clan

A bit of a deep cut here, but Jeff is talking about the Eel-ariash clan, a prominent noble family in the Lunar Empire:

The Eel-ariash come from Doblian, and were the family of Sandene, a village weaver woman who had protected the Red Emperor when he hid from Sheng Seleris. The family first appeared in the chronicles around 1460s thanks to the deeds of their most famous daughter, Hon-eel the Artess, who was revealed to be the daughter of Sandene and the Red Emperor.

The Eel-ariash accompanied Hon-eel on her rise, becoming her priests, administrators, and household. When Hon-eel resettled Oraya, one of her kin was appointed Satrap in 1587. The family was greatly weakened in the Nights of Horror (1506) and lost control of that satrapy but they aided the Molari-sor in seizing that satrapy in 1521 and one of the most famous Dart Warriors of all time, the Chain Dancer, was a member of the family. In 1543, the Eel-ariash took over the Oronin satrapy, despite the opposition of the Red Emperor.

You might remember that Sheng Seleris was a sort of Solar Genghis Khan figure who almost destroyed the young Lunar Empire with his horse-riding nomads. The Nights of Horror was one of the biggest battles between the two.

Dart Warriors are the operatives who take part in the Dart Competitions, a sort of “officially covert war” between Lunar noble families. I thinking “Roman Senate meets Jason Bourne”, here.

It is said that every action Chain Dancer made was part of a magical ritual taught by Hon-eel in his dreams. The results of his dance was the birth of the woman Farangold, who served as the concubine of the Red Emperor and gave birth to Jar-eel the Razoress in 1588.

So the Red Emperor needed some hardcore CIA spy to get a date? Wow, what a dork.

Among the relatives of Farangold was her nephew, Sor-eel, who was given command of the conquest of Prax in 1610. He was aided by a Tarshite officer, Fazzur Wideread, who became governor of Dragon Pass in 1613. In 1621, Sor-eel was relieved from his governorship of Prax by the Red Emperor after a remarkable magical artifact – a Giant Cradle – slipped out from his fingers. Sor-eel returned to Glamour, and he now serves in his cousin’s household.

Now obviously, the Eel-ariash are an extraordinary family, but we have a family descended from a weaver woman and the Red Emperor, whose descendants include a corn goddess, two children of Yelm (!), one of the most skilled Dart Warriors of history, satraps, generals, governors, and of course Jar-eel the Razoress.

Not to mention at least one Mask if not more.

Lunar Nobles of Alkoth

Let’s keep talking about Lunar nobles… Mark Durston asked about noble families in Alkoth, and got a big enough reply from Jeff that I’m featuring it here.

© 2022 Chaosium Inc.

First, let’s figure out where Alkoth is, thanks to the Argan Argar Atlas. You can spot the city in the middle of the map, along the Oslir river. It’s one of the three main ancient Dara Happan cities, with Raibanth and Yuthuppa, and the last of them to have fallen to the Lunars. That’s possibly because Shargash (a primal war god) is the city’s official god, so they are known to have pretty bad-ass warriors. There’s more information in the Guide about this big city (classified as a “metropolis”, which means 25,000 residents or more).

The city is the center of the Shargash cult, with roughly some 4000 cultists. It is a Lunar city and has 5000 Seven Mothers cultists – most here are going to be dedicated to an individual Seven Mother (Deezola, Yanafal Tarnils, and Irrippi Ontor probably the biggest cults). It is also one of the centers of the Yelm cult with 2000 members. There’s another 9000 adults in Alkoth – so we have lots of Dendara, Oslira, Biselenslib, Lodril and Lowfire cultists as well. I expect there might even be 150-200 Red Goddess initiates.

The ruling elite in Alkoth are going to be Lunars. Some are Yelm cultists, some are Shargash cultists – but all of the ruling elite accept the Red Emperor. In fact, this is where much of the conflict within the elite comes from: competition for the attention and favour (or disfavour) of the Red Emperor and his court (in reality it is mainly his court).

Free, family Alkorneval is an ancient family with members holding senior positions within Yelm and Shargash cult (particularly the Alkor subculture), as well several Red Goddess initiates, officers in the Yanafal Tarnils cult, Irrippi Ontor scribes, etc. They have been leaders in the city since the liberation of the city in the Fourth Wane. However, they are largely of regional ties and importance, with few contacts outside of Henjarl.

The liberation mentioned here is because Alkoth was occupied by Sheng Seleris and his Pentian nomads from 1404 to 1423.

Alkorneval are locked in conflict with the Full Moon Blesses Us family, originally from the Hungry Plateau. They were installed in several key city positions about a dozen years ago, due to the intrigues of the Mother of Strength and the Tharkalists. They revere the Seven Mothers (in particular Yanafal Tarnils and Deezola), but are headed by a Jakaleel-Red Goddess shaman. The Full Moon Blesses Us family have relatively few local connections (although they were given ownership of the Raus domains in Kostaddi after a rebellion about a decade ago), but they have very good ties to Glamour and Two Tower.

Ok, let’s look at the names I don’t know…

  • The Hungry Plateau is visible in the map above, east of Glamour. There’s a tribe of Sable Riders living here, related to the Praxian Sable Riders. No idea if the Full Moon Blesses Us family are Sable Riders who became sedentary or what… but I assume so, since the Mother of Strength who put them in Alkoth is their shaman ruler (and the ruler of Kostaddi province).
  • The Tharkalists are the seven daughters of the Red Emperor, born some time in the mid 1570s. They’re all born from different mothers, but are identical except for one feature each. It’s a Village of the Damned sort of situation, I guess (you might be more partial to the older 1960 movie). Now grown up, they are at the head of the newest of the big influential noble families. Creepily enough, the Tharkalists had children with the Red Emperor… yeah. Ewww.

These families are engaged in a low-level Dart War, with spies and assassins trying to embarrass the other family in the eyes of the Imperial Court.

Remember that Dart Wars are the covert schemes that Lunar noble families run against each other to maintain or increase their position in the court.

So both families likely motivate themselves with their Loyalty to the Red Emperor – heck they want to show how loyal they are and how disloyal their rivals are. These conflicts are over power, status, and personal connections, and not really ideological as we would understand them.

Jeff then gives pointers to bring another faction — possibly a patron for adventurers in a Lunar campaign:

Now if we want to throw another family into the mix, we might have some powerful administrator appointed by the Court, perhaps even a son or daughter of the Red Emperor. He has a lot of those, and this is from a previous Mask, so no particular personal connection with the current Mask. But it is a child of Moonson, and thus a grandchild of the Red Goddess (and theoretically a sibling of Jar-eel and others) so is owed respect and fealty (especially from the Yelm cult). But of course, the reality is that they need to build their own power base and has decided to start here in Alkoth.

So now you have a three-way conflict. Given the size of Alkoth, there are likely far more than this, but at least we can see the contours of elite conflict.

Hero Cults

Jeff talks about hero cults:

Many heroes and “living gods” have cults while they live. Those cults provide the hero with magical resources – however, these cults do not directly provide the worshipers with Rune spells. Instead they insure that the hero can continue to protect, defend, bless the community – or sometimes just so that the hero is well-inclined towards the community!

In RuneQuest, mechanically speaking, I suppose that these cults provide the hero with “Hero Soul points”, which were obtained during heroquests and other epic magical feats. From what we know of the upcoming heroquesting rules (and the preview from The Smoking Ruin & Other Stories, page 187), these points are like Rune Points, in that they let you cast special magic, but they get replenished not when you worship someone, but when people worship you.

The Red Emperor is probably the most widespread example of this sort of “living god” cult, although Belintar, Sir Ethilrist, Cragspider, Jaldon Goldentooth, Jar-eel, and others also have cults (Godunya’s cult is a very different animal).

Now these cults have priests, some who are secunded from other associated cults (like the Red Emperor’s cult being built off the Yelm Imperator infrastructure in the Lunar Emperor or Jaldon Goldentooth using the existing Waha cult. They get material benefits from the hero (like access to spirits or special spirit magic).

That’s a clever way to get a whole bunch of potential worshippers, but I imagine you have to make extra sure the primary deity won’t get pissed off that you’re taking a cut of the action… I wonder if someone ever got in big trouble for that…

When a hero is associated with an existing cult, their cult might function as a subcult that provides access to special Rune magic from the god – not from the hero. The hero might show a path towards that Rune magic, but the god is the source of it, not the hero. Think of the hero as the guide that shows the way to the god’s special magic, and not the source of it.

I guess that’s a good way to introduce new Rune spells!

So in the Holy Country, Belintar had many temples and countless “lay members”. He had priests – but those priests were also priests of the gods of the Holy Country and led Belintar’s worship ceremonies as well. In addition to provide massive magical resources for Belintar, these ceremonies were connected with the Tournament of the Masters of Luck and Death, and Belintar carefully made sure that the various gods of the Holy Country had their representatives in his “cult”.

Leftarm Islands

And since we were just talking about the Holy Country, let’s go there!

Off the southern tip of Heortland is the area called God Forgot. It is associated with the Bandori valley and the Marcher Lands. Collectively this area has about 100,000 human inhabitants, roughly evenly divided between God Forgot and the territories on the mainland.

Let’s bring the map!

© 2022 Chaosium Inc.

The Bandori valley is around the river that passes through Refuge. I’m not sure where the Marcher Lands are but I assume they’re the wetlands to the southeast of Refuge.

God Forgot is dominated by a pre-Hrestoli variant of Malkionism. More than half the adult population (20k) worship no god except the Invisible God. These people strictly follow an ancient caste system of laborers, soldiers, sorcerers, and rulers. The rulers of this area are claimed to be from Brithini, as are several sorcerers. They came here in the Second Age and managed to survive the wars that destroyed the Machine City. There is a sizable minority of Aeolians (7.5k) particularly among the farmers and soldiers. Many coastal fisherfolk worship Choralinthor (3k) and there is a small cult centered on Casino Town that worships only the Goddess of Luck, Who Giveth and Taketh Away.

Aeolians are sort-of-gnostics who believe the Invisible God to be the creator of the cosmos, but also consider the gods to be “emanations” of him… so they are basically Orlanthi people who go “<wink wink> we know who Orlanth and Ernalda really are, right? <wink wink>“. For more on Aeolians, see issue #24 of the Journal.

The Mirrorsea Bay (in the centre of the Holy Country) is also named Choralinthor Bay, so you can bet that Choralinthor, the god, lives down there. It’s probably a good idea to worship the guy when you live on its shores.

Refuge is another Brithini outpost that follows the ancient caste system. Almost half the population of Refuge follow the Invisible God (1.5 k), with the next most important cults being Aeolianism and Choralinthor.

Rural Bandori and the Marcher lands are more like Esvular in Heortland. The largest cults here are Aeolianism, Orlanth, Ernalda, and Eiritha. Humakt has a major temple at Marcher Fort, which defends the passage to Prax.

Refuge

We were just talking about the area around Refuge, so here are some more notes:

The city of Refuge is port city in God Forgot and a Brithini outpost which continues its tenuous existence using the old caste systems of Brithos. Cautious and defensive, the rulers are ancient and canny politicians and rarely act rashly. The city has an ancient alliance with a tribe of Esvularing peoples called the Bandori. Beginning in 1620, a flood of refugees from Heortland has swollen the city’s population.

This would be refugees fleeing the Lunar Empire’s expansion, I suppose.

Refuge has a great temple to the Invisible God, major temples to Aeol and Choralinthor, minor temples to Orlanth, Ernalda, Issaries, and Lhankor Mhy, and shrines to Chalana Arroy, Dormal, Humakt, Waha, and Eirtha. Because of the refugees from Heortland, the temples to Orlanth and Ernalda are now effectively major temples.

There must be interesting stories to tell when a minor temple’s resources become strained under the pressure of too many worshippers… Not just because there’s not enough room for the ceremonies, but also because there’s not enough staff to teach skills and spells, or because the temple wyter can’t get everybody onto the God Plane for big rituals. The leading priest there might be quite liberal in appointing God Talkers, which means that adventurers could easily get a promotion even if they barely qualify…

The ruler of Refuge is the brother of the Talar of God Forgot. He is a Brithini, and is aided by several sorcerers and by his fearsome bodyguards.

About a third of the city’s population are God Forgot Malkioni. About 10% are Aeolians. The rest is a motley mix of Heortlanders, Praxians, Boat People, and Esrolians.

There are caravans that head out from Refuge to the Monkey Ruins and into Prax. That route is greatly preferred to the route to Corfu and then upriver to New Pavis.

It’s a fun route: you pass by the Monkey Ruins, with plenty of baboons and Oakfed cultists, and then you get to Biggle Stone, with its weird humid mushroom forest in the middle of the chaparral. It’s a nice change from Caravan Alley!

Karse

Elsewhere in the eastern Holy Country is the city of Karse:

Karse (large city): This ancient port city is an important trade center with Dragon Pass. Goods are transferred from ship to caravan here. Karse is located on the coast, a few kilometers from the mouth of the Marzeel River. The high Heortland cliffs rise a few kilometers behind the city and the Shadow Plateau. Karse is a very old city, dating back to the Dawn. Temples to the Sea Gods stand near the harbor, a natural inlet that has been worked on for the last 1500 years or so, most recently by Prince Tarkalor Trollkiller and his Sartarite stonemasons.. The city has many warehouses and inns, including a Geo’s Inn.

Karse was listed as a “small city” (500 to 6000 residents) in the Guide to Glorantha. Jeff lists it as a “large city” here (6000 to 25000 residents). Given that Jeff also notes that the city’s area is 40 hectares, with about 150 people per hectare, that comes up to 6000 residents, which is exactly the cut-off between the two categories. The city might have grown a little bit between the Guide’s 1621 and RuneQuest Glorantha’s 1625, enough to push it in the next category.

Either way, you can see Karse in Hendriki on the map featured a few sections above. And here’s a sketch of the city itself, which we already saw in a previous Journal, when we compared Karse to Massalia:

Photo by Jeff Richard © 2022 Chaosium Inc.

Unlike Massalia, though, the high cliffs around the city means that it’s probably in the shadows for several more hours every day, with less daylight than other cities in the region:

I expect night comes a little early to Karse, as the kilometre high cliffs of the Shadow Plateau are only about five kilometres away. Before the Only Old One was defeated by Belintar, the Tower of the Palace of Black Glass would have been clearly visible about 20 km away, a huge structure that rose to the Middle Air.

And with the Shadow Plateau nearby, “Argan Argar is of course important in this area, second only to Orlanth and Ernalda“.

[Karse is] a stronghold of the Argan Argar cult, so very troll-friendly (by necessity if not by inclination).

On a trade and travelling note, Karse is the beginning of one of the Royal Roads of Dragon Pass, which lead you to the Sartar Roads and, if you want to go that far, the roads leading to Pavis or Tarsh and Peloria:

Karse is an interesting base for a campaign as it has very strong connections to both Sartar and Nochet. It is the southern terminus of the Dragon Pass caravan route and so has merchants from the Lunar Heartlands, Esrolia, Prax, and even over the seas. Orlanthi are of course welcome there, but there are even some Lunars who remained after its conquest by the Hendriki.

From Karse, a campaign could easily link Sartar to the far off islands of Jrustela or Teshnos, get involved in Esrolian politics, and have to fight off Wolf Pirates.

Jeff also mentioned Prince Tarkalor Trollkiller: he fought some war here in 1560 against the trolls that almost caused these trade routes to be closed. I think these trolls are the Kitori, although they might be a slightly different kind of trolls, created by The Only Old One, the ancient ruler of the Shadow Plateau and son of Argan Argar… I’m not clear on this whole affair. Anyway, these trolls’ territory is now reduced to the Troll Woods, and the trade routes are relatively safe… or are they?! (cue some adventure seed)

For more notes about Karse, including what the labels point to on the map, again, refer to issue #27 of the Journal. Jeff adds a few details though:

There are a lot of inns – caravanserai – in the city, including a Geo’s Inn.

And:

The main city is strongly fortified with two main gates – a Land Gate (the main gate) and a Sea Gate that leads to the harbor – and a fortress that guards the harbor. Despite the seemingly impervious fortifications, Karse fell to the Lunar Army in 1619, after a dramatic assault by land and sea.

Karse has major temples to Orlanth Adventurous, Ernalda, Issaries, Argan Argar, Choralinthor, and Aeol, minor temples to Chalana Arroy, and Lhankor Mhy, and shrines to Diros, Dormal, Humakt, Lanbril, Magasta, and the Seven Mothers.

Another bunch of unfamiliar names!

  • I’m not sure who Aeol is but I assume that’s the person who created Aeolianism (see above, and issue #24), worshipped as a cult hero of the Invisible God or something.
  • Diros is the “God of Boats”, whose cult originates from the Second Age’s Middle Sea Empire.
  • Dormal is the guy who “reopened” the oceans to deep sea travel, after figuring some sort of workaround to whatever magical mess caused the Closing.
  • Lanbril is the Heortling Thief God. I’m curious about whether his temple is public, or something more clandestine, maybe along the lines of “everybody knows mafia boss Jimmy Two-Guns is found at the Strike One bowling alley“. I’m also wondering how it differs from Eurmali thieves.
  • Magasta is an important Water god. He’s generally busy operating the whirlpool that bears his name at the center of Glorantha. Under the whirlpool is the hole left after the Spike exploded in the Gods War. I suppose that people sailing to Pamaltela (the southern continent) need to do a minimum of worship to Magasta to travel safely past him.

There likely was a shrine to Yelmalio but it was abandoned in 1619 and the cult played no part in the city’s liberation by the Hendriki in 1624.

And now what’s up in 1625 and beyond:

Not surprisingly, Karse after 1625 is in post-Liberation turmoil. The Lunars are gone, the Hendriki are leaderless and their brief kingdom is falling apart. Esrolians queen does not rule outside of her lands, although she has great influence on Karse. In the Shadow Plateau there are those that want to extend the Shadow again. But trade with Sartar is returning, and there is once again a free Prince in Boldhome.

Argrath becomes Prince in 1627 and one of the first things he is tasked to deal with by the Heortlanders and Esrolians is to stop the Wolf Pirates.

It sounds like Karse is often depending on Sartar:

Not only is Karse dependent on trade through Sartar for its livelihood but between 1570 and 1600, I would expect that most of the public architecture in Karse got built by the largesse of the princes of Sartar. Harbor, gates, temples, etc.

That stopped after the conquest of Boldhome, and then it was whatever the city could get the merchants to pay for – either directly through gifts and donations, or indirectly through market fees and tolls. That stopped in 1619 after the city fell to a Lunar military assault. After 1621, trade was severely disrupted due to war. The Lunar garrison was withdrawn late in 1624 or early 1625 and the city was ruled by the Hendriki, but they collapsed early in 1625. So it would seem likely that the place the oligarchs of Karse look to is Boldhome, now that there is a Prince again.

Caladraland

Let’s stay in the Holy Country, with one of my favourite places there:

Caladraland is one of the regions of the Holy Country, and one people don’t pay enough attention to! If we look at Caladraland as a whole (so Highvale, Porthomeka, Vinavale, and Thomble), the most important four cults are:

Ernalda 102k
Caladra and Aurelion 59k
Lodril 30k
Orlanth 30k

We already just talked about Lodril (see above), but here we’re dealing with the Holy Country version of his cult, which is bound to be different since farmers here would worship aspects of Orlanth most of the time.

Caladra and Aurelion are Lodril’s twin children, although there’s a bit more to them than that (see below).

A few interesting observations. If we look at Caladraland AND Esrolia, we have around 90k Lodril cultists in the Holy Country. That’s a lot. Sure the Ernalda and Orlanth cults are a scale of magnitude bigger than that, but Lodril has a bigger cult in the Holy Country than any of the lesser Lightbringers and is about tied with Argan Argar.

So of course the Orlanth cult of Dragon Pass is familiar with Lodril. They probably associate him more with the Vent than with Peloria. And yes, they know that the Volcano God of Caladraland (called Veskarthan) is Lodril and since the Second Age that name is likely more prevalent.

Caladra and Aurelion is also interesting. There’s over 60k members of that cult throughout the Holy Country, making it a solid second tier cult behind the likes of Lodril and Argan Argar. But the cult is almost completely localized in Caladraland, so there they are the biggest cult after Ernalda (and in Highvale they are actually much bigger than Ernalda or Lodril). Again, most Orlanthi in Dragon Pass have likely at least heard of the Twins. The Twins are children of Asrelia and Lodril, and thus siblings of Ernalda and Maran Gor.

The Guide mentions that the cult of Lodril in Caladraland (back when it was called Veskarthan) was “disrupted by the God Learners” with “their cult of Caladra and Aurelion”. I wasn’t sure what that meant but thankfully Jeff explained:

The God Learners realised that Caladra – a cult centered on the Vent was tied with Aurelion, a cult on the island of Jrustela. Both could be contacted together at Meetinghall Mountain in Slontos. The priests of each cult quickly embraced the connection to the other, as they realised their cult had a twin deity!

The cult was promulgated throughout the Middle Sea Empire from its core areas of Jrustela, Slontos, and Caladraland. However, with the collapse of the Middle Sea Empire, the cult only survived in Caladraland and environs.

So it sounds like the God Learners tried to bolster their volcano god by tying it to another volcano god, and the Caladralanders ended up with two gods for the price of one, all for themselves to enjoy. Neat!

Sartarite Land Ownership

This is a common question with newcomers to Glorantha: do you own the land your farm is on? Jeff has some answers:

In theory, all arable land belongs to the Earth Goddess. As a practical matter, cultivable land is usually allocated by her local husband (in Sartar, this is the tribal Orlanth cult or by the clan, or both). Normally, the clan claims what it can defend and work, and the tribe backs that up. As long as the rights and wishes of the Earth Goddess are upheld, the Earth temple goes along with this.

I read somewhere once that the Babeester Gor’s cult is responsible for enforcing this. So if someone messes up with the stones that delineate the plots of lands, they get a visit from… well… let’s just say no one messes up with the stones.

The tribe or clan might alienate their community rights over some piece of land and assign it to a temple, another tribe, or even to the Prince of Sartar. This is how the cities worked – the tribes all gave up their exclusive rights to part of their land and gave it to a council made up of all the tribes. It is even possible for a tribe or clan to be convinced to alienate some land in exchange for a lot of silver. But again, in all of these cases the rights of the Earth temples need to be acknowledged (which is usually a percentage of the harvest). All of this ends up involving a lot of haggling between armed kinship groups. But in theory, the tribal king can have the clans give up land in order to support retainers, priests, etc (which is exactly what happens in a few scenarios). This land usually already has people that are working it, so it is really about who gets the additional renders – the clan, a thane, the tribe, a temple, whatever.

Art by Simon Roy © 2022 Chaosium Inc.

Pasture lands are handled differently. The livestock graze wherever they can be defended. If you graze your herds in lands claimed by another tribe or clan, they might gather some warriors together and chase you off. If you can defend your herd then either the clan or tribe needs to get a bigger group of warriors or needs to tacitly accept it. Clans mark their boundaries in order to signal what they are willing to protect and claim as their own.

If this whole thing sounds pretty turbulent, that’s because it is. Thanks to the Sartar Dynasty, there has been a non-violent means of resolving disputes over land – appeal to the Prince. That’s kept these borders from changing a lot, which in the long run tends to make things more secure. But from time to time a clan or tribe loses land because it simply can’t protect it any more and the Earth Temple no longer acknowledges them as its protectors.

At a certain point, Orlanthi land rights are what you can get others to accept, mainly though kinship ties, cult status, and personal might.

I think this is broadly speaking the system of land ownership found throughout the Orlanthi Belt from the Holy County through Maniria, Dragon Pass and the Pelorian hills to Ralios and Fronela. I expect we have a different system in Dara Happa and in the Malkioni West.

Lunar Land Ownership

Continued from the previous item, Jeff added this:

So for example in the Lunar Heartlands, we get a complex and hierarchical land ownership system. Here’s some thoughts:

The Red Emperor owns personal and royal property which is used as he sees fit. He additionally exercise dominion over conquered lands (such as in the Lunar Provinces), and can give this land to whoever he wants. Owners of conquered lands are rarely displaced and are usually allowed to continue living on and working their lands. However, they have to share the profits of the land with their imperial overlords.

Nobles can own land on a restricted and unrestricted basis. Nobles obtained land by purchasing it from other nobles or as a gift from the emperor for service to him or the Lunar religion. Purchased land can be sold or willed. Land grants from the emperor sometimes have conditions that required them to be returned to the emperor upon the death of the owner. Lunar citizens have similar rights to purchase land or receive it from the emperor. Institutions such as the army, temples, and certain public offices could also own land which was received from the Emperor. These entities own the rights to the profits from the land and use them to support the office holder. However, the individual office holder did not own the land.

Commoners cannot own land on an individual basis. However, they have access to land through their village or kinship groups and they are permitted to choose a headman to manage the distribution of communal land. This land is given to individual families, and generally stayed with the family unless it goes uncultivated for two years or the family moves away. If this occurs, the unused land is then redistributed to other families.

And now some comment on conquered lands, in both Orlanthi and Lunar cultures:

When the Lunars conquered land, the Red Emperor (through his proxies and representatives) claim the right to dispose of such lands as they wish. Of course, they have to be able to enforce these decrees, which means it is actually usually just demanding that they get paid a portion of the harvest or market fees etc.

Sartarite conquests tend to be more limited. A defeated locality is forced to acknowledge the authority of the victorious king or tribe or whoever. So a village might be forced to stop supporting the defeated tribe and to join the victorious tribe instead.

In the Hero Wars, when Argrath conquered locations, he generally stepped into the shoes of the defeated rulers, taking those properties the Lunar government had reserved for itself, and generally leaving other arrangements aside.

Community Roundup

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

Exploring Glorantha Episode 14

JM and Evan take a look at the Aldryami, the elves of Glorantha. I haven’t watched this because I was a bit busy this week, as you can see from the very first item in the newsletter!

Jonstown Compendium POD Unboxing

God Learner friend RPGImaginings is showing off many Jonstown Compendium books in this video, which is great if you want to check out what the printing quality looks like for these print-on-demand titles.

Starter Set Unboxings and Short Reviews

Did you think everybody had done their unboxings and reviews of the RuneQuest Starter Set by now? Think again! We have two videos this week: one from the Tabletop Gaming Guild, and one from Erik Tenkar (of Tenkar’s Tavern, a pretty well known community around the D&D/OSR crowd).

Rhino Rider Miniature

Photo by Barry Lee

Barry Lee has this very nice partially-custom made miniature of a Praxian Rhino Rider!

Rolling Boxcars Reviews Apple Lane

© 2022 Chaosium Inc.

Keith aka Modoc reviews Apple Lane (now available in print-on-demand), the 1978 supplement for RuneQuest. While many old-school RuneQuest players here might have fond memories of this classic, it’s always good to realize that it hasn’t necessarily aged well in many aspects. Check out the review to see what the module looks to fresh eyes!

Six Ages at GDC

Talk about the intersection of my job and by hobby! Here is David Dunham at GDC (one of the main game developer conferences in the world) talking about the design of Six Ages. This is a presentation for game designers and developers, so while it’s not super technical, it does go into game scripting, procedural generation techniques, and so on.

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.

Orlanth Thunderous Shrine

Photo by Christina Sophia

This is nice little spot on the Isle of Skye (in Scotland) is a good inspiration for an Orlanth Thunderous shrine!

Gravinis Passage Tomb

This Neolithic burial site is located an island in Brittany (France) could be another good inspiration for an adventuring site:

Photo by Brittany Tourism

The Gavrinis Passage Tomb is an ancient burial ground which is thought to have been constructed around 3,500 BC. The site features a stone burial chamber which is covered in a cairn, or stone mound, with a mound of earth packed on top of it. When the tomb was constructed thousands of years ago, the island of Gavrinis was still connected to the mainland.

I really like the carvings inside:

Photo by Brittany Tourism

Thank you for reading

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

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

It’s kind of funny: BRP games like Call of Cthulhu or RuneQuest are among my all time favourite RPGs, but BRP itself is not even close to my top 5 systems. One of the reasons for this is the split between characteristics and skills, which don’t interact much with each other. I’m a kid of the 90s: characteristics and skills are meant to be added together, damn it!

Anyway, this split means that the gamemaster needs to decide when to ask for characteristic rolls, when to ask for skill rolls, and what to do when both could apply. Here are some thoughts.

The Easy Ones: STR, CON, SIZ, POW

The first three characteristics are easy because they don’t really compete with any other abilities: there’s no skill for raw strength like kicking a door down (STR), resisting poison, fatigue, or harsh environmental conditions (CON), or being lucky or strong-willed (POW). So these should be easy to use at the table.

Interestingly enough, RuneQuest doesn’t mention POW or SIZ rolls on page 141, like it does for the other characteristics…

  • For POW, it’s maybe because the magic rules are already using POWx5 rolls often enough, or because, unlike other characteristics, POW is meant to go up and down quite a lot, making it unreliable to use consistently during play.
  • For SIZ, it’s just hard to imagine when that can be useful… but I’ve heard of SIZx5 being used to augment Intimidate!

DEX

With DEX we start to hit the problem of skills competing with a characteristic. There’s a dozen skills for all kinds of actions based on agility or manipulation, so what’s left for DEX itself?

Frankly, I can’t recall any other situation besides bad footing and balance: I would make players roll DEXx5 or DEXx3 during an action scene where the ground is difficult to run around on, or their character is in an unstable situation. One of my players also once used it when two characters raced to grab their weapons, making a DEX roll to see who grabbed them first. And of course some spells like Illusory Motion or Shake Earth require DEX rolls from the casters or victims.

If we look at the rulebook, the chase rules call for DEX rolls to see who is fastest, while the falling rules specify a DEX roll to land on a specific hit location. There is also a mention of a DEX roll for throwing a simple object at a target (such as throwing a rock to create a diversion), or catching it. But catching objects can also be done with a Sleight skill check, so the gamemaster might be met with the classic (at least for me) player request to roll under their characteristic instead of their skill… at least until Sleight is increased above DEXx3 or DEXx5. We’ll get back to that problem later.

INT

There are even more knowledge skills than agility and manipulation skills combined, but we can consider INT as raw memory, intuition, and logic. So I sometimes let players roll INTx3 or INTx5 to remember something an NPC said to their character, such as instructions or directions, or to have some revelation about “what’s really going on”, such as a conspiracy against the King or discerning reality from visions.

CHA

This is the one that I had the most problem wrapping my head around. CHA is supposed to represent how charming a character is, or how much of a natural-born leader they are, but there are already skills like Charm or Orate!

Moreover, figuring out when CHA rolls can be used is particularly important if you consider spells like Glamour or Charisma. You have combat Rune spells that can double your weapon skill or more, but these two spells only gives you, like, a +15% bonus to communication skills or something? How is that worth casting when you can get more for free with a simple augment? These CHA-boosting spells must be good for something, right?

I couldn’t figure out when it was ever OK to use CHA rolls until I checked the “Skill and Ability Time” section (RuneQuest page 139). Skills like Fast-Talk or Bargain usually take a minute or more, according to this list, and skills like Charm take 5 minutes or more. So one way to look at it is that a CHA roll is for anything that’s faster than all of these: between a few seconds and a melee round. CHA is how you get things done quick: getting past a guard (unless the guard is bored or patient enough to listen to someone yap for two minutes!), getting some bystanders to help during an action scene (the character probably only spends one round on this!), or postponing an execution (“wait, no, don’t kill him yet, there’s something you need to know!”).

So in my opinion CHA is what makes people pay attention to you. With a very high CHA, you can get people to look at you, to listen to you, or to follow you… but then you have to back it up with actual skill. You might have gotten the King’s attention, but you have to follow it up with an Orate or Battle roll to convince him that an alliance with the Telmori is needed to win. You might have gotten the soldiers to follow you in a surprise flank maneuver, but you have to show some fighting prowess or they will lose faith and retreat. You might have postponed the execution, only to find your arguments rejected and the prisoner beheaded.

Success At A Cost

There are still situations where a player might ask for a characteristic roll instead of a skill roll. In my Call of Cthulhu days, this might happen because of a dramatic scene in a previous session in which I made a ruling on the fly to roll some characteristic to make things interesting… only to realize that it set a precedent of sorts!

So I started to consider characteristic rolls as “less good” than skills rolls. By definition, they often represent a “brute” approach to problem solving, rather than one based on knowledge and experience. The idea is to make characteristic rolls a good fallback plan, but keep skills as the best thing you can use. In this approach, characteristic rolls would have the following downsides:

  • Obviously, succeeding with a characteristic roll doesn’t give you an experience check. You don’t learn from the experience.
  • A successful characteristic roll should be a “success at a cost”, i.e. a success that isn’t as good as a success with a equivalent skill (if any).

So for example:

  • Kicking down a door would alert a guard, while lock-picking it would not.
  • Keeping your balance on a boat with a DEXx3 roll might still give you a small penalty to all rolls. By comparison, succeeding with a Boat roll, showing actual experience with sailing, would remove all penalties.

I generally don’t have to think about these things unless they come up with a specific player. If we take the example of the adventurers being on a boat, I might start with a DEX roll to keep their balance, only to realize that one adventurer has the Boat skill, and the others don’t. I would probably want to give that player an advantage for that, therefore adjusting the ruling on the fly to make DEX rolls not as good.

Do you have examples of using characteristic rolls in interesting ways? Please share them!

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.

This week I was fighting the spirits of Mallia so this issue of the Journal might not be as complete or insightful as usual. It’s usually insightful, right? I hope it is… you wouldn’t believe the sort of review processes we have here. Malkioni castes like their 360 Feedback, you know.

God Learner Sorcery

A Short Detour Teaser

© 2022 BOLT80 & Chaosium Inc.

I’m getting close to releasing my first Jonstown Compendium book, a simple adventure called “A Short Detour” which also contains a not-so-simple deep dive into the nature of Chaos. I hope you will all like it!

And yes, it’s here at the top, instead of in the Jonstown Compendium section, because it’s my book and my newsletter and I should be allowed some selfish promotion once in a while!

Chaosium News

Here are this week’s Chaosium news!

ImpCon 4

Chaosium’s Impromptu Convention 4 happened this week-end, and was a pretty nice way to connect with the rest of the tribe as usual. There’s not much to say since Chaosium is politely asking everybody to just keep the magic to themselves — ImpCons are just coming and going, like a Dimensional Shambler at the scene of a crime, or like Jar-eel in a Sartarite heroquest.

The next convention should be Chaosium Con, and I hope the pandemic situation won’t prevent me from attending… it’s not looking great in the US right now though.

ChaosiumCon VIP Sessions

Speaking of ChaosiumCon, Chaosium has posted a list of the “VIP Sessions” for it. It shouldn’t be a surprise that the list includes RuneQuest sessions by Jason Durall and Jeff Richard.

As a reminder, Gamemasters can sign-up for running games here.

QuestWorld Rulebook Update

Art by Lionel Marty © 2022 Chaosium Inc.

The QuestWorld rulebook is off to copy editing, and with a slogan like “2022 is going to be the year of Questworlds!“, we can potentially expect to see the new game this year.

The new ruleset is best described as HeroQuest 2.3 (check out the SRD here), but the rulebook will be a generic system, with only a few “example” settings. No Glorantha in there, sorry, but I’m sure it will be easy to do some light tweaks on the existing HeroQuest Glorantha to play with the updated rules… that is, if that currently out-of-print book is rebranded and re-released.

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!

Friends and Foes: Chaos Set 2022

© 2022 Dario Corallo & Chaosium Inc.

Dario Corallo has more cardboard monsters for the new year! I believe that some are using illustrations you’ve already seen in his art packs, while others are new drawings. Eitherway, they are meant for table play, but can easily be converted into VTT tokens, even though they are drawn from the side and not the top.

Griffin Mountain Map Close-Up, and More Maps

© 2022 Mikael Mansen & Chaosium Inc.

Mikael Mansen continues to churn out the maps. There are multiple new generic settlement maps, and a close-up of Griffin Mountain (pictured above).

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.

Tarsh, Saird, and Lowland Peloria

Jeff looks at villages in the Lunar Provinces:

Tarsh was settled by two very different waves of colonists. The first was the largest. These were settlers from the area traditionally called Saird (modern Holay, Aggar, Imther, and Vanch) that came to Dragon Pass in the aftermath of the Conquering Daughter.

It’s easy to get lost with all the history and all the names so let’s bring out the AAA maps:

© 2022 Chaosium Inc.

Sartar is in the bottom right corner (you can see Runegate there). You can see the faint Glowline extend up to around Furthest, and covering some of Tarsh (dividing it between the colonized “Lunar Tarsh”, and the “Old Tarsh” of the rebels who stay close to the Shaker Temple and Wintertop. In the north is Glamour and the heart of the Lunar Empire.

You can also now spot the places Jeff mentioned, from where the original Tarsh settlers came before they moved close to Kero Fin. This happened around 1330, when the aforementioned Conquering Daughter did the aforementioned conquering of Holay. Her real name was Hwarin Dalthippa, and she was a daughter of the first Red Emperor (it seems a bit more complicated than that but I don’t understand all the nuances yet… bear with me). If you’ve see the “Daughter’s Road” on the map, she’s the one who got that built.

Now the distances involved are not very great – it is only about 150 km from Filichet to Bagnot – which meant it was easy for waves of settlers to travel with their herds and families into what became Tarsh.

Saird in the First Wane would have been a collection of chieftains and petty cities at the frontier of Dragon-haunted Dragon Pass, loosely united into the Kynnelfing Alliance. Generations before many had fought for Jannisor. The people were farmers with herds of sheep and cattle. The people were mostly Orlanth Thunderous or Adventurous types, with a large minority of Yelmalio cultists and other Lightbringers. However, they had centuries of sustained cultural interchange and trade with Dara Happa – Yelm was viewed as a more or less equal contender with Orlanth for rulership of the world and for the love of Ernalda.

The “Dragon-haunted Dragon Pass” is because at this time, Dragon Pass would have still been in the Inhuman Occupation. That’s the period of time when no humans lived there, after the Dragonkill War of 1120 had the dragons kill most of them, and got the rest to flee. The area was resettled more or less simultaneously by the Grazelanders (from Prax in the east), the Tarshites (from Saird in the north), and the Orlanthi (from Heortland in the south).

The Kynnelfing Alliance was the Holay Orlanthi kings’ alliance that tried to resist the Conquering Daughter… and failed. Jannisor, one of the rebel heroes, even came pretty close to invading the city of Glamour itself in 1275. Interestingly enough, he was allied with the Sable Riders of Prax at the time, because they had some kind of immunity to the Lunars’ powers… but the Lunars knew of the deeper connection between the “Lunar Deer” and the Red Goddess, and turned the Sable Riders against Jannisor. That’s when the Sable Tribe started their long tradition of working with the Lunar Empire!

By 1450, these Orlanth Thunderous types had settled a broad belt alongside the Oslira and Black Eel rivers, up to Shakeland and Wintertop and then hopping over the River to the Far Point and the Donalf Flats. A powerful Orlanth Rex dynasty based at Bagnot had ruled over them for over a hundred years, but the dynasty was killed without heir in 1448. After a civil war, a new dynasty from Wintertop was crowned in Bagnot.

The “powerful Orlanth Rex dynasty” is the legacy of Arim the Pauper (who led the Holay exiles south and founded Tarsh in the first place) and Sorana Tor (some sort of Earth Goddess found at the foot of Kero Fin). Their kids started the “Twin Dynasty”, which is what ended in 1448. The civil war lasted until 1538 when Palashee Long Axe took power and allied Tarsh with Sartar, but he was killed in 1555 and Tarsh has been a Lunar Provincial Kingdom ever since.

These settlements would have been indistinguishable from those in Holay, Aggar, or Imther. Wheat and barley would be the main crops, pigs, sheep, and cattle the main livestock. Villages were initially unwalled, but the dynasts built many fortresses and walls after 1375 and unwalled villages were rare by the time of the civil war.

Saird itself is mostly riverine plains surrounded by a bowl of hills maybe 75 km by 140 km in dimension. Think something like the Pannonian Basin around Budapest. Building techniques would be heavily influenced by Dara Happa (just as in Sartar they are heavily influenced by Esrolia).

I’m not going to start looking up architecture differences between Dara Happa and Esrolia, but I’m going to hazard a guess that the former has more golden tall phallic structures, while the latter has more colourful square buildings.

Beneath the dynasts and priestly lineages at Shaker Temple or Haruvernalda, most folk would belong to free settler families or their unfree slaves (taken in war with the Lunar Provinces or the nomads). However, between these groups were an influential class of mounted warriors (“thanes”) who gained power, wealth, and status in the wars against the nomads of Peloria. Cavalry mainly took the form of heavy, close combat cavalry backed up by light scouts and horse archers.

I’ve got no idea what Haruvernalda is, but I had heard about the “rise of the thane” in Orlanthi society. After almost a century of fighting Sheng Seleris’ Pentian nomads, it was pretty well known around the Lunar Empire that people on horseback can kick some severe ass. So surely a few people started getting the idea of doing the same… possibly just to look cool at first, but quickly because they realized horses are damn useful. And that’s why your thane of Apple Lane now has a fancy title and a fancy mount!

The Most Popular Cults in the Lunar Heartlands

Jeff says:

The answer is the Seven Mothers, either collectively or individually. About 24% of the population in the Heartlands belong to the cult. All of the other Lunar cults total about 10% of the population. So a little more than a third of the population in the Heartlands belong to Lunar cults (we are talking more than the minimal lay member rites).

I assume that another third of the population would be lay members, if not more.

The next biggest cult in the Heartlands is Lodril at about 14%. In third is the Grain Goddess Oria at about 10%.

So where is Yelm, you might ask? The Yelm cult is very magically, socially, and politically important, but it is comparatively small numbering about 4% of the population.

As far as I know, only the powerful noble families with lineages dating back a few centuries have true Yelm initiates and priests… most other people are lay members.

Dendara is at about 5% overall. And Shargash and Polaris are each no more than about 2%.

Dendara is Yelm’s wife apparently, but I have no idea what she actually does. The other two are war gods of the sky pantheon.

And again, Tarsh resembles the Lunar Heartlands in that about 25% of the population follow the Seven Mothers and 10% follow Hon-eel. Where it gets VERY different is the rest of the population largely follow Lightbringer gods and their associates.

Initiates and Lay Members

Possibly as a result of the previous note on Yelm initiates vs lay-members, Jeff reminds us that there’s a difference between the two:

Initiates are those who have experienced the cult’s magical secrets. They are able to act as conduits for the deity and wield its Rune magic. That is a deep connection, like being married or the member of a family – it is not something that is done casually.

Casual members are lay members – those are the folk that show up to the worship ceremonies and feasts, learn some spirit magic and skills from the cult, but might have a deeper tie with another cult.

Lay members are here for the free t-shirts and the cheap hot-dogs. Initiates have to hand out the t-shirts and cook the hot-dogs.

Associate members are initiates of one cult who can participate in the magical secrets of another, closely connected cult. They might even have special roles in that closely connected cult. As a result they have a deeper magical connection with the other cult than mere lay members, even though technically they are not actually members of that cult. A good example would be the tie between Issaries, Chalana Arroy, Lhankor Mhy and Orlanth, or between Orlanth and Ernalda.

Another example might be Babeester Gor initiates taking part in Ernalda’s ceremonies as guardians.

In some communities most members of a cult are initiates or associate members – think like the members of the Orlanth cult in an Orlanthi clan or the Pavis cult in the Real City. In other communities, most members of a cult are lay members – think the Pavis cult in New Pavis or Pavis County.

Cult Demographics in Civilized Prax

Jeff has been “fine-tuning” demographics of Pavis County and Sun County:

As of 1626, there are about 25,650 humans residing in Pavis County – this includes Argrath’s companions but does not include those nomadic bands that might winter in Pavis County. There are about 19,000 humans residing in Sun County.

The biggest cults are:
– Ernalda 5325 (with another 4375 who are mere initiates of the Grain Goddess for a total of 9700)
– Yelmalio 4900 (575 in Pavis County and 4375 in Sun County)
– Orlanth 4700 (all in Pavis County)
– Zola Fel 3500 (1500 in Pavis County and 2000 in Sun County)
– Pavis himself has about 1000 initiates.

Now Orlanth punches higher than that, if you add the 650 Humakti and 550 Storm Bull cultists in Pavis County (many of whom are sworn to Argrath), and the other Lightbringer cults. But it does give you an idea of the relative numbers of the various cults. Post the Liberation of Pavis, the Seven Mothers cult is very small, only about 500 members, and all in Pavis County).

I don’t have much to say about this whole thing, so here’s a wall of Jeff quotes… sorry!

For a point of comparison, in all all of Sartar (including Far Point and Sun County County) there are 6525 Yelmalio cultists. Of that, 2700 are in Sun Dome County and 1725 in the Far Point. There are more Yelmalio cultists in New Pavis than in Alda-Chur, but the Alda-Churi can also call on the 1000 Yelmalio cultists in the Vantaros tribe.

So let’s just ignore the Yelmalio cult in Tarsh, and focus on the cult in Sartar and Civilised Prax.

The cult in Sartar is about a quarter bigger and is definitely richer. The Sun Dome Templars in Sartar are definitely more militarily skilled and disciplined. But they also must deal with a far more powerful and established Orlanth cult. It may be autonomous, but generally the Sun Dome is an ally of the Prince of Sartar. In Sartar, the Sun Dome and Varntaros are effectively just two more tribes among many.

The cult in Civilised Prax is smaller, but can approach the Orlanth cult as a peer. They are objectively weaker than the Sun Dome templars in Sartar but compared to their neighbours they are much stronger. They can be far more independent and autonomous than their kin in Sartar. And within Sun County, the cult is far more dominant than in Sartar. In Sun County, the traditional “Ernalda cult” is effectively a Grain Goddess cult and is long-tied to Yelmalio – but in Sartar, the Ernalda cult can always call upon the Orlanth cult for protection and support, and has ties to Esrolia.

So even though they are the same cult, worshiping the same god with the same myths and rules, the cults behave differently.

That being said, Sun Dome County in Sartar maintains close religious and cultural ties to Sun County in civilised Prax. Two of the last three counts of Sun County have been Sartarite, and Yelmalio cult in Sun County was among the first to follow Monrogh’s vision (after the Sun Dome itself).

A final thought, that island of just under 5000 Yelmalio cultists exists in a sea of Praxian nomads. Many of them also worship Yelmalio, although no doubt the cult is adapted for nomadic life (the came into Prax in the Second Age). There are some 15,000 nomads in Prax and the Wastes that follow Yelmalio, two thirds of them from the Impala Tribe.

Now that doesn’t mean that the Impala Riders don’t raid or threaten Sun County – tribal identity often overrides cult identity. But it does mean that like among the Orlanthi, they follow rules of honor.

And although that sounds like a big number, remember the nomads are spread throughout Prax and the Wastes, at a very low general density. And those Yelmalions belong to tribes dominated by over 60,000 Waha cultists (there are also another 19,000 Orlanth cultists among the tribes).

As an aside, here’s the Big Rubble’s population:

The Big Rubble has several other cults of importance:

– Pavis 500
– Black Fang 250+
– Kyger Litor 500 (plus numerous lay members)
– Zorak Zoran 150
– Argan Argar 50
– Aldrya 1000
– Thed 200
– Mallia 175

There are about 250 “others”, from baboons to dragonewts to ogres and whatever.

If you’re wondering why there are so few Troll gods initiates given the big Troll population of the Big Rubble, don’t forget that two-thirds of that population are lowly trollkins. Jeff has a rule of thumb for that, actually:

As a general rule, for any group of 100 “trolls”, the assumption is that there are roughly:

– 20 adult dark trolls
– 8 immature dark trolls
– 4 Great Trolls
– 3 Cave Trolls
– 65 Trollkin

Some communities have few great trolls or cave trolls, some more. But this is the benchmark.

Notes on Dwarves

Jeff talks about dwarves:

The dwarfs are an often underestimated and underrepresented Elder Race. In Sartar, they arguably played a bigger role than any other major Elder Race. They built the walls of Sartar’s cities, the Pockets of Boldhome, and built the initial King’s Road between Boldhome and Jonstown (in particular the incredible path through the Quivin Mountains).

And yes, Chaosium writes “dwarfs” sometimes and “dwarves” other times. It looks like they settled on the former for the new RuneQuest line, though.

Dwarfs might look more like humans than aldryami or trolls do, but they are more distinctly alien. Only the dragonewts are considered more mysterious and enigmatic.

Unaging, secretive, and possessing incredible skills and lore unknown to the rest of Glorantha, the dwarves view trolls and aldryami as implacable enemies and humans as fast-breeding pests.

Lovely. Thankfully, the dwarfs who live near Dragon Pass often adhere to Openhandism, which means they openly trade and interact with non-dwarf races (mostly humans). This is because they believe they can get us to help them repair the cosmos that was broken during the Gods War… so your dwarf NPCs will be mean and grumpy and weird and alien, but they’ll be there talking to your players!

Jeff then adds this on dwarf history in the Third Age, starting from the Dragonkill War which we already mentioned previously:

The danger from the human empires was largely broken in 1120, but the dwarfs were incredibly weak. Greatway was the most important stronghold in central Genertela, and the dwarfs were extremely risk adverse, needing to rebuild. So things start off with the elves trying to reclaim the Pass from 1120 to 1150. Reinforced by Brown Elves from the Old Woods, the Stinking Forest expands to the Indigo Mountains (as well as down the Dragonspine).

Around 1150 the trolls, aided by the half-trolls, defeat the Marching Forest with beetles, poison gas, and spirits. The angry ghosts of the elves still haunt the Deadwoods. And around 1180 the trolls and half-trolls fought.

Of note, the players in one of my campaigns have freed up the Deadwoods from their curse! So it should start growing back now. You can bet the trolls are going to be pissed.

After that came the dark troll period of supremacy, which was broken in 1222 by the dragonewts. Also around 1240 the trolls distract themselves by defeating the Praxians and conquering Pavis. After that the Grazers and Beast People have their period of importance. Which lasts until about 1320 when the Orlanthi return to reclaim Dragon Pass.

The dwarfs did not stir until after 1240 or so, until the trolls sacked Pavis, with its dwarf secrets. Sometime before 1490, the trolls made an assault on the Door That Goes Nowhere in the Three Little Giant Mountains. The Dwarfs were forced to temporarily withdraw from Door Mountain, sealing it off from the rest of the Greatway.

Jeff shared this map to illustrate what the Door That Goes Nowhere might be:

© 2022 Chaosium Inc.

The origin point of the Giant’s Walk being the Giant Stairs at Door Mountain has been on maps even since Trollpak at least, but this Door to Nowhere seems new. I guess it makes sense that there’s a door on Door Mountain, but it’s interesting that it might be where giants come from.

Meanwhile The Dwarf decides to ally with the Orlanthi and lends his aid to Sartar. Dwarfs build Sartar’s cities and roads. This is the typical dwarf response – use the humans as a counterweight to the trolls.

The capitalized Dwarf mentioned here is probably Isidilian The Wise, a.k.a. The Dwarf of Dwarf Mine, one of the friendliest dwarfs in the world. He’s very very old, having been “forged” before the Dawn, and has been a supporter of the House of Sartar for most of the kingdom’s history… until:

But to the dwarfs’ surprise, Saronil stole dwarf secrets and used them to build the Orlanth Temple. The dwarfs withdraw from direct aid of Sartar, but the damage has already been done. The Sartarites took the secrets of stonemasonry and other crafts. And although they certainly fought with the trolls, they tended to fight the wrong ones.

You’d think the dwarfs would give up on humans and turn back to their underground works, but hey, don’t underestimate how much they hate the trolls:

And so the dwarfs make contact with other humans as well. Other humans who will fight trolls and keep the Sartarites from exploiting the dwarf secrets they stole. But it is important to remember that the dwarfs really don’t give a damn about human theologies and politics, and probably have great difficulty telling them apart.

The Elder Race can’t help but fight each other and waste their resources. The humans are viewed by all the Elder Races as untrustworthy bit players. The other Elder Races are the real foes. Thousands of years of hatred and conflict, between species with some very long lived rulers.

A few more notes:

In Boldhome, the dwarfs have a sealed-up complex, called the Inviolate Dwarf Palace. Dwarf constructs are sometimes seen deep in the Pockets.

And:

The most commonly encountered dwarfs are rock and copper dwarfs, especially in Boldhome and New Pavis (dwarfs are not an uncommon sight in either city). Most humans think of dwarfs as small miners, bronze workers, and stoneworkers, capable of amazing craftsmanship.

But the dwarfs nearest the Lunar Empire are not Openhandist and far less friendly than The Dwarf. So Sartar has likely gotten far more dwarf gifts than the Lunar Empire has in its entire history.

Remember, Dwarf Mine and Greatway are the center of Openhandism in Glorantha.

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.

Arkat The Destroyer

Photo by Richard Helliwell © 2022 Infinity Engine & Chaosium Inc.

Richard Helliwell of Infinity Engine has posted some sneak peek at an upcoming Arkat miniature, which I’m sure will delight Arkat fanboys like Bud from Bud’s RPG Reviews. The sculpt looks absolutely fantastic, and seems directly inspired by this amazing illustration from the Glorantha Sourcebook:

© 2022 Chaosium Inc.

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 I wrapped up one of my “Goonies in Glorantha” campaigns, with the second playtest group reaching the end next week. This is exciting: all adventurers have gone through adulthood initiation, ready for the shenanigans of cattle raiding and cult initiations. I hope to write this whole thing for the Jonstown Compendium… fingers crossed.

Chaosium News

Here are this week’s Chaosium news!

Jeff’s 2022 Projects (Part Two)

This is part 2 of last week’s video where James Coquillat interviews Jeff Richard about what he’s working on. Here’s the summary:

  • After the cults book is the Sartar Homeland boxed set, which is also project that blew up in scale and size. It’s not certain yet that it will be a boxed set (especially in these times of cardboard shortage), but that’s what Chaosium is trying hard to achieve.
  • There is new material on the House of Sartar.
  • There are guidelines for creating your own clan, guild, or temple, including Pendragon-like management mechanics.
  • Andrew Logan Montgomery (author of Six Seasons in Sartar and Company of the Dragon) has worked with Jeff on character adulthood initiations and the following apprenticeship years (also known as “the Ordeal”).
  • Boldhome gets described in detail, and there’s a “campaign” booklet which goes season by season between 1625 to 1627 where the adventurers are based out of the capital city but have opportunities to participate in all the big events of the “official” timeline.
  • The Dragon Pass gazetteer is there too, with the full poster-size map that Matt Ryan has done, and that we got a partial look at in the Starter Set.
  • Other books include the Gamemaster Guide book, Return to Snakepipe Hollow, Pavis & Big Rubble by Robin Laws, Sun Dome County (the one in Sartar, not the one in Prax) by Jonathan Webb, and some Prax Homeland book.
  • The video game that was teased a while ago is still going on, and apparently taking up a lot of Jeff’s time.
  • The reprint of the board games (White Bear & Red Moon and Nomad Gods) is still an ongoing project. Chaosium is considering having Loic Muzy redo all the counters.

New Gamemaster’s Month, Week 2

Guest entry by Joerg

RuneQuest Starter Set cover art by Ossi Hiekkala © 2022 Chaosium Inc.

As we continue to follow the Gamemaster’s Month initiative that helps new GMs to run a game of RuneQuest, you might want to learn about the whole concept from either Chaosium or the actual project site, which will also give you the links to the Discord or Facebook groups where you can chat with other new GMs – whether new to GMing at all, or new to GMing your system of choice for this year’s project.

For lesson 3 in the course, the general lesson to the GM is to relay, and to think more about creating a game flow than to get the rules exactly right, and all the RuneQuest section asks for some re-reading of the rules after you have played through the solo adventure.

This is followed by a closer look at the first adventure new gamemasters are suposed to run. In RuneQuest’s case, that is “A Rough Landing” of course, the first adventure in the Starter Set.

ImpCon Coming Soon?

Chaosium’s online “impromptu” conventions are possibly coming back on January 22nd. Jeff Richard just tested the waters on Facebook, but given the amount of positive replies, there’s a good chance it might happen.

Who’d be up for an Impromptu Con on the 22nd? And how about if it was noonish in the US and evening in the EU/UK?

So my thought is to have a chat on RQ, a discussion of heroquesting and the heroquest rules in progress, and maybe something on the setting (how Sartar works, Boldhome, etc.). Happy to have any proposals for ideas!

It’s not official yet so don’t get too upset if the date moves or if it doesn’t happen at all, but put a tentative event on your calendar just in case!

“D&D is a Thing of the Past”

Art by Luise Perrene © 2022 Chaosium Inc.

Rick Meints comes back with another “Out of the Suitcase” article about obscure Chaosium-related items. This time, it’s about an early Greg Stafford contribution to the Alarum & Excursions magazine:

In the September 1978 issue of Alarums & Excursions #37 Steve Perrin laid out, in a very bare bones fashion how RuneQuest, Chaosium’s first RPG, blazed a new trail away from the main RPG that dominated the market. RuneQuest offered a stark contrast to what many players perceived as the one true way to play a game: Experience points, Levels, Fighters can’t cast spells, Magic-users can’t wear armor, and Clerics can’t use edged weapons. RuneQuest turned that world upside down or simply chose to ignore it. Almost 44 years later, we want to share how Steve explained it all those years ago, so here is that article in its entirety

Check Chaosium’s blog for the article in question, complete with an early method for converting D&D characters to RuneQuest, campaign ideas, typesetting issues, and what the hell is a “buck roll”!

How Beyond the Pass Became Griffin Mountain

Rick gives us another “Out of the Briefcase” article already!

I played through Griffin Mountain in the summer of 1981 shortly after it was published. It’s my favorite RuneQuest campaign. Here’s the story about how Griffin Mountain came to be. As luck would have it, the actual original layout still exists, and is part of our company archives.

Photo by Rick Meints © 2022 Chaosium Inc.

Some of the backstory behind Griffin Mountain was already included in the introductions by Rudy, Jennell, and Greg, but Rick provides a whole new look at this classic campaign, complete with multiple photos of exclusive Chaosium archives’ items. Go check it out!

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.

Gaining Power Through Heroquesting

Heroquests! What is it good for? Absolutely… err, many things:

So often when we talk about heroquesting, it is in the context of gaining power, defeating a foe, exploring the mythic realms, learning magical secrets, and so on. Not surprising – that is the heroquests of the God Learners and of the post-Red Goddess Lunars. Such quests require knowledge, preparation, and magical power. They can achieve great things, but some theorize that the universe itself begins to react against them. Such heroquesters become trapped in Arachne Solara’s web unless they are very careful and respectful of what they do and where they tread.

Of course there are other more powerful contexts for heroquesting. One is desperate personal need. When one has lost everything and can lose nothing more, Arachne Solara herself shows a path through the wilderness. Such quests require true need and desperation – like that of the Red Goddess.

But the most powerful context is that of cosmic necessity. When the cosmos itself needs the hero lest part or all be destroyed by Chaos. Such quests are aided by Glorantha herself – or at least by her ghost. Some priests speculate that the full Lightbringers Quest requires both desperate personal need and cosmic necessity.

I’m gonna assume that “cosmic necessity” can work at various levels, for various levels of heroquesting and heroic gifts. A simple clan could be in dire “cosmic need”, just as the entirety of Sartar or Dragon Pass can also be in “cosmic need”… if only so that adventurers can go on justified mythic journeys appropriate for whatever is going on in the campaign at the time.

And this is why those who treat heroquests primarily as materialistic means to wrest power from the divine realm are doomed. And also why those with desperate personal need combined with cosmic necessity succeed on quests far greater than anything in the God Learners imagination.

If your players are heroquesting in order to minmax their characters, you have full license to mess them up! Yay!

The cosmos itself has spirit and/or intelligence. Call it Glorantha, Arachne Solara, Ginna Jar, or the Invisible God, but Glorantha is not a clockwork thing.

Unless you are a mostali. Then it obviously is.

Call it Glorantha, Arachne Solara, or The Gamemaster. Whichever it is, they’re going to come up with appropriate consequences!

There are some interesting parallels with elements of the 12-steps of AA or NA in some of the personal desperation quests. Common to both the Lightbringers Quest and the Red Goddess quest is a point where the quester is lost and defeated and must accept that. Only then can they continue.

Now of course, no good God Learner is going to find that an easy thing to do.

You can find these 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) easily online, but I think Jeff is mostly referring to the classic narrative structure of the protagonist hitting a low point, acknowledging their flaws, going through some kind of transformation, and emerging victorious in their new state. I don’t imagine the God Learners did that: they probably just went through the motions to reach the God Time and then “fucked around and found out”.

The point is that not only is not every heroquest even, but not every motivation for a heroquest is even. Some motivations and psychological situations are more likely to produce results than others.

Orlanthi Expats

People in Sartar are commonly spread outside their original tribal lands:

Most of those people permanently reside in the cities – Boldhome, Jonstown, Swenstown, and Wilmskirk – and might have for generations. They are nonetheless members of their tribes.

For example, in Boldhome an approximate breakdown is as follows:
Aranwyth 350
Balkoth 200
Balmyr 350
Cinsina 500
Colymar 550
Culbrea 550
Dinacoli 150
Dundealos 250
Kheldon 900
Kultain 150
Lismelder 100
Locaem 200
Malani 300
Sambarri 350
Telmori 450
Torkani 300
Alone 200
Aldachur 350
Other 300

Note that these numbers are typically in addition to any tribal population numbers mentioned for a given tribe’s lands. So for instance, when the Gamemaster Adventures mentions that the Colymar tribe has about 12,300 people, that’s for their own tribal lands, and doesn’t include the 550 people living over in Boldhome (with possibly more elsewhere in other cities).

Also, of these 12,300 people living in Colymar lands, not all would actually belong to the Colymar tribe: spouses, expats, and guests from other tribes would make up several hundred people among that population.

The numbers in Boldhome are big: the Colymar living in Boldhome, for instance, outnumber entire clans that live in Colymar tribal lands… so their influence can’t be underestimated: when there’s a Colymar tribal meeting, there could be a whole bunch of expats from Boldhome and other cities showing up with their fancy clothes and sophisticated gifts, arguing for their own urban-driven agendas. The rural/urban divide isn’t just a modern political problem when you consider the urbanization rate of Dragon Pass!

Aha, you might say – that only totals up to 6500 people. But you have already said there are 10,000 humans in Boldhome!

Well, 3500 people in Boldhome, more than a third, aren’t Sartarite. About 2000 come from the Holy Country – say 700 from Esrolia, 1000 from Heortland, and 300 from the rest (probably mainly Caladraland). And another 1500 come from elsewhere – Grazelands, Prax, and Tarsh mainly.

There are also 1000 members of the Elder Races in Boldhome. The largest group are trolls – 675, although 300 are trollkin. There are also 200 elves in the city.

And just outside the city in the mountains are 2000 dragonewts.

Remember that Dragon Pass is a big crossroads, with a very diverse population who all have reasons to be there. Are there tensions between humans and non-humans, or between different tribes and kinship groups, ranging from petty bigotry to downright hate crimes and violence? You bet! But then again, that’s nothing new when it comes to big cities, and will hopefully be the source of many of your scenarios:

So you can see than the Kheldon actually have almost a 20% of their total numbers in Boldhome – 900 in the city and 4000 in their tribal lands. This is why the tribal manors are so important – they are places where tribesmembers can go to resolve disputes with other tribal members and where they can get support in any dispute that might need to go to the Prince.

So if your adventurer is a member of the Colymar tribe, there’s a good chance she has kin in Boldhome. And not just a few, the average Colymar clan would have 46 members in Boldhome.

When you write scenarios in Boldhome, here’s what the very high-level view looks like:

Thus in Boldhome, the Kheldon tribe are the most numerous and powerful tribe within the city. A distant second are the Culbrea and Colymar tribes, and third place is the Cinsina. Fourth place are actually the Telmori.

Everyone else is small potatoes. And periodically people have to be reminded that the Lismelder are a tribe (“the who?”).

I love the Telmori. They throw a wrench into whatever preconceptions players might have about what constitutes a Sartarite tribe. My second favourite are the Torkani, who also do that in a slightly less shocking way…

Telmori still exist as a tribe. Whether Sartar’s Peace can be reconstituted now that there is a new Prince is another question. The Telmori have not been enrolled as Kallyr’s royal bodyguard – the massacre of the Maboder and other Telmori depredations plus Jomes Wulf and the brutal reprisals against the Telmori are a lot to just sweep under the rug.

Playing a Telmori campaign where they are trying to get back in the good graces of the Prince would be interesting: they would need to justify their claims over the now vacated Wulfsland, show good faith by running missions from the Prince or for the Jonstown Confederation (we touched a bit on that in our last podcast episode), and demonstrate enough honour that Telmori bodyguards are a thing again… potentially the adventurers themselves!

Oh, and if you wonder what these Boldhome Telmori do on Wildday, when they transform into wolves, Jeff says that they stay in their tribal caves… I wonder what would happen if some bad agent was to let them out and use that as a proof that they can’t be trusted?

Storm Season, 1625

Here’s how Jeff envisions Prince Kallyr Starbrow’s announcement of her upcoming Lightbringer’s Quest:

In Storm Season 1625, Prince Kallyr Starbrow summoned an assembly in Boldhome. Before the assembled citizens of many tribes, she formally made the Lightbringers’ Summons.

Chaos stalks my world.
Broos have bruised me, the Hand has pawed me.
I have taken up the impossible path,
And seek those who must aid my task.
You are not the first of my friends.
Others walked with me to Heal.
The Devil took them, they died.
I failed to save them, Chaos grows.

According to the Book of Heortling Mythology (so take this with a pinch of salt and don’t hesitate to ignore it and make other stuff up), this is how Chalana Arroy summoned Orlanth and his friends in the God Time. Either way, it’s indeed a little speech that Lightbringer cultists, and Orlanth priests in particular, are pretty much obligated to answer, or run the risk of losing any favours with their deities. I think it only applies to Rune Level initiates, though.

But hey, remember the Proximate Holy Realm that was discussed last week? I wonder if the Lightbringers’ Summons, the Wind Lord Challenges (RQG p301), and other such “obligations”, might be part of what maintains this Proximate Holy Realm?

Any master of one of the seven Lightbringer cults must answer the legitimate call of the summons or lose all power and benefit of their god. The priests and lords present in Boldhome answer the call:

I hear and stand before you,
But I am only one.
What would you have of me?

Kallyr proclaims that to stop Chaos and restore the world, she and her companions shall perform the Lightbringers’ Quest during Sacred Time, and that all who answer her summons shall aid her in the massive ceremonies and rituals that will bring the Gods World in proximity with the mundane realm. Some respond enthusiastically; other priests and lords reluctantly, fearing the dangers and consequences of the ritual.

Art by Anna Orlova, © 2022 Chaosium Inc.

Now I want you to imagine how radical an event that was. Although components of the Lightbringers’ Quest are incorporated into Sacred Time celebrations, that is not what the Prince is proposing – she wants to perform the LBQ herself. No Sartarite leader has tried that at this scale – not Sartar, not Tarkalor, not even desperate Salinarg.

She’ll need the support of thousands to bring the divine realm into proximity, and she’ll need magical items, spirits, and blessings – and that support won’t be available for the usual needs.

I already mentioned how it’s quite unclear to me how much “magical support” you need to go on a heroquest…. can you start an LBQ with a piece of string and two sticks? Would it not work at all, or would it be a hundred times more dangerous and unstable than if you had entire tribes behind you?

Anyway, in this case, the tribes are being asked to provide support, which would divert resources from their own Sacred Time ceremonies to improve harvests and pregnancies and whatever… and many of these tribes have paid dearly for Kallyr’s violent rebellion against the Lunars.

But it is a valid Lightbringer Summons by someone with the authority to give it to all the tribes. So what do you do? What do you urge your kin to do?

Jeff adds a few comments for context:

However, it is worth keeping in mind that at this time, [Kallyr] has been Prince for no more than two seasons. Her last liberation of Sartar lasted just about this long. There are other tribal leaders and warlords who barely acknowledge her authority, and there is another warlord in Prax with an army of nomads.

So it is a damn high stakes play for someone without a lot of cards. No room for error, and everyone knows it.

But she’s succeeded in unlikely circumstances before, and she IS Prince. So what do you do?

And:

Regardless of the success or failure of her quest, the magical energies summoned successfully brought the divine realm into proximity with Sartar, at least for the duration of Sacred Time. Hers was not the only heroquest that took place during those two weeks!

By definition, everybody is heroquesting in some form or other during Sacred Time, but I assume Jeff is referring to Argrath here.

Now Kallyr tries to limit the dangers of the Lightbringers Quest by truncating its most dangerous parts, by having stand-ins at key points and containing it within her realm. She does not go to the Western Shore – people will carry her on shell-back, and others will represent the Luathelans. She hardly enters the Underworld, keeping the path to what she knows. And the ritual will culminate in the Royal Palace of Boldhome, with a polluted statue representing Wakboth (to be destroyed ritually by the participants).

Having stand-ins for as many figures as possible is actually a great tactic: my players did exactly that for their first heroquest in one of my campaigns, and it severely reduced the risks (at least as long as they picked people who could truly identify with the figure they’re supposed to stand-in for). They still had a few surprises of course, but it was an interesting exercise in improvisation.

But the Bad Rain needs to be summoned, and various foes and enemies are summoned by the magic. The dangers are real – just mitigated, hopefully.

We have already discussed the Bad Rain, which is what happens when Orlanth is brooding, thinking of how his mistakes brought the Great Darkness and all its monsters… and so you’ve got monsters literally showing up.

The idea is that by bringing the divine realm into proximity, even these stand-ins will successfully bring magic into the world. This approach was common to many heroquests in Dragon Pass or the Lunar Empire (an example of it was in Cults of Prax, with a Yelmalio Rune Lord performing the Three Blows of Anger). Perform the quest as a ritual within the Proximate Holy Realm, and it should bring forth the intended magic without as much danger.

What she did not know is that Jar-eel had learned how to use that Proximate Holy Realm as a highway, and that she could enter among the stand-ins. This came as quite a shock to Kallyr and her household (although it is something that Argrath was already aware of, having encountered that in the past and even exploited it to his advantage on several occasions).

Now if we go back to how heroquests are best performed (when you’re at rock bottom), we can see why Kallyr’s LBQ didn’t start with the best chances:

Kallyr pushes for the LBQ at the very height of her power. Argrath tries at its nadir.

Sacred Time, 1625

By now, most people (even the newbies) will have gone one to 1626 or 1627 at least, but if you want to start another campaign, Jeff has some ideas:

Because of the magical energies released as part of the preparations for the Lightbringers Quest (and perhaps because of the awakening of a True Dragon with the Dragonrise), much of Sartar could be said to be on the Hero Plane during Sacred Time of 1625. While Kallyr and her companions traveled about Sartar performing the Westfaring and Descent, there were manifestations of the divine realm throughout the realm. Many people reported seeing battles in the sky, burning footprints, marching trees, the Night Wolf, and the Black Eater. A few saw stranger things, like the Stream being filled with corpses or the Three Feathered Rivals. One even claimed to have found herself at the edge of the world.

Such manifestations and events became increasingly common during the Hero Wars, as even greater releases of magical energy occurred.

The Westfaring and the Descent are the first two big phases of the Lightbringers Quest, which Kallyr Starbrow tried to perform after the Dragonrise to restore cosmic balance in Sartar or something. I don’t know, people in Glorantha use the LBQ for the most convoluted reasons sometimes…

That said, these are cool epic manifestations that Jeff mentions here. Again, this is the stuff I need to be better at to give some mythical dimension to my games. However I’m afraid it only comes with either (1) deeper Gloranthan lore knowledge or (2) deeper familiarity with real-world myths? We’ll see…

I post this in order to provide some opportunities in your game (this is going to be presented in far more detail in the Sartar Book). In Sacred Time 1625, you can have your adventurers see a battle in the sky – and maybe even participate in it – or maybe meet an imprisoned or broken deity, or witness marching trees or whatever. They might get something new and magical from the experience. They might even decide that they want to explore the mythic realm more!

Jeff adds some comments about Kallyr’s heroquest:

It is thought that Jar-eel was able to exploit the Proximate Realm to manifest herself in an unexpected manner during the Lightbringers Quest. If true, this would be a stunning tribute to her power and her mythic virtuosity – as appearing in more than one place at the same time is sign of divinity. Tosti Runefriend later speculated that Jar-eel might have Discorporated, entered the hero plane, appeared in the ceremony, and then manifested physically – but such magic is godlike and perhaps the counter-explanation is even more frightening than just saying that Jar-eel is the incarnation of the Red Goddess.

Jar-eel’s intrusion into Kallyr’s heroquest is featured in Jeff’s “While Bull Campaign”, which is available on YouTube. I always assumed that Jar-eel showed up because she heroquested the same myth at the same time (based on information from spies in Kallyr’s entourage), or used a magical road to the heart of Sartar, or something… I would not have guessed she used the Proximate Holy Realm, especially since I didn’t even know about it until last week anyway.

My current understanding is that running your own heroquest and hoping to get “matched” with someone else’s heroquest has a low hit rate, and you show up as a certain mythic figure, which might be good in some cases, but potentially limiting (and a little bit insulting) for someone like Jar-eel. She wanted to intrude as herself, or maybe as the Red Goddess — neither of which feature in the Lightbringers Quest.

Jar-eel’s willingness to tread very dangerous paths and embrace even more dangerous associations proved to surprise the Orlanthi, who could not imagine a mortal would be able and willing to do what she did.

More Heroquesting

I guess that’s the theme this week — maybe an indication that Jeff is tweaking the heroquesting rules for the Sartar Homeland scenarios? Anyway, here it is:

One of the great benefits of heroquesting is the ability to gain magic outside of what can be gained from one’s cult. These magic abilities often operate mechanically similarly to Rune spells. Sometimes these new spells can be incorporated within the cult structure, creating a new subcult. For example, Garundyer gained the spells of Hailstones from Siglolf Cloudcrusher – these spells form the basis of the Cloudcrusher subcult of Orlanth Thunderous.

A subcult of a subcult? Hah! But more seriously, I’d love to see some player character heroquest deep enough to bring a new Rune Spell and start a new sub-cult.

Alternatively, these new spells can form the basis of a new cult similar to a Spirit Cult. Hon-eel brought forth Bless Maize which became the basis of her cult. Argrath brought forth the White Bull which has become a popular Spirit Cult in Prax.

Oh, I guess the player character needs to do some really hard-core heroquesting then.

Most often, these new abilities are personal to the quester. Sarostip has the ability to kill with his left eye. Hofstaring had his flying spear. Jaldon Goldentooth has his ability to bite through walls. Harrek has his God-Spirit White Bear Cloak. Many heroes possess the ability to return from the dead or to Discorporate their spirits.

The best way to give player characters a good heroquest power is to work with the player, and agreeing on a power that feels right.

The distinctions between these approaches and why an ability gained on a heroquest might be personal or might be incorporated into a cult can get more than a little fuzzy or contradictory, but there are certain generalizations. Powers gained on quests where the hero travels in the footsteps of their god are easiest to incorporate into their cult. Powers gained on new quests that can be repeated but are outside of the mythos of the cult must become a new cult. And powers not shared with others remain personal.

Now I say these often operate similarly to Rune Magic, but it is also possible to gain powerful Spirit Magic as well. Spirit magic that does not count against spell holding limits, or is of permanent duration is well known, although such abilities are always personal.

And a few of the powers or side effects gained through heroquests don’t fit into either Rune Magic or Spirit Magic. The best known is of course unaging, but also things like lack of shadow despite the sun, no sweat (while being unaffected by heat, cold, or exertion), and so forth.

It is important to keep in mind that abilities gained through heroquests are exceptions to the general rules of magic. They are examples of direct interactions with the raw source of magic, rather than the more formulaic expressions of rune magic, spirit magic, or sorcery.

Let’s Count the Yelmalions Again

There are about as many Yelmalio cultists in Sartar as there are in Prax’s Sun County. And twice as much among the Praxian tribes themselves, or in Tarsh:

In all of Dragon Pass there are about 18,000 Yelmalio cult members. That’s:

6000 in the Sartar homeland (largely concentrated around the Sun Dome, Alda-Chur, and Boldhome).
12000 in Tarsh
Negligible numbers elsewhere.

In the River of Cradles there are about 4500 Yelmalio cult members, with about 4000 in Sun County and 500 in Pavis County.

For comparison, in all of Dragon Pass, there are about 111,930 Ernalda cultists, 85,000 Orlanth cultists, and 66,500 Seven Mothers cultists.

There are about 8700 settlers in and around Alone. About 2000 Orlanth cultists, 2000 Ernalda cultists, and about 300 Yelmalio cultists. 275 Maran Gor, 250 Humakt cultists, and about 130 of each of the other Lightbringers.

Alda-chur Population

As Jeff seems to be going through his spreadsheets, he’s turning his attention to Alda-chur, in Northern Sartar:

There are about 31,000 permanent residents in the area centered on Alda-Chur, including the Dinacoli, Princeros, Tovtaros, and Vantaros tribes. This area, called the Far Place, speaks Tarshite but has had close economic and political ties to Sartar since the foundation of the Principality, and joined the Principality shortly after the Battle of Grizzly Peak.

The ten largest cults in the Far Place are:
5825 Ernalda
5300 Orlanth
1700 Yelmalio
1600 Seven Mothers
600 Engizi or Heler
520 Storm Bull
500 Humakt
470 Issaries
435 Maran Gor
380 Daka Fal

© 2022 Chaosium Inc.

The Dinacoli clan is further south: it used to be part of Sartar, but around the time of Kallyr Starbrow’s rebellion in 1613 (which they did not support), they changed their allegiance to Alda-chur.

© 2022 Chaosium Inc.

The close proximity with Snakepipe Hollow, a well known Chaos-infested area neighbouring the northern-most tribes, means that there’s a high presence of Storm Bull initiates at any point. But there’s a high turnover:

[…] many are not residents. It is not uncommon for bands of Pol-Joni Storm Bull cultists with their Praxian allies to come to Snakepipe Hollow to fight Chaos.

As of 1625, the Alda-chur Confederation is still under the indirect rule of the Lunar Empire through Harvar Ironfist, a Yelmalion Rune Lord who violently took power in 1611. Depending on your timeline, Harvar might have been eaten at the Dragonrise, but his forces might still be in power despite this. I think that in Chaosium’s Glorantha, the area is only freed a bit later when Argrath starts to move into Dragon Pass.

Personally I would have Harvar simply send some representatives to the Lunar Temple opening ceremony and subsequent destruction, which leaves open a cool showdown between himself and Argrath… or the adventurers…

Anyway, all of this to say that the area is still a Lunar colony in 1625:

And given that Storm Bull hates the Red Goddess as much as Orlanth does, imagine the consternation caused when a band of 100+ mounted Storm Bull cultists show up on a sacred quest to hunt and destroy Chaos. Can’t act against them – Storm Bull is beloved for keeping Chaos out of the Far Place – but can’t really allow them to stay.

Harvar Ironfist is from the Vantaros tribe, which is where the bulk of his Yelmalion hoplite army is from:

Of the 1700 Yelmalio cultists, 1400 of them are either in Alda-Chur or among the Vantaros tribe.

So how, you might ask, could 1700 Yelmalio cultists dominate a tribal confederation with 5300 Orlanth cultists? Three things:

1. The Yelmalio cult was more centrally organized, with Harvar able to gain their support and defeat foes piecemeal.
2. Harvar had strong Lunar support. Money, mercenaries, you name it.
3. His rule was pretty tenuous once you got outside of Alda-Chur and the Vantaros tribal lands. The other tribes paid tribute and stayed out of trouble.

I would also assume that about 2/3rds of the Orlanth cultists are farmers belonging to the Thunderous or Barntar subcults: they know fighting only as far as the tribal militia membership goes. The Yelmalions are pretty much all professional soldiers, and are much better individually trained, in addition to what Jeff said about them being better organized as a whole.

Back in 1611, Harvar brought in Gagarthi warbands (plus maybe some miscellaneous other mercenaries) to seize power violently, getting rid of several Orlanthi leaders. Once those are gone and most of Kallyr’s rebellion fled far away south or east, there probably wasn’t enough motivation left for anybody to organize a serious uprising anyway. So yeah, most of these tribes pay tribute and stay out of trouble… except for the the tribes around Alone, maybe, because that’s where my players are, currently in 1615, fresh out of their adulthood initiations and ready to kick some ass!

Around the River of Cradles

Let’s have a look at the farming people around the River of Cradles, aka the Zola Fel which runs through Prax:

[…] Lets start by remembering that those that Dorasar encountered (and made himself ruler or overlord of) were the descendants of settlers that had been isolated from Dragon Pass for over 400 years.

To place things in historical context, Dorasar founded New Pavis in 1550. The Dragonkill War which started the Inhuman Occupation (when no humans lived in Dragon Pass) happened in 1120, so that’s what I think Jeff is referring to.

However, the return of human settlements in Dragon Pass started in the early/mid 1300s, with Heortlings like King Colymar coming from the south to settle the first Sartarite tribes, Arim the Pauper coming from the north to found the Kingdom of Tarsh, and the Pure Horse people coming from Prax in the east. I’m not sure how “isolated” the people of the River of Cradles would have been even after three generations since the foundation of the Kingdom of Sartar (in 1492), which, given Sartar’s modus operandi, would have had some good trade going on by then.

My guess is that trade with Prax was limited, or even non-existent. The Grazelanders, still traumatized by their defeat and subsequent exile from Prax in the mid 1250s, might have told horrible stories about the Praxian nomads to the Sartarites, stories that might have stuck in everybody’s mind well into the 1400s, if not later. And the Sartarites might have been more interested in lucrative trade between the Holy Country and Tarsh anyway. The few brave traders who had the idea of checking out what can be done to the east might have come back robbed of all their stuff, including a few limbs: “don’t go to Prax, there’s crazy nomad people there“.

Think of them like some of the Greek communities in Central Asia that survived the collapse of the Hellenistic empires, or like the Crimean Goths. Isolated, tenaciously defending their identity from the Praxian nomads and the trolls, refusing to become another “Oasis people”.

So effectively, the violent and conservative Praxian tribes might be what isolated the Zola Fel settlers from Dragon Pass.

They succeeded, and the Yelmalio cult was key to that. But during the long period of solitude and isolation, that cult dwindled and diminished. Perhaps only about 1000 cultists survived to great Dorasar and Varthanis Brighthelm. By that time, the Yelmalio cult was little more than a Spirit Cult, associated with a Grain Goddess, who he defended from nomads and trolls, and friendly with the local river nymphs. They had a big temple they could hardly maintain and stories of Yelm the Sun God, whom Yelmalio defended and was the son of.

It sounds like the original River of Cradles version of the Yelmalio cult was, by necessity, an increasingly xenophobic (towards the Praxian tribes) and conservative affair.

Varthanis brought them the Yelmalio of Monrogh Lantern. With gifts, geases, more spells useful for fighting trolls, and brought them into contact with Dragon Pass – which meant bronze and allies. The Grain Goddess became recognized as Ernalda, but that also brought in rivalry with the Orlanth cult brought to Pavis by the Sartarite settlers. The population of the farmers grew and the Yelmalio grew to dominate Sun County.

Varthanis was a Yelmalio companion of Dorasar, so he arrived with many of the new doctrines “discovered” in Dragon Pass when Monrogh Lantern helped the Sartarite cult of Elmal evolve into the more modern cult of Yelmalio.

But this area was a periphery. Contact with Dragon Pass was largely through Pavis, not Sun County, and even Pavis is a frontier settlement. If Pavis is our Wild West town like Santa Fe then Sun County is even more remote, one of our more successful Spanish missions.

This all sounds like good world-building that paves the way to the Sun Dome book in Sartar presenting a widely different take on Yelmalio compared to Prax…

Keeping Your Adventurers Prisoners

On Facebook, Wesley Samsal asked about the old “slave bracelets” that are mentioned for instance in Cults of Prax. These used to act as magic dampeners, preventing people from using magic. As far as I know, they’re not “canon” anymore so how do people keep other people prisoners? Jeff has some answers:

Characters with Honor aren’t going to escape if they are being ransomed. Given the importance of Honor in Orlanthi culture (and Lunar military culture), the broad assumption is prisoners aren’t killed, but they don’t try to escape. And your community rarely is going to reward you for breaking the rules.

This answer of course assumes the most common situation, which is: the PCs fought some NPCs, the fight didn’t go well, and the players decided to surrender and invoke their ransom (the sum mentioned in the Occupation chapter of RQG, p63-73 is usually good enough, but throw in a bag of chips or a box of chocolates to the gamemaster, for good measure).

If you escape from captors you surrendered to, then those captors will not trust other folk from your community. Which can be a very bad thing.

The whole purpose of the ransom system is to avoid killing people defeated in combat or war. Several powerful war cults strongly uphold it – breaking those rules can make other dangerous enemies.

Ransoming someone back usually only requires keeping them captive for a few days, but other situations might involve keeping them as “non-free tenants” (or similar) for longer, such as someone working off their defeat and capture in battle for a season, a year, or more. I imagine this is more common for prisoners of war, from a defeated army, than for someone being captured after a cattle raid or highway robbery… but I think similar guidelines apply either way.

So if your players surrender only to escape a bit later, the following comes to mind:

  1. If possible, have a messenger already on their way to the PCs’ community to get the ransom. The first thing captors will do is probably ask where the funds are, and send someone there. That could be one of their own but, preferably, the messenger is one of the PCs’ companions, if applicable, or a third party, I think. Now the PCs have to intercept this messenger, otherwise they will not only still have paid their ransom, they will also have a very awkward and humiliating situation on their hands.
  2. If the PCs escape and get out of paying a ransom, word gets around and a couple seasons later a handful of people from their community get killed instead of being ransomed back. The killers will of course have left a clear message: “the last people we captured sneaked away like dishonourable tricksters, even though they didn’t carry his marks… we’re not taking any chances this time: we’re taking our ransom from their dead bodies“. The PCs will have to restore their standing with their community if they want these new spells or skill training. This is especially true if one of those killed people carried an important tribal item!
  3. Of course this is Glorantha so you can always bring in angry spirits: that ancestor who was big on honour, some cult spirit that thinks you’re not worthy anymore, or worse.

Not all consequences are bad, though! People might be interested in the PCs’ lack of respect for traditions. Some Chaos cult might approach them, which I’m sure won’t lead to anything problematic, right?

Kyger Litor Isn’t Your Friend

Jeff reminds us that the cult of Kyger Litor is hostile to a whole bunch of people:

ALL the Seven Lightbringers (including Chalana Arroy)

ALL the Lunar cults (except the Red Goddess who is an Enemy, Yara Aranis who is Neutral, and Jakaleel and Annilla who are Friendly)

Aldrya, Basmol, Caladra and Aurelion, Dayzatar, Flamal, Lodril, Lokarnos, Lowfires, Ourania, Polaris, Pralor, Rathor, Shargash, Telmor, Yelm, Yelmalio, Yelorna

Her enemies are the gods of Chaos (all of them), the Red Goddess, and Mostal.

So as far as the Mother of Trolls is concerned, Orlanth is as bad as Aldrya, Yelm, Yelmalio and the Seven Mothers. But she will cooperate with any of those against Chaos (which includes the Red Goddess). Of course afterwards, she will likely to devour her erstwhile allies, so you take your risk.

It’s interesting that Kyger Litor cultists don’t even like Chalana Arroy. They have their own healer deity (Xiola Umbar, I believe), but still, healing is healing. Apart from that, I assume that Lightbringer cults are hated for their association with Orlanth, who slew the sun god and forced trolls to flee the Underworld, Solar cults for obvious darkness vs light reasons, and Lunar cults and miscellaneous ones like Telmor for their association with Chaos.

As always, those are generalizations. Your particular Troll adventurer might have a personal history that, despites their Kyger Litor cult membership, makes them somewhat friendly to, say, other adventurers belonging to Lightbringer cults. Adventurers are often exceptions after all. Buf Jeff gives some better advice:

So smart Lunars try to approach Kyger Litor through Jakaleel or Annilla if possible. Smart Orlanthi try to approach her through Ernalda or Humakt (who are Neutral) – or Argan Argar or Storm Bull (who are Friendly).

I could imagine a duelling group of delegates to the Castle of Lead – a Lunar group with Blue Moon cultists and an Orlanthi group of Storm Bulls and Earth Priestesses. Both have about the same chance of success (unless the Lunars are dumb enough to hail the Red Goddess).

I think the politics and spygames around the Castle of Lead’s agenda in the Hero Wars have been quite underused so I’m always happy when it crops up like this!

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.

Beer With Teeth’s Self-Publishing Advice

Friend of the show Diana Probst posted some in-depth article about self-publishing gaming material on DriveThruRPG (and elsewhere), based on their experience with Chaosium’s own Community Content Program. It’s full of good advice!

Assortment of Painted Miniatures

Jonathan Tarry has a bunch of nicely painted miniatures. The Sable Rider and Primal Chaos Devotee are from Mad Knight.

Austin Conrad’s Final Thoughts on MOTM

Austin has written a blog post about his final issue of Monster of the Month, and the end of the series:

Ultimately, I’m not canceling MOTM because I want to stop writing RuneQuest material. I’m canceling MOTM because I want to write better material.

Plus, lots of designer notes about that last issue, To Hunt A God.

When Razalkark Enters The Scene

Bruce Clegg found a good miniature stand-in for Razalkark, the Unicorn Broo leader of Dorastor!

Photo by Bruce Clegg, miniature by Crooked Dice

The miniature is actually of Apollo, from the Grandville comic books (it’s great!), but it works pretty well in Glorantha too. You can check it out at Crooked Dice.

Handling Group Climbing

SkullDixon discusses group climbing on his blog. Interestingly enough, he adopts the reverse approach from my own Runic Rant article on the more general idea of group rolls: instead of having characters help a “leader” through augments, SkullDixon has the “leader” augment everybody else’s rolls.

WeaveTheTale Plays RuneQuest

The WeaveTheTale channel played a RuneQuest one-shot this week, with RQStaffan as the gamemaster. You can watch the game on Twitch, but I assume it will show up on their YouTube channel soon enough.

Elsewhere on Arachne Solara’s Web

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

Ancient Table Manners

Guest entry by Joerg

If you want clues about housing and everyday obects, this German language website has thousands of photographs showing actual artifacts and reconstructions for several cultures – Romans, Greeks, Etruscans, Celts, Germanics, Iberians, Egyptians, and a few others with less documentation. Romans and Greeks are best documented.
There are sub-pages on the house, the furniture, table-ware, food selection and preparation, table manners (like us of hand-cloths in Roman depictions).
Most sources are Iron Age rather than Bronze Age, but they should give some impression what you might find in Glorantha.

It won’t hurt to look for sources outside of Mediterranean and central Europe, though. A recent video on the Tlaxcallan culture in Mexico before the arrival of Cortes discusses and shows some impressive table ware 8:20 minutes in.

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.

You get a lot more guest entries by Jörg this week since I was away on a ski trip in a little lodge in northern Fronela. Family time is important even with the Malkioni, you know! Although I have to say, it seem that kids learn to Tap magic points from an early age, judging by how much I’m tired these days. Oh well. On to Gloranthan news! I may have missed a few things this week, and as someone famous once said, I didn’t have time to make it shorter.

Don’t forget, you can contact us if you want to submit guest entries or otherwise help with the newsletter.

God Learner Sorcery

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

Episode 7: Adventures in Jonstown

Art by Andrey Fetisov, used with permission from Chaosium Inc.

Episode 7 of our podcast is finally out! We’re looking after the people who got the RuneQuest Starter Set during the holidays! With guest Diana Probst of Beer With Teeth, we discuss ideas for more adventures in Jonstown after the 3 scenarios found in the box. Plus: some exclusive news about what Beer With Teeth and Chaosium are up to together!

Chaosium News

Here are this week’s Chaosium news!

Cults of Glorantha Interview

Jeff talks about his big RuneQuest project for 2022, the much awaited Cults of Glorantha slipcase set, which should include two big cults books, and one smaller (although still about 128 pages long) Prosopaedia.

  • The Prosopaedia is a reference list of all gods, goddesses, notable spirits, and heroes of the setting. It’s illustrated entirely by the unfatiguable Katrim Dirim.
  • The Cults books seem to be organized by pantheons: Darkness, Water, Earth, Fire/Sky, Lightbringers, Lunar, Horned God and animist religions, and Chaos. Note that “regional gods” like Pavis won’t be present: they will be in their relevant regional sourcebooks (such as the Pavis book, duh). Then there’s some mythology overview, monomyth, RuneQuest rules, essays, cult distribution and compatibility charts. It’s “lavishly” illustrated by Loic Muzy and Agathe Pithie (you should have seen sneak peeks of some of these art pieces by now), plus a few others, including some new maps, which I assume includes new mythic/God Learner maps.

The books are currently in layout and graphic design. Jeff hopes to have the PDFs out “by the end of the first quarter”.

Jeff is visibly excited about many aspects of this project, so watch to video to hear what he’s most excited about!

New Gamemaster Month Is Starting

Guest entry by Jörg.

© 2021 Chaosium Inc.

Chaosium is one of six publishers participating in the New Gamemaster Month initiative by Monte Cook Games, this year featuring RuneQuest (among others) with the material from the Starter Set.

New content is published on the website twice a week, with an introductory post and two “lessons” already available. There is also a Discord server and a Facebook Group for the course, and an introduction to using Roll20 parallel to the game-specific courses, although unfortunately not (yet) for the RQG rules.

Welcome And Let’s Get Started covers the practical aspects of getting players, getting the game material, and familiarizing yourself with the rules. For RuneQuest, that means the Starter Set, which you can order from Chaosium’s website with a 10% rebate all of January. The tutorial assumes that you have the physical set in your hands already, but you can use the PDF version as soon as your order gets processed. If you got your set from your friendly local game store, good for you because you don’t have to wait for your copy and can start right away. In that case, you might try and use that code for the core rules book.

The course material doesn’t say so, but you can also familiarize yourself with the the most relevant rules on the RuneQuest-Wiki.

Initial Planning For Your Game Session talks about prep-work for your game, and gives an estimate of the amount of time a gamemaster may have to put in beyond actually running the game. The RuneQuest section offers advice for player recruitment, asks you once more to skim a look at the rules, and then already points you to have some fun – you are supposedly ready to try the solo adventure now.

If you are still undecided whether to invest in the RuneQuest Starter Set, take a look at the Wiki, then the online SoloQuest, or even our own thorough review of the product. If you have experience with D100 games of the Basic Roleplaying family, you should be able to get by with that information.

Sneak Peek at the Non-Human Pre-gen Adventurers

Entry co-written with Jörg.

Artwork by Lionel Marty © 2021 Chaosium Inc.

Chaosium has posted a sneak peek at two upcoming pre-generated adventurers for RuneQuest’s Starter Set: a Telmori Wolfsister and an Issaries Duck.

Showing a Telmori girl as an example of a non-human strikes me as a little odd, but she is looking gorgeous and pretty untamable. And the duck looks mean, too. Release date is “later this year”.

Jason Durall started a thread of comments with extra information:

Pretty much every nonhuman race has a sample pregen. I drew the line at Windchildren and Dragonewts, because the first were just too weirdly unbalanced, and the second were too complex to get across in a pregen folio description.

The [Windchildren’s] flying is great – maybe even scenario-breaking – but they’re so restricted in what they can carry, what armor they can wear, and their intense claustrophobia limits them considerably for adventuring.

Grab Your Updated PDFs

Guest entry by Jörg.

In related news, the known errors in the RuneQuest Starter Set, like the alynx with bison stats, are supposed to be eliminated when corrected PDFs get uploaded soon, and there already are updated PDFs of the Weapons and Equipment Guide available on the Chaosium or Drivethrurpg shop/order pages if you bought them there.

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!

More Glorantha Maps

Mikael Mansen is churning out more maps, with three more “generic settlement” maps (a port town, a scattered shoreline village, an island settlement, and a river town), and a map of the region around the Hellcrack, a magical chasm up in the steppes of Pent where you can fall down to the Underworld.

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.

What is Magic

Sometimes fairly foundational bits of lore can be overlooked, which is why Jeff points us to the RuneQuest rulebook’s Magic chapter introduction (on p243). I agree that this is the kind of rulebook material I tend to skim, or read but not commit to memory. Which is why whenever I re-read the rulebook or the bestiary I often pick up little gems I missed or forgot.

I’m not going to quote the whole thing (you have the rulebook after all, don’t you?), but it boils down to this:

The dualistic worlds of eternal God Time and mortal Time are the basic polarities of Glorantha. From these opposing poles comes all known reality. Magic is the result of the interaction of these two worlds; drawing upon the timeless and eternal God Time to affect the mortal world of Time.

I figure that this mostly applies to Rune Magic, where indeed a mortal uses their connection to a deity that “resides” in the God Time, and channels something they “did” to make it happen again right now. This is how an Orlanth worshipper can, say, summon a thunderbolt, which is effectively “magic”.

Compare that to spirit magic which calls upon the denizens of the Spirit World who exist in a sort of parallel universe to the world of mortals and Time. These entities have various abilities that can have an effect in the mortal world, such as closing wounds or sharpening a blade. Or consider sorcery, which is about using and affecting the Runes that are the underlying building blocks of the Gloranthan universe.

In fact, I’ve seen references to the “Three Worlds” or “Four Worlds” of Glorantha in past material, and where interaction with each of these worlds provides a different type of magic. In this model, you can generalize the quote above, with the God Time specifically providing only divine magic (also known as Rune Magic in the latest RuneQuest game). I’m not sure whether this “multiple worlds” model is still valid as far the game desigers are concerned, but you can bet that there are NPCs in-game who have that world view.

Arguably, both the Spirit World and the Runes are related to the God Time anyway: in another model of Glorantha, the Spirit World was separated from the mortal world at the Dawn, and the abstract world of Runes is sort of the precursor to the God Time, before entities awakened and became the Celestial Court that embodied these Runes.

Cryptic One-Liners in Gloranthan Canon

Some things are intentionally left unexplained, as was mentioned on BRP Central, and later reposted on Facebook:

Rick Meints: I had the pleasure of occasionally cornering Greg and getting the chance to ask him about these sorts of things. In general, Glorantha is full of a lot of “one-liner” references that never really got fleshed out. By “one-liners” I mean that they are mentioned only once or twice and often with just a single sentence. Another such example of a one-liner would be Falangian Wine in King of Sartar. When I asked about that Greg just said, “That’s up to the reader to decide what it is”.

Jeff: Yep. And a lot of these one-liners should not and will not get defined outside of the individual reader.

The effort to answer all questions, to resolve all mysteries – well, that is what destroyed the Second Age. Ponder that carefully and get a bonus to your Illumination role next Sacred Time!

Zzabur

Jeff posts about Zzabur, our good ol’ buddy here at the God Learners:

[Zzabur is] the son of Malkion in most stories, and the First Wizard. Supposedly he’s been around for more than five thousand years and is the master of the Brithini sorcerer caste, and his sorcery is said to have destroyed entire nations, closed off the seas, and twice nearly changed the very nature of the world.

Wonderful dude, isn’t he? The Brithini caste are a bunch of amoral sorcerers who maintain immortality by adhering to strict life rules, which aren’t necessarily great for those around them. Wonderful bunch too.

A word of caution: this whole section of Gloranthan lore seems to be a giant minefield. It’s complicated, been revised multiple times, and is composed of lots of moving parts found in unofficial or unfinished works… plus, I’m still a big newbie. So as usual I’m just trying to figure this out, same as you, but I figured I would add a more explicit disclaimer this time.

Malkion was the child of some minor Air deity (Aerlit, a follower of Vadrus) and of a Triolini (Warera, the shoreline mother, which probably looked like some kind of siren, but who knows, it’s the God Time, things were weird back then). Looking this up I only now realize why the Malkioni are so tied to “water themes”: not only is Malkioni half-Triolini (merfolk), he’s also the father of Waertag and, therefore, the Waertagi, a race of sea-faring humanoids with webbed hands and feet and blue or green skin. This special relationship explains how the Malkioni’s Middle Sea Empire got so much help and achieved their naval supremacy.

An interesting aside on Malkion as Zzabur’s father is this:

Good old Zzabur is usually claimed as Malkion’s first or second son with the goddess Britha. Zzabur was given the Great Gift of sorcery from his father, who was a mortal beings, not a god.

It’s hard to figure out who is a mortal and who isn’t when things happen in the God Time, but my guess is that you’re a mortal if (1) you refuse to be part of the Compromise and enter the world of Time at the Dawn or (2) you got killed in the Gods War. Malkion belongs to that second category.

Anyway, back to Zzabur:

He’s kind of a Pandelume figure from Vance’s Dying Earth. Like Pandelume, Zzabur possesses knowledge of many things which are otherwise lost or unknown to mortals, “including the method of creating artificial life, of all the spells which have ever been invented, and of mundane sciences such as mathematics.” But like Pandelume, Zzabur is a mortal (if ageless). He is not perfect nor infallible, although he never admits an error. And like Pandelume, Zzabur no longer exists in this world, as he and his island of Brithos have vanished from the mundane world, to no one’s regret.

The island of Brithos disappeared around the time of the Closing of the Seas, which is why some people think that the Closing was a side-effect of Zzabur’s spell to move the island out of the Mortal World. It’s not clear where the island went, but note that you can have your adventurers visit the place: there’s a port city in western Genertela where sailors from Brithos sometimes show up and lead you there! How intriguing…

Zzabur is interesting because of his contradictions, and the fine line he’s walking. As far as I can tell, being a big intellectual wizard, he rejects the Gods of Glorantha as nothing more than a bunch of selfish bullies and narcissistic divas, imperfect emanation of the “pure” Runic concepts that make up reality. At best they’re peers, who achieved as much as him. But on the other hand Zzabur can’t really become an immortal in the sense of “existing in the God Time” because that would make him a deity himself. So my guess is that he found an alternative, and that’s where him and his little island currently are.

I imagine Zzabur is incredibly alone, removed from even his fellow Brithini. He remembers interacting with the gods, views them as beings like himself – but he is not a god. He was a first hand witness to many of his father’s pronouncements, at least to begin with. But Zzaburi rejected his father’s second revelation – that of Solace and he did not accompany his father when he departed Brithos. Some claim Zzabur was a parricide and was even responsible for Malkion’s death, but most say he turned his back on his father and made his own arrangements to survive the end of the world.

“Solace” in Malkioni philosophy seems to be the somewhat intellectually abstract state of bliss that awaits you after death if you live your life correctly — for a certain definition of “correctly”. I haven’t found a good explanation of this falling out between Zzabur and Malkion (feel free to contact us and point me to it!), but from what I can see, Zzabur might not have really appreciated Malkion coming out of the Tower of Reason. Malkion might have done that to go educate the masses, so to speak, and indeed bring them the revelation of Solace. Maybe that’s what Jeff is referring to here?

Of course Zzabur is pure ego – he is the great objectifier. He is the intellect that stands between Us and Things. He seeks to survive at whatever cost, knowing that as a mortal his ego is all there is to him – the soul is sentimental drivel and spirit is merely an animating energy. Egoism is his drive – a very personal egoism. “I AM that I AM.”

He is also a very very very old mortal who lives alone in a tower and knows lots of things.

If Brithos is now in some kind of “Ego Plane”, I wonder what that looks like… my first thought is: Zzabur zzabur? Zzabur zzabur zzabur. Zzabur!

Jeff adds one last comment:

Greg never liked Zzabur and what he stood for (and thus in all of Greg’s stories, Zzabur comes over as an unmitigated arrogant prick), but he was an important part of Glorantha and one of its earliest characters.

The Way of Hrestol

Let’s continue with the Malkioni theme, here:

The Way of Hrestol began in the land of Seshnela in the year 2 ST, but its importance stems from the culture from which it separated, the Brithini. This prehistoric culture began long before the Darkness and it’s the root of the Western culture of Glorantha.

The ancient race of Brithos was called the Malkioni after its father and founder, or sometimes Brithini after the island goddess who was the mother of that people.

Talar was eldest, and he received the Crown of Malkion as his share of his father’s realm; Zzabur the Sorcerer Supreme was second, and was master of the spiritual world; Horal Swordson was third, and was a soldier who carried a sword from Humakt the war god; and Dronar Plow was last, who had so many children who worked merrily for the support of the older brothers.

Here we can see how the basic separation of roles in Malkioni society is based on Malkion’s own family. In Western culture, Talars (after Talar) are the nobles and political leaders, Zzaburi (after Zzabur) are the wizards and philosophers and intellectuals, Horali (after Horal) are the soldiers, and Dronars (after Dronar) are the farmers.

Jörg says: The simplistic version has all Brithini and all Malkioni descend from this union. There are other genealogies and stories about the Six Tribes of the Logicians, of which we still know the Waertagi. The God Learner Maps in the Guide name the tribes and their suffering and terminal fates in the Gods War.

The Malkioni fared well during the War of the Gods, especially with the skills of Zzabur, who was as powerful as many of the gods of the time. Once, they even forestalled a dire internal dispute which could have torn them apart and made them easy pretty for Chaos, as happened to so many others.

This event led to the departure of Talar’s eldest son, Froalar, Prince and heir to the throne, from Brithos to avoid a civil war with his brothers. Many others went with him, and they started the first Malkioni colony called Froalarwal (later shortened to Frowal) in Seshnela.

Seshnela was destroyed at the end of the Second Age when the God Learners ran out of excuses with the cosmos, and it snapped back at them… so now Frowal is just a bunch of ruins.

Argan Argar Atlas map © 2021 Chaosium Inc.

Froalar led his people, called the Seshnegi, through the Great Darkness, and even aided the hostile beast worshipers of the wild who were his enemies.

His wife, Xemela, performed a heroic self-sacrifice and saved her people from darkness demons and Chaos. When the Dawn came, the peoples of Frowal found themselves well off in comparison to the rest of the world.

From what I can tell, these “hostile beast worshipers” might have been the Pendali lion people, who were created by Seshna Likita, the local earth goddess (more on her shortly). The Pendali tribe belongs to the broader Hsunchen Basmoli lion people, who all are some kind of were-lion shapeshifters.

The story of Froalar’s settlements is pretty vague in the Guide or the Sourcebook, which is part of the fun of Glorantha for me: you get a few evocative statements, and you get to make up everything in between!

However, the wild hill barbarians showed no gratitude or friendship, and quickly returned to harassment and war. Froalar and his court zzaburi were distressed as to the proper course of action. The goddess Ifttala, a daughter of Seshna Likita the Earth Goddess, was the mother of the hill barbarians and as long as she aided them, the Dawn Age would be ruled by war and conflict.

And so, in the spring of the second year of Time, Prince Hrestol, the son of King Froalar, swore to slay Ifttala and bring peace to the land. When Hrestol asked his father’s zzaburi how this could be done, they said: “You must be as a god and know what they know. You must be a leader, as you are now. But it is not enough. You must be a warrior, and know how to wield a sword as well as any man bred to it. You must know prayers, like your cousins who study under me. And you must know the secrets of the earth, like the plowmen who feed us. Only thusly by combining the four tasks which Malkion gave to his sons will you be as a god to perform a god’s task.”

The court feared this was blasphemy, and Hrestol purified himself and went to the temple of Malkion the Founder to ask the ancestor. Malkion revealed himself to Hrestol and presented the hero with a helm and shield, armor and a sword, and a book. And as he did so he spoke saying, “Let the old ways be changed in Seshneg, for you are set upon by a mighty foe. Let those who would lead do so. Let those who would fight do so. Let those who would reap and sow do so. Let those who would study and learn sorcery do so. Go forth, and do as you wish, for my blessings go with you. And may all the gods look upon you with favor.”

So there you have Hrestol basically saying that he will forego the ancestral “caste” system, where you’re either a noble, wizard, soldier, or farmer, and you don’t do anything else in your life. Instead, Hrestol is aiming to be all four, because each will give him the abilities he needs to defeat the lion people.

This is the kind of thing I have yet to be better with in my Gloranthan games: if my players are fighting beast people who have local land magic supremacy, their adventurers might just get military allies, some kind of magical McGuffin weapon, or something similarly boring. To get that epic feel I’d need to give them some convoluted omen or quest! I guess this is where cracking open an ancient myths book can give some ridiculous but highly resonating ideas…

Anyway, I’m sort of surprised to the see the zzaburi themselves recommend this course of action: I would have thought they were the most conservative of the bunch, clinging to their secret scrolls and comfy lifestyle. It sounds like it’s the nobles who thought this was blasphemy, although it’s possible that a majority of wizards also thought so, if you imagine that only Froalar’s close zzaburi entourage was behind the idea.

I also love how Hrestol goes on a “quest” to get validation from Malkion. For all we know, he just went around the house, waited 10 minutes, and came back saying “yep, the Founder is all OK with it, don’t worry everyone!” More seriously, I guess this is one of those “magical contests” Jeff mentioned previously, where Hrestol actually comes back with some kind of proof from a heroquest.

And thus it was that Prince Hrestol became the first of the Men-of-All, the champions of the Malkioni. Hrestol became the best swordsman in the land. He learned the earth secrets of the farmers and spells of battle that blunt enemy’s blades and staunch the flow of blood from a wound. He studied the sacred book which Malkion gave him and was the basis of the Code of Hrestol. He tamed the wild horse and learned how to fight from horseback. When he was ready, Hrestol went into the earth and with Malkion’s sword he slew Ifttala.

Although successful in his quest, Hrestol was slain, not by the barbarians but by Seshna Likita, Ifttala’s mother and goddess of the land. However, the Prince managed to retain some memory, skills and identity in the Land of the Dead and continued his quest.

How bad-ass is that? Even Death cannot stop Hrestol’s quest!

When King Froalar learned of Hrestol’s death, Froalar set off himself to beg for the return of his son’s life. Froalar met with the goddess Seshna Likita and successfully bargained with her for Hrestol’s return. Froalar could not return Ifttala in return, and so Hrestol was exiled forever from Seshnela. Hrestol went on to commit other great deeds, but none were ever as far reaching or important as his Godslaying. Hrestol taught others the way of the Men-of-All (sometimes translated as “chivalry” or “knights”) and they rose to greatness and carried on as a shining example for humanity for generations.

I heard that terms like “chivalry” and “knights” is what led to a time where Western Genertela included iron age and medieval tropes — as Chaosium is trying to step away from terminology that gives the wrong idea, I don’t know if we’ll see these terms much anymore.

Besides, for me, the medieval knight doesn’t really convey this image of a very versatile hero who knows just as much horse-riding and swordfighting as he knows about animal husbandry and tool repair, herbology and hunting, public speech and intrigue, philosophy and mathematics. The term “Men-of-All” gives a better picture of this in my opinion, and if I had to pick a real-world equivalent I would lean towards Batman or James Bond, who seem to know everything, and can do everything… which of course raises the question: did Hrestol have any belt full of gadgets? An amphibian horse? A crossbow sword?

Third Age Malkioni Movements

Guest entry by Jörg.

This is a very western week for Jeff’s posts:

So let’s talk a little about some of the Third Age Malkioni movements. The Second Age broke Malkionism. Let’s say that again – the Second Age broke Malkionism. Most of the intellectual centers of Malkionism – Jrustela, Seshnela, and Brithos – were sunk, broken, or disappeared. The Oceans – long the highways of the Malkioni were closed to humanity.

Hrestolism – the mainstream of Malkionism since the early Dawn – had been delivered a catastrophic blow. Not just in numbers, but in self-confidence. The Invisible God had struck against the God Learners and the Middle Sea Empire.

That is not the rallying cries of the enemies of Hrestolism – that is what mainstream establishment Hrestoli agreed. Something had gone terribly wrong in Malkionism – and mainstream Hrestolism was to blame.

Protest already led to Genertelan parts of the Middle Sea Empire breaking away from Seshnela shortly after the Closing had struck, with the sorcerer Halwal taking the lead in pointing out those mistakes and leading or aiding liberation movements in Fronela and Ralios.

Halwal perished in an epic magical battle against the main proponent of Makanist Hrestolism orthodoxy, Yomili. With both intellectual leaders gone, the remnants of the Empire as well as the heirs of Arkat became disorganized and unable to do anything about the coming cataclysms.

And so the Third Age opened with Malkioni intellectuals – especially among the zzaburi and talars – trying to figure out how things went wrong. In Loskalm, the Irensavalists said it was because the so-called Hrestoli worshiped Makan the Demiurge instead of the Invisible God. They deeply inspected Hrestoli’s life and deeds and the New Idealists came up with a radical form of Hrestolism that Hrestol himself would not have recognized.

In the ruins of Seshnela and Tanisor came another answer – the problem was Hrestol himself. He twisted Malkionism so that he could murder the daughter of Seshna Likita and conquer the Pendali (who happened to be claimed as ancestors of the Tanisor talars). Hrestol betrayed Malkionism and if the Malkioni were to survive they were to try to figure out how to adapt Malkionism to the world of Time without going down Hrestol’s path. This is the origin of Rokarism.

This is an important point – the rulers of Tanisor aren’t descended from Froalar or his companions, or at least only by admixture. The Bailifides and their allies owe their legitimacy to a combination of barbarian roots with the land goddess and approval by the Rokari school, rather than from kinship with Malkion and/or Hrestol.

In Ralios, many concluded that Arkat was likely not the villain the God Learners claimed he was, and a myriad of sects claiming to know the secrets of the Dark Empire sprouted up.

We have the name of three heroes of the liberation war against Seshnela, which ended in a draw after the battle between Halwal and Yomili – a magical catastrophe on par with the Nights of Horror in the Lunar struggle with the Pentans, for both sides.

In fact, Ralios recovered from the disunity before what was left of Seshnela and Tanisor did, but the Kingdom of Jorstland was held together mainly by its charismatic leader.

This is the context in which Malkionism developed in the Third Age. In Tanisor (which now claims the ancient Serpent Crown of Seshnela), the Rokari movement is backed by the talars and nearly all Zzaburi publicly ascribe to it. They have excised the errors and corruption of Hrestol, Arkat, and the God Learners from Malkionism – the proof has been a strong and powerful kingdom, the Opening, and the defeat of their foes.

Note the phrasing “publicly ascribe to it.” The Rokari school may not be quite as monolithic as its leaders present it.

The only remnant of old school Hrestolism I can think of offhand is the Castle Coast. Which we often romanticise, but let’s think about what it is – the dwarf made fortress of Rhis, and the ruins of Frowal and Laurmal, plus a few heavily fortified strongholds. I kind of imagine it like the later Crusader states, after the loss of Jerusalem.

By and large, I don’t think the Castle Coast Hrestoli are filled with optimistic self-confidence. They are at best like the inhabitants of Gormenghast, performing rituals they no longer know the purpose of. At worst, they are the Vadhagh, hiding away in castles, wilfully oblivious to the changes over the last six hundred years.

There also just are not all that many folk in the Castle Coast – maybe 50,000, which is about the population of The Far Place (the area around Alda-Chur plus Alone).

In short, the Castle Coast is a melancholic place, dreaming about a past it no longer believes in, but rejecting a future it cannot be a part of.

Other comments led to the Carmanians of western Peloria, one of the few Malkioni groups that had stayed free of the God Learner philosophies:

Carmania was part of the umma, at least in the late Second Age and early Third Age. It is not now – embracing the Red Goddess was a bridge too far.

Imagine Carmania like the Mughals. So far removed from the core that there is not a lot of pressure to maintain anything resembling orthodoxy. And with the majority of the population not caring at all as long as they can worship their traditional gods.

And when the Bull Shahs take power – not even the rulers particularly care about Malkionism.

And the southern shores:

Slontos, once the gem of the Middle Sea Empire, was also sunk. The rulers of Ramalia are wracked with fear – and the cruel lords grasp onto power with the aid of amoral sorcerers, who Tap all who oppose the rulers. It is a police state of lords and sorcerers, backed by sadistic soldiers.

Groups like the Manirian Merchant Princes or the Aeolians are not particularly influential on the development of mainstream Malkionism. They are too far removed, too influenced by the Orlanthi (heck, many consider them to be just Orlanthi with some sorcerers – which is not entirely wrong).

Manirian Merchant Princes

Jeff continues his train of thought, which led him to Maniria:

So as part of our Third Age Malkioni discussion, lets get to the Manirian Road and the Trader Princes. Remember what this is – it is a trade route between Safelster and Esrolia, dating back some 400 years. During the Closing this was the only way to get goods and people between Ralios (and from there to Seshnela) and the Holy Country.

I imagine this trade route a bit like the Silk Road, which connected the mainly Greek cities of the Mediterranean to Central Asia by way of the Achaemenid Empire’s roads. This must have been not only a great business and adventuring opportunity, but also a catalyst for the exchange of ideas and cultures. Jeff actually confirms a bit later that the Silk Road is an inspiration for this bit of Glorantha.

The route was founded around 1170 by a talar named Castelain, who was descended from the god Issaries and worshipped by his kinship group as an ancestor (which is permitted by talars even under orthodox Malkionism). This was common among those talar clans that handled long-distance trade under the Silver Empire and later under the Middle Sea Empire, and many lesser talar families traced their descent to Issaries. This would have been around the time when the Kingdom of Jorstland dominated Ralios.

In some comment, Jeff sort of implies that Castelain might be related in some way to Garzeen, the son of Issaries who vowed to piece the god Genert back together in order to marry Fenela, a daughter of Froala and therefore sister of Hrestol. I don’t know if Castelain might be a descendant of Garzeen, or a Garzeen worshipper who somehow made great progress with this quest, or something else… but it’s an interesting link to explore between the god of trade and the Malkioni dynasty.

Castelain got spectacularly wealthy – imagine the markup of kafl, spices, iron, and other Western goods in an Esrolia cut off from trade. Of course he got his kin – his immediate family, cousins, and other clan members – in on the act. They made pacts with the local Orlanthi tribes, established settlements and caravanserai, and as talars, quickly fit into the role of judges in disputes between the tribes. They took Orlanthi and Esrolian wives and became part of the local network of alliances and kinship, but preserved their ancient role as talars, and invited zzaburi to aid them. Peace was maintained so that goods and people could be traded between Ralios and Kethaela – and when Belintar unified Kethaela into the Holy Country, that trade boomed!

The Holy Country became a thing in the early 1300s, so this business boom happened roughly half-way through the Manirian Road’s lifespan. Before then, most of the big events of the Third Age are happening in Peloria and further east, so the relative quiet of the western continent is maybe what lets Castelain setup this trade route. Plus, after the Dragonkill War, most of the people in the southern Dragon Pass region couldn’t really get their stuff from the north (it was closed to humans) or the east (there lies Prax who probably doesn’t export much), so it was only a matter of time before someone decided to heavily trade with the west.

They brought the Invisible God with them as well, although the locals continued to worship the Lightbringers. Eventually there was a degree of syncretism, although it was mostly one-sided. The Invisible God became a distant creator, and the Lightbringers were worshiped by everyone. Issaries was the favorite of the Trader Princes – their ancestor and patron. Some smatterings of Arkat stuff from Safelster likely got passed along as well, and zzaburi from Safelster or Tanisor could get good money working for a Trader Prince family.

If this sounds familiar, it is basically the Silk Road story.

I figure that if a local culture along the way was still clinging to some old pre-God Learner local deity worship, that’s when they would have “upgraded” to the monomyth version, especially if their local deity naturally maps to a Lightbringer. But more interestingly (at least to me), I wonder if that’s when the Lhankor Mhy cults of central Genertela started dabbling in sorcery… they would have accompanied traders as accountants or advisors or even just tourists, they are naturally curious about any kind of knowledge, and they would have definitely been interested in the peculiar magic that they see in the hands of Malkioni people… Do we know when Lhankhor Mhy initiates gained sorcerous powers?

But the Malkionism of the Trader Princes is pretty much worship of Issaries (as an ancestor, so it is ok!). With imported zzaburi to give respectability (not enough locals to keep the numbers up – besides the imported sorcerers are better trained). This manages to keep the Trader Princes from going completely native. Although I expect the zzaburi are well paid for this gig.

And so the Trader Princes have a curious “dominion”- the local tribes work with them because 1. they are good neutral judges, and 2. they give the local tribes a cut of their profits. The local Storm Voices get gifts, the Earth Priestesses are consulted (and the Trader Princes do not claim the land), and warriors get hired as mercenaries and guards. Win win for everyone!

To understand this bit, it’s important to note that Trader Princes actually rule the cities that dot the Manirian Road. The cities are not very big, and their Trader Prince leaders are often squabbling against each other, but it mostly works…

At least it is until the Opening. And suddenly it becomes cheaper to send a ship laden with goods to Handra than to send it overland across Maniria.

And if this sounds familiar, it is basically Barry Cunliffe’s theory on the collapse of the Hallstatt Fürstensitze and the rise of the La Tene warrior migrations.

The Hallstatt culture is the late bronze age culture that was predominant in Western and Central Europe, and which was gradually replaced by the La Tene culture around the 5th century BCE. A short research indicates that the La Tene warriors mostly invaded the Hallstatt settlements by crossing the Alps, so I’m not sure what theory Jeff is pointing at here that might relate to the collapse of trading roads in favour of sea trade… has anyone here read a book by Barry Cunliffe? Maybe Jeff was actually referring to the earlier conquest of the Manirian tribes by the Trader Princes?

Malkioni Likes and Dislikes

A sneak peek at the Malkioni write-up from the upcoming Cults of Glorantha:

PARTICULAR LIKES AND DISLIKES

The Malkioni distrust gods in general. There is a strong current of ancestor worship in Malkionism, and at times the Malkioni have made their ancestors surpass the gods in power, or else reduced the gods into mere superhuman heroes or multinational ancestors. Some sects reject all worship of the gods, others make exceptions for specific deities. For example, in the Second Age, the God Learners spread the Lightbringer cults of Chalana Arroy, Issaries, and Lhankor Mhy throughout the Middle Sea Empire. Even those sects that do not worship the gods rarely oppress worship of the gods by non-Malkioni.

Possibly answering my own previous question, it’s maybe during that time that the naturally curious Lhankor Mhy initiates peered into sorcery?

Most cults of other gods despise and fear members of the zzaburi caste. The zzaburi consider the gods to be individuals who mastered themselves, as the zzaburi strives to do. They consider the gods to be peers. Those who worship the gods are lesser men, those who couldn’t make it. Naturally, these attitudes cause considerable friction between the worshipers of the gods and zzaburi. The Malkioni distrust and dislike the Elder Races in general, although again exceptions are often made by specific sects. The Malkioni lump all the Elder Races together with the Orlanthi hill barbarians and even Chaos monsters until [sic] the category of “krjalk.”

With Krjalk being listed as the Chaos Lord of Monsters in the Guide, father of broos, dragonewts, elves, trolls, dwarves, Hsunchen and “other barbarians, that… does give a good idea about how much the Malkioni don’t like all those people.

The Malkioni recognize the force of evil and call it the Devil. The Devil is the god of Chaos. The Devil is the worst of all the beings who forgot the Invisible God, for he turned the wondrous forces of life against himself and tried to destroy the world in the process.

The talars are directly descended from the first-born son of Malkion, They venerate their ancestors – kings, heroes, and even gods – as a means of connection to the supreme power of the Invisible God. The earliest ancestors were the children of gods, and can intercede with the Elemental gods and the Powers on behalf of their descendants. As a result, Talars must carefully learn their lineage, and act as links between past generations of leaders and the present time.

Hah, interesting, I didn’t know that Malkioni nobles had to do this much ancestor worship, but I guess it actually fits with the old “chivalry” theme, where noble families must know the heraldry of all related families, their lineages and notable ancestral feats, and so on. I wonder if they could get a cool game mechanic where they need to roll on Lineage Lore to locate an ancestor that can temporarily grant them some magic spell.

Upon death, the remains of a talar are buried beneath the earth. Mounds, shrines, or other structures are typically built atop the grave. Cults to specific ancestors are common among their descendants. In the First Age, the royal burial mounds of the Seshnegi Serpent Kings were sacred complexes and the center of much religious activity. Other such cults, such as those of Xemela, Hrestol, Gerlant, and Talor, are now worshiped by members of all Malkioni castes.

Woooo…. “sacred complexes”? My tomb raiding sense is tingling.

Under Malkioni humanism, mortals can and should wield the creative power of gods and without needing to worship beings other than themselves. The world can be explained, understood, and mastered through human reason and logic alone.

Now that is a radical statement in Glorantha. The Theyalans, Lunars, and Praxians view it as insane hubris. The Elder Races view it as a not-so veiled threat.

If you want the Orlanthi and Lunars, Trolls and Elves and Dwarves, and everybody else to make peace, you could have a campaign where the Malkioni somehow manage to rise up and become a massive power, like they were in the Second Age! Then everybody would rally against them!

Of course, if you’re a massive Watchmen fan like me, that threat doesn’t even have to be real…

Anyway, when the Malkioni say that you only have to worship yourselves, they actually mean it in a sort of ancestor worship kind way I guess? All their past heroes who achieved great things and uncovered great insights of the Invisible God are often called “Ascended Masters”, and you can worship them:

Most Ascended Masters are hero cults. One offers a point of POW to them, regularly venerate them, and gain whatever blessings they offer. It might mechanically look just like a minor Rune cult, but Malkioni would say you are wrong.

Although the mechanics are similar, I wonder if there could be a few tweaks here, such as the ability to gather all these little Rune Points pools into one big one that can power any spell from that lineage of heroes… but anyway, it’s only for a subset of the Malkioni anyway. As far as I understand, depending on which school of thought you belong to, you might actually reject the Ascended Masters.

Jeff concludes by saying that this upcoming write-up contains “a lot that moves the Malkioni away from being crude analogies to medieval Christians or Muslims into something purely Gloranthan“.

Let’s Talk About Sorcery

Since we’re really into Malkioni stuff this week, sure, let’s!

First thing is obvious – it is very different from other magic systems.

Ok, let’s stop here. When I first read RuneQuest Glorantha, I skimmed past the Sorcery rules thinking that it’s pretty cool (in a “Ars Magica vibes” kind of way) but that I’ll get back to them later. Then, I realized that these rules were a big deal to some people, with many arguments and complaints in online forums about the nerfing compared to RQ3 or something.

It’s so weird to me because the arguments I’ve seen boil down to Sorcery not being able to produce the amount of power of Spirit or Rune Magic in a similar amount of time… but that’s not the point! The point is indeed that it’s supposed to be different!

In fact, Spirit Magic is quite underpowered and slow compared to Rune Magic — but when the difference is a few points or a few Strike Ranks, it doesn’t register as strongly as with Sorcery, which is more underpowered and slower by another order of magnitude. But it can do so much more with enough time and resources!

I’ve got absolutely zero interest in having yet another magic system that can accomplish the same things as the other two, but with different dice rolls and point pools. Two magic systems for “doing cool stuff in short notice” is more than enough. It’s even twice as much as most games. There’s no need for a third one…

Anyway, I’ll stop ranting and get back to Jeff’s words:

With spirit magic, you have a spirit that you know how to concentrate on (with your foci!) and it does whatever effect it can do. Makes your blade sharp, makes you strong, heals people. whatever.

Advantages: you have a fair amount of magical fuel for it (especially when you add POW crystals), this fuel recharges pretty quick (a few hours to a day), and you can get little helpers to further expand your catalogue of spells (bound and allied spirits).

Disadvantages: it takes part or most of a combat round to cast, you need to have your foci with you (otherwise you need to take an extra round), and spells have a somewhat low upper limit.

For instance in my Glorantha I would say that it becomes hard to find spells past level 4 or 5, like Heal 5 or Bladesharp 4, unless you have cult support and the finances or standing to get a 6 level spell (a healer might get Heal 6 from their Chalana Arroy temple, but someone else might have trouble getting access to it). Above level 6, I’d say it’s virtually impossible to find (again, in my own Glorantha) without a big adventure in the Spirit World.

With Rune magic, you wield a fraction of the power of the god. You are your god’s conduit to act in the mundane world. For that brief moment, you are the manifestation of your god in the mundane world. The limitations of this is you MUST maintain that connection to the god, which limits your actions and forces you to give time and resources (both material and spiritual) to that god!

Advantages: it’s fast (SR 1!) and it’s powerful (especially all the spells that come with MP boosts like Sword Trance!).

Disadvantages: you can’t cast these spells as much as you want compared to Spirit Magic (Rune Point pools are usually small until you approach Runemaster level), and recharging your magical fuel takes a long time, at least if you have a gamemaster that follows the Gloranthan calendar for Rune Point replenishing.

Note that for both Spirit and Rune Magic, you’re also limited to what is available out there: Spirit Magic has a relatively small list of spells, and Rune Magic is limited to what deities did during the God Time. Sure, you can collaborate with your gamemaster to make an occasional new Spirit or Rune spell, but you (as in “you the adventurer“) can’t come up with something new.

Sorcery isn’t any of that. Sorcery is something that must be learned, and is arduous to learn. You must learn to construct vast memory palaces, and create mental connections with points in the God Time. A lot of that is just rote learning and takes years.

Then you learn spells. These are careful paths through these “memory palaces” and mental connections that enable you to create an effect in the mundane world. The limitations of this is obvious – you are slow, learning spells is difficult, only a tiny percentage of people have the time to learn how to do this (and must be supported by the rest of society). But the advantages? You don’t need gods or spirits. You can cast any spell you are capable of learning (or creating).

And this is the great thing about Sorcery. It plays into the trope of the wizard alchemist who researches and studies obscure things in an old dusty tower, something that neither Spirit or Rune Magic push you to do, except maybe for Lhankor Mhy initiates who, guess what, have access to Sorcery. It also lets you make up virtually anything.

It’s hard to justify a Spirit or Rune spell that would make all bronze weapons in your enemy’s hands suddenly dissolve, or fly vertically in the air. Or a spell that sets fire to their clothes, or boils the water in their bodies. You can do it with Sorcery.

Similarly, you can’t really go big with Spirit and Rune magic. You can make a Shield spell last for a year, sure, but you can’t Create a Fissure in the ground that’s 10 kilometres long and twice as deeper. It’s only with Sorcery that you can sink entire islands and break the world.

So if only a tiny minority of specialists can learn sorcery, how do most Malkioni do magic?

Easy. Most people – talars, soldiers, and workers – use a combination of spirit magic and Rune magic. They also get some magic by upholding their caste duties and restrictions.

For example, the talars have the ability to give commands to Malkioni from other castes. They can also worship their ancestors and gain magic from them. And they have limited access to spirit magic. The horali can learn spirit magic from their regiments or war societies, and can belong to some cults of war gods. And the dronari can join whatever cults approved by their talars.

But of course, if you are Malkioni, your options are limited by the talars (and not directly the zzaburi). If your talar says you shall not worship Orlanth, that’s going to put a damper on things. This is a bigger limitation for horali than for dronari (mainly because as long as the dronari feed everyone and do the work, it is rare to ask them questions).

Jeff then addresses everybody’s favourite thing to complain about: Free INT:

Wait, I sometimes hear, but sorcery requires me to empty my mind of other thoughts so that I can use my INT to manipulate the size the spell. That means I need to “forget” my other spells (put them somewhere in a memory palace) and then spend an hour meditating on a new spell when I need to cast it. But what if I am on an adventure somewhere and need to do lots of things?

My answer is simple – you are a zzaburi. You are a magical specialist – the equivalent of a university research professor. You ought to have horali and talars there to take care of your mundane needs – including your protection!

This again goes back to Ars Magica: there’s a reason it defaults to troupe play, where only one wizard goes out adventuring at a time, surrounded by a bunch of companions! I imagine Zzaburi would do the same, and I would use a similar campaign framework if I played in the Gloranthan West.

I imagine these wizards come out prepared: they would have inscribed spells on jewelry and tablets worn around their neck, effectively carrying as much bling as a Praxian shaman. And since they don’t come out very often, I would also make downtime activities an important part of this campaign framework, with Zzaburi characters able to spend that time doing these kinds of preparations.

There’s also the much possibility of the Zzaburi being an NPC patron of the party, with the PCs going out on more or less obscure missions for him. And maybe they can take him out of his tower once every few adventures as a shared resource they need to protect, but which also provides lots of power once or twice… mmmh. So many campaign ideas, so little time…

At the end of the day, playing a sorcerer should be difficult:

Dabbling in sorcery works fine for player characters, but playing a full-fledged sorcerer is hard. It can be done, of course, just like it is possible to play a Mistress Race Troll or a dryad.

Heroquesting the Proximate Holy Realm

Here’s something I totally didn’t know about:

So when we think about heroquesting, the Empire of the Wyrms Friends, and Belintar’s Holy Country, one common thread is the idea of the “Proximate Holy Realm”.

The mundane world and the divine realm are distinct. Many philosophers and priests claim that the divine realm (which exists eternally in the God Time) underlies and defines our mundane world. We all know that they overlap during worship ceremonies and at some specific places where the divine realm erupts through the mundane world.

Heroquesters interact with both realms. They are mortals, born in Time, but their heroquests have them interacting with archetypes and powers tied to the divine realm These interactions follow prehistoric patterns eternally present in the cosmos. Life is always producing Life, Death is always Separating the Living from the Dead, Air overcomes Fire/Sky, Fire/Sky overcomes Darkness, etc. This overlap of the divine realm and the mundane world that the heroquester interacts is usually called the Hero Plane.

Oh nice, that’s the first time I see a definition that makes sense for the Hero Plane. I wonder if that means there’s no real difference between the Hero Plane and the God Plane — experiencing the God Plane means you’re in the Hero Plane?

After the wild heroquests that ended the First Age – Arkat and Harmast are best known, but there were far more than those two – priests in Dragon Pass came up with the idea of the Proximate Holy Realm. Through widespread use of magic and adoption of the “holy customs”, the divine realm could be brought closer to people. These holy customs encroached on clan and tribal organization by requiring that leaders meet certain magical criteria that were in the hands of the organized religion of Orlanth and Ernalda. Within a generation or two, the priests became a centralized heirarchy ruled by a Sacred Ring that in turned ruled all of Dragon Pass.

Oh so I guess this is similar to the idea of the “This World” heroquest? These kinds of heroquests are celebrations like Sacred Time, with the divine world manifesting down on the mortal world where the entire tribe is engaged in worship. Only I get the impression that the Proximate Holy Realm was semi-permanent, as opposed to only available during a big ceremony.

That would not only bring visions of the divine to everybody (including lay members), thus reinforcing the general population’s commitments to the main big cults, but it would also bring access to yearly boons such as better harvests and good pregnancies.

The Proximate Holy Realm brought widespread prosperity and peace to Dragon Pass. But maintaining this required an increasing amount of magic energies and resources. As the Orlanthi learned to communicate with the dragons, eventually the Sacred Ring learned to do so around 725 and become the Empire of the Wyrms Friends, which gave far greater magical resources to the Sacred Ring which meant that the Sacred Ring – restyled the Third Council in 826 – had vast surpluses, at least at first. As the EWF expanded it gained more resources, and in 889 the Third Council accelerated the process, and demanded to be worshiped directly as gods.

The costs of maintaining this grew, but the EWF no longer expanded. With rebellions, it began to contract and lost resources as the requirements to maintain the Proximate Holy Realm continued grew. The people were forced to offer more and more to the Third Council, and received less and less for it. The Third Council was visibly decadent and exploitive, and the tottering edifice collapsed in 1042.

Jörg says: A visiting Middle Sea Empire explorer’s travelogue in Middle Sea Empire describes the Glorious Cities of the Dragons. Among the wonders of the EWF under the influence of the Proximate Holy Realm there are two new kinds of cereal called velt and kreet described as tasty, hearty and sublime that turned into putrid slime after having secreted away in their packet. In the Holy Country, there used to be a few items of similar magic – Belintar’s rainbow bridges, the Fish Roads, and the entire nature of the City of Wonders where gods would visit as if it was in Godtime.

Belintar had a different solution. His deeds uniting the lands of Kethaela brought his Holy Country close to the Proximate Holy Realm. But he maintained this through his Tournament of the Masters of Luck and Death, which summoned heroquesters from far and wide. The Tournament resulted in a new Belintar and magically reunited the Holy Country, as described elsewhere. It was easy to cross over into the divine realm and vice versa, especially during the Tournament. The Holy Country enjoyed centuries of peace and prosperity, but Belintar was slain by Jar-eel in 1616 and the Tournament failed to produce a successor.

But many philosophers believe that Dragon Pass remains close to a Proximate Holy Realm, especially during the Hero Wars. Some claim this is because of the Lunar efforts to change the divine realm itself, others think it is a result of the True Dragons that have been awakened in Dragon Pass, starting with the Dragonrise. Whatever the reason, wild heroquesting was increasingly common among all participants in the Hero Wars, arguably even more so than in the Gbaji Wars.

Valind

Looks like Jeff has similar meteorological problems as we do here in British Columbia:

Given that we have a good foot or more of snow on the ground, now is a good time to talk about Valind within the context of Orlanthi society.

Valind is the God of Winter, and his cult is associated with Orlanth Adventurous, providing Snow. The cults of Valind and Orlanth are friendly and associated, even if the gods often brawled. There are often shrines to Valind in Orlanth’s mountain temples in Dragon Pass.

Valind is not socially useful or powerful – but he does serve as a minor war god and his cult can propitiate the forces of winter. His few initiates in Dragon Pass live on mountains where it is winter all year long.

And in the comments:

Valind’s cult is Friendly towards the Lighbringers, Mastakos, Odayla, Rathor, Uleria, Xentha, Xiola Umbar, and Zorak Zoran and associated with Orlanth, Inora, Himile, Storm Bull, and Ygg. Everyone else is Neutral or worse.

And he really hates the Red Goddess.

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.

Lionel Marty’s Artwork

Since Lionel Marty was highlighted previously for the upcoming non-human pre-gens, I took a look at his portfolio and found some great Glorantha-related art and cartography:

A map of Saug in Ralios, and one of the city of Kilwin (also in Ralios), two paintings of Harrek, a walktapus, and a quick warm-up painting of a troll.

Two new blog posts by Andrew Logan Montgomery

Guest entry by Jörg…. those are very long articles so I haven’t read them yet!

Andrew discusses how the Proto-Indoeuropean Koryos myth shapes Orlanth’s myths, and the rest of the sons of Umath as well.

A while ago, Jeff Richard shared The Apprenticeship of Vasana, and how that contrasts with her sister Yanioth’s Ernaldan apprenticeship.

Bud’s RuneQuest Starter Set Review

I said I would stop linking to any more Starter Set reviews but I’m making an exception for Bud’s, because he’s a friend of the God Learners. Yes, we are a totally nepotic bunch.

Playing the SoloQuest (Part 2)

Speaking of the Starter Set and nepotism, RPGImaginings has part 2 of the SoloQuest up on the channel!

Personal Horror in Glorantha

The Back To Balazar blog has a new article on “personal horror in Glorantha“, with suggestions on how to bring some horror elements in your Gloranthan games. Since horror gaming is my all-time favourite type of gaming, I’m whole-heartedly agreeing with this mix!

More Previews for Martin Helsdon’s Upcoming Book

Guest entry by Jörg

Identifying the various deities and myths depicted in Katrin’s illustrations has become pretty much a game of itself, and more often than not zooming in on a detail will let you appreciate the amount of information in these pictures. So guess away!

Detail from the Nochet Grace Temple murals, from Martin Helsdon's Periplus of Southern Genertela, art by Katrin Dirim
Detail from the Nochet Grace Temple murals
Detail from the Nochet Grace Temple murals, from Martin Helsdon's Periplus of Southern Genertela, art by Katrin Dirim
Detail from the Nochet Grace Temple murals
Detail from Nochet Harbor, from Martin Helsdon's Periplus of Southern Genertela, art by Katrin Dirim
Detail from Nochet Harbor
Harbor scene detail from Martin Helsdon's Periplus to Southern Genertela, art by Katrin Dirim
Harbor scene detail
The Invisible God as envisioned by the Aeolian Henotheists, from Periplus of Southern Genertela by Martin Helsdon, art by Katrin Dirim
The Invisible God as envisioned by the Aeolian Henotheists

Click on the links to the Facebook sources after you have made your guesses about who and what is depicted to confirm or discuss your conclusions.

Converting Gamemasters to RuneQuest With the Starter Set

Guest entry by Jörg

On Facebook, Sven Lugar told about his seasonal gifting spree, targeting 14 GMs of other systems with a gift-wrapped Starter Set. Of that sample, 10 are willing to try it out, one still needs to get his players on board, and three haven’t reported back yet. And all of the non-GM friends who received one were wanting to try it out, too.

Kitbashing the Starter Set Pre-gens

Zagmuk posted pictures of their “kitbashed miniatures” on BRP Central, and they’re great! I only put four of them above, so follow the link for more character minis.

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.

Hidetaka Mizayaki’s Inspirations

ScreenRant has a story about EDGE Magazine’s interview with Hidetaka Mizayaki, creator of the Souls video game series (Dark Souls is the probably most famous of the lot) and the upcoming Elden Ring, among others. He cites RuneQuest as one of the inspirations for his next game, but don’t hold your breath for more information than that.

In the meantime, this is as good an opportunity as any to remind you that RuneQuest had a fairly complete product line in Japan in the 90s, although they had a completely wild array of custom artwork.

You can see more at this collector’s list, or on Runeblogger’s blog.

A Video on the Terramare Culture

Guest section by Jörg.

Dan Davis, the creator of these videos has published several novels set in Bronze Age Europe and provides some of his research in these quite accessible videos.

The Terramare culture offers a few visuals too good not to be robbed for Glorantha, like their stilt houses which could be used in regularly flooded terrain. Their position in the European trade network with the presence of standardized weights for both the Mycenaean and the Central European trade networks makes their role as a mediator between those environments quite plausible.

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 premfrier Malkioni publication for studies into the nature of Glorantha. If you haven’t subscribed yet, please consult with the spirit bound to the appropriate electronic page.

This is another holiday week, and the heart of ski season… I may not have too much time to collect these Journals as exhaustively as usual, especially since I have the episode 7 of the podcast to finish editing. It should be out in a few days.

By the way, if you want to help by writing a specific section, provide commentary on a specific note from Jeff, or other contribution, please reach out to us! It would help a lot to have more hands and brains on this!

Chaosium News

Here are this week’s Chaosium news!

How Mythology Underpins Glorantha

James continues his interview series with Jeff Richard, and this time we have a short chat about mythology: in Glorantha, in books, in the real-world, in games.

Starter Set Pre-gen Miniatures

© 2021 Infinity Engine & Chaosium Inc.

Richard Helliwell of Infinity Engine shared this work-in-progress version of Makarios, one of the pre-gen characters from the Starter Set. The plan is that all those pre-gens are available in miniature form eventually! Infinity Engine already had the miniatures for the Quickstart adventure, along with several other cool things.

Glorantha Skirmish War Updates

Speaking of official licensees for miniatures, Andrew Taylor of Mad Knight Castings shared a few updates about the Gloranthan skirmish game that he was working towards with his many Kickstarted miniature lines. The project had taken a hit, between the global COVID pandemic and Andrew’s personal health problems, but it sounds like he’s getting back on track. Here’s some preview and design notes on unit cards:

The richness of Glorantha is both a beauty and a nightmare. Whilst many excellent skirmish rule sets exist none easily lend themselves to a Glorantha setting. I started with an A5 size UNIT card containing UNIT stats, Leader stats, pictures and magical abilities. It worked ok up to a point, but coupling the leaders to the UNITS and to the Magic became inflexible. So I split leaders and non unit specific magic off into separate cards. The card size shrunk from A5 to poker size. This, for UNITs, generated a new problem- how to fit pictures of the figures and all the info onto a 63*88 card ?

We tried many different layouts but to no avail. The pictures had to go off the cards and into the armies book.

Here is the front and back of a Troll Unit. On the front is the UNIT Magical Highlight, on the back the UNIT stats, the UNIT runes, and the UNIT special tactics.

Recent Well of Daliath Additions

The Well of Daliath website is Chaosium’s online repository for Gloranthan Lore and RuneQuest clarifications and errata. It has some awesome content such as, say, an index of all White Dwarf articles for RuneQuest. It also has monthly archives of notable Facebook postings by Jeff Richard or Michael O’Brien, though without the commentary we provide here in our Journal of Runic Studies (which might be a good or bad thing depending on your opinion of it!)

The RuneQuest Q&A was recently updated with clarifications of the sorcery rules and the errata for sorcery spells. Gloranthan lore recently saw newly archived “Greg sez” articles, or detailed notes on Sandy Petersen’s 1984 Campaign.

There is a whole treasure trove of information in there… I’m a big fan of the Prosopaedia archive, which has the Runes of a lot of deities per publication, so you can see how their Runes changed (or not) across game lines. Another one I frequently consult is the giant Third Age Timeline of Dragon Pass, which helps collate various sources easily. It is divided in several chunks of history, each with their own page. Note that it only draws on official RuneQuest and general Glorantha publications up to and including the GM Screen package, and ignores dates e.g. from any of the HeroQuest publications or from the Stafford Library book “History of the Heortling Peoples” or “The Fortunate Succession”.

David Scott is the librarian behind the Well of Daliath, but several volunteers help here and there with the website. You can contact him to get involved!

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 God

© 2021 Akhelas & Chaosium Inc.

The final-but-not-so-final issue of Monster of the Month Volume 2 is now out! To Hunt a God describes the crazy monkey cult of Hrunda who lives in the Old Woods of Esrolia, his “Temple of Bones”, and the first part of an adventure that sends you after him. Don’t forget to try Ludvik’s Liquor, it’s delicious and totally good for you.

Holiday Dorastor: Joulupukki

© 2021 Stormspearia & Chaosium Inc.

After the mean and ugly Krampuslauf, Stormspearia are now releasing Joulupukki, the apparently nice jolly good man who gives children gifts during Sacred Time… but he’s a sub-cult of Eurmal the Trickster God so who knows what he’s really up to?

Gloranthan Maps

Mikael Mansen continues to churn out nice looking parts of Genertela! There’s First Blessed, the Eastern Rockwood Mountains, and the Elf Sea. There’s also a three generic settlement maps.

Teaser of the Periplus of Southern Genertela

Art by Katrin Dirim © 2021 Martin Helsdon & Chaosium Inc.

Martin Helsdon continues to tease his next Jonstown Compendium project which, I assume, is something based on his Periplus of Southern Genertela. The project will be illustrated by Katrim Dirim. The picture above supposedly shows Chalana Arroy, Lhankor Mhy, Issaries, and Dormal, and is part of a much bigger picture featuring many more deities and heroes.

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.

Memes in the Second Age

One of the things that are often under-estimated when we think of the ancient world on Earth is how much cultural exchange there was between various part of Europe, Africa, and Asia. Well Jeff is talking about that for Glorantha’s Second Age:

Around the coastal regions of the world, the Middle Sea Empire, with its mix of Malkionism with a smattering of Theyalan and Darkness myths (starting from the Broken Council and Gbaji Wars era, but later built upon with the Dark Empire) and finds parallels in Kralorela, Teshnos, Fonrit, and elsewhere. This leads to the Monomyth – a universal approach to Gloranthan Mythology.

Now many commentators will say “God Learner Lies” or similar nonsense, but the Monomyth worked. It enabled deep exploration of the God Time and experimental heroquests to gain power and rob secrets from their enemies. Like Arabic numbers, the Monomyth was too useful not to be used, and the Empire of the Wyrms Friends eagerly embraced it (which can be viewed as its return to its source – as the origins of the Monomyth was with the First and Second Councils).

I really like this comparison to the Arabic Numbers: they worked, they were better, and everybody started using them. There’s just no arguing about it, and there’s no arguing about how the Monomyth worked and was more useful, from a theological standpoint, than the previous darker ages.

Still, even though Jeff shot down the idea, I can’t help but think about the little details that got lost in the process. Any generalization will, by definition, work in general, but might gloss over the little things. A change in mental framework is often accompanied by many other changes, such as when a 7-day week was introduced in the Roman Empire and that affected people’s habits and conception of time. So in my own Glorantha, there might have been minor gods and spirits lost in the process… when you’re changing your worship rituals to use the Monomyth version of your local goddess, it’s hard to tell if you’re getting access to new and larger mythical truths about her, or if you’re leaving her behind and worshipping a bigger and different goddess altogether! This sounds like a nice way to have an adventure or two where you need to appease one of those shunted deities, or even help them realize they are just a piece of a much bigger goddess who forgot who they were! Having to deal with the amnesiac aspect of Ernalda that makes radishes grow around a hill near Jonstown sounds fun to me!

And so by the height of the Second Age, a working understanding of the Monomyth had spread across much of Glorantha. The Monomyth never fully replaced many traditional names and cults, but it informed them of their greater context.

This is how you tell that radish goddess that she can still be herself, and consider herself a daughter or cousin of Ernalda, I guess?

In the Empire of the Wyrms Friends, the Third Council learned secrets from the dragonewts and wyrms, something entirely consistent with the traditional Orlanthi openness to strangers and new ideas. With aid from mythic maps stolen from the God Learners and with the Monomyth as a framework, experimental heroquests and mythic explorations were common in Dragon Pass, as the lives of such individuals as Gorangi Vak, Ingolf Dragonfriend, Isgangdrang, Lord Labyrgon, and Pavis show.

These God Learners’ mythic maps are available in the Glorantha Sourcebook and the Guide to Glorantha. Jeff shared an early sketch of one of those:

© 2021 Chaosium Inc.

The enemies of the empires also adopted their approach, and such heroes as Alakoring Rex, Iddi Scorchbane, Emperor Karvanyar, and Verenmars would not be possible without the secrets taken from the EWF and God Learners.

The disasters that ended the Second Age largely put an end to this experimental outlook and mythic explorations. With one big exception – the Lunar Empire.

That last sentence is important: the Lunar Empire has kept their heroquesting up consistently over the past centuries, and they continue innovating… the God Learners were just in it to “see how things work”. But:

The Lunars, in contrast, are basically driven by the desire to aid the Red Goddess in remaking the world (we can euphemisize this as “healing the world” if we want). Like the God Learners, personal ambition and the desire to weaponise these secrets factors into this, but I’d say the Lunar interest is much narrower (but deeper) than the God Learners.

Jrustela

Let’s talk about our homeland! (the God Learners’, I mean)

Jrustela was somewhere more than 400,000 square miles in area or about twice the size of Madagascar. Dwarfs, and several species of sentient insects, the Timinits, were indigenous to Jrustela.

© 2021 Chaosium Inc.

Humans came to Jrustela in the First Age. The initial settlers largely came from Slontos and were brought here by Waertagi dragonships. They called themselves the Olodo, and settled in the interior away from the coasts. They settled in small freeholds and fought with the Timinits.

Slontos was a land on the southern Genertelan shore, west of the Holy Country, which sank in 1050, leaving behind only islands off the (new) coast of Maniria.

The Wartagi are an ancient humanoid amphibian race who sailed the oceans ever since there were oceans to sail, some time in the God Time. They’ve always had an alliance with the Brithini, and had many trade routes across southwest Genertela including Slontos.

This was all good and fine until some problems with royal succession in Seshnela sent a whole bunch of unhappy wizards and nobles to Jrustela:

In the Second Age, the Seshnelan king Nralar son of Gerlant Flamesword died in 603 after ruling for more than a century. Nralar had many eligible and powerful sons to succeed him, and so a council of nobles, Hrestoli adepts, and wizards met to chose a new king. The council chose one of Nralar’s younger sons, Nepur, the older brother having been deemed unfit to rule the kingdom.

Rather than contest the choice of the council, a great many descendants of Nralar left the kingdom, sailing upon Waertagi ships over the ocean to Jrustela. The royal talars were accompanied by their sorcerers and followers. They founded the city of Hredmarinos, and allied with the Olodo against the Timinits. The Seshnegi kept to the coasts, and the Olodo claimed the rugged interior of the island.

So you’ve got wizards and nobles (talars) going to Jrustela, followed by a whole bunch more soon after:

Sadly, the settlement of Jrustela by the Nralarites did not prevent a civil war in Seshnela, and many others fled Seshnela to the comparative peace of Jrustela.

Jeff shares more in another post:

The human settlements on Jrustela grew in number and population. Each settlement was free and independent. At first, this was no problem as there was land and resources enough for all, but within two generations conflicts grew. In 646 the quarrelling rulers and wizards of the city-states and tribes of Jrustela met to reach a lasting settlement.

Art by Eric Vanel © 2021 Chaosium Inc.

Unexpectedly, the conclave created or was presented with a new ecumenical syncretic form of Hrestoli Malkionism called the Abiding Book, which presented the Invisible God as an utterly simple, ineffable, unknowable entity which is both the creative source of existence and the teleological end of all existing things. The Invisible God created the Runes, the Powers, Elements, and Conditions, which slowly commingled and degenerated into gods, spirits, and mortals. All of creation was made understandable and knowable – with the exception of the Invisible God itself of course.

You can look up the Invisible God in previous issues of the Journal for more information and, most importantly, real-world inspirations.

This Abiding Book presented the true teachings of Malkion, and was consistent with the teachings of Hrestol, Zzabur, Gerlant, and Arkat – without need for the dangerous mysticism and irrational contradictions of Stygianism. The Abiding Book was a framework for understanding, and was an open invitation for exploring the cosmos. Everything could have its proper place within the framework of the Abiding Book, and the limited perspectives of the various barbarian cults could be put together to flesh out that framework.

About this time, the Jrusteli began experimenting with seagoing ships and began their first tentative challenges to the Waertagi.

OUROBOROS

Do you speak Dragon?

Around 650, some of the Orlanthi of Dragon Pass learned to speak with the Dragons. This opened tremendous mystical vistas for the Orlanthi, identifying the Cosmic Dragon as the Source and expanding their cosmological perspective.

The 650s are about one century into the era of the Empire of the Wyrms Friends as far as I can tell. Jörg points me to the timeline in the Guide, however, which show that in the 560s Rostand the Speaker was already teaching the “kernels of draconic consciousness”, and a decade later Vistikos Left-eye was establishing a “formula and pattern for a draconic human life”. It’s possible some of these figures, along with a few of their students, were the ones who opened up these channels of communication.

Unlike the Invisible God of the God Learners, insight into the Cosmic Dragon cannot be reached through materialistic logic – the identity of opposites, matters of duality and nonduality, formation of the “self”, and other such metaphysical questions.

© 2021 Chaosium Inc.

The following immortal dragonewt poem is a chant and prayer which relates to the creation of the world and was popular with the Wyrmfriends:

– Silence, The Infinite
O Zero, or an exclamation
OU A cry of pain; Ego
OUR Collectiveness, plurality.
OURO Collective emptiness
OUROB Creation (Collective with an end-stop “b”)
OUROBO Closed Infinity, or Being
OUROBOR Birth.
OUROBORO Nothing, emptiness.
OUROBOROS S= “Voice” (i.e. the sound a serpent makes).

We’ve seen this poem in a few places. Jörg points to Wyrm’s Footnotes 14, where the “Dragon Pantheon” is defined, and the above poem is tied to the Cosmic Dragon. We’ve also seen it recently in MOB’s tales of Yellow Mellow.

The poem shows a gradual internalization of something to bring about the formation of the concept of “self.” This poem was also repeated backwards at rituals and transported the chanters and the universe into mystical bliss which was ordinarily impossible to reach.

Ouroboros was sometimes worshiped as the Source and seen as the complement to Glorantha the World Goddess who was without consort or mate in her own realm. The phenomenal world is constantly changing and thus ultimately spiritually unreal – the gods themselves, although useful, do not reveal the hidden principles and implicit knowledge that created them and the universe.

Orlanth led the path towards draconic understanding. His openness to strangers meant it was easiest for his priests to speak to alien species. They learned that Orlanth embraced Arangorf the Inner Dragon, and that Orlanth had performed utuma for the Cosmic Dragon. Orlanth’s role as a cosmic creative-destroyer was promoted by the priests, sometimes to the near-exclusion of his other aspects.

Ok so this is getting interesting. “Utuma” is the term for the ritual suicide that Dragonewts commit when their time has come to get to the next evolutionary stage. You might remember that these weird little buggers can die many many times, and they always come back in a new body grown from the same egg. Only they sometimes come back with a new improved body as they reach the next of their five stages of evolution… which is why they get reaaaaally pissed off when humans go destroy their nest cities. Last time it happened, things didn’t go well for those humans. Anyway, so that’s what “utuma” is, although it’s also the term for the ritual dagger used for that ritual suicide.

Anyway, we know that Orlanth is big on fighting dragons: he had several adventures where this happened, the most famous one being his fight against Aroka (the Blue Dragon who kept all the rain inside it and caused drought in the lands). But I had somewhat glanced over in the Glorantha Sourcebook that he also killed Sh’harkazeel, the Cosmic Dragon. It’s originally framed as Orlanth being appointed by the other gods to go kill the Cosmic Dragon because it was awoken and was about to eat all of them… but it’s also called out that Orlanth had a chat with Sh’harkazeel and learned a bunch of draconic secrets, in exchange for performing utuma on the venerable dragon.

So depending on how you take the myth, Orlanth might be your classic dragon-slaying hero, or the confidante of a wise, ancestral, mystical dragon. This being Glorantha, he’s probably both. That’s why Orlanth is cool, I guess.

Through their draconic insights, the rulers of the Wyrms Friends had access to powerful dragon magic that terrified their enemies. Their mystics could dismiss even the most powerful of elementals or spells, terrify foes, deflect spells, breathe fire, or even become dragons themselves!

Summarizing the Second Age

Jeff takes a high-level view of the Second Age, a period of “widespread mythic experimentation and exploration”.

Not only did we have God Learnerism, dragonic mysticism, and syncretic developments in cults, but also there was an exploration of the God Time. This was a time of remarkable cult-changing heroes such as Pavis, Alakoring Rex, Gorangi Vak, Ingolf Dragonfriend, Carmanos, Verenmars, Jaldon Goldentooth, Delecti, and many more. This was the time that experimental artificial gods were created – and they proved to have magical power (although not necessarily as expected).

However, the Second Age ended in catastrophes worse than that of the First Age. The Oceans were closed to humans. Seshnela was sundered into fragments, Slontos sunk, and the Dragonkill War exterminated humans in Dragon Pass. Nature struck back against human hubris. After 1120, humans had learned to fear experimentation, exploration, and new ideas.

There were three main exceptions to this: the “resurrection” of the Red Goddess, the arrival of Belintar, and the rise of Sartar.

In 1220, a desperate cabal with nothing left to lose brought back into the world a goddess that had been destroyed in the God Time. Seeking weapons against her enemies, she tread paths in the Underworld and became lost there until she was Illuminated by Nysalor and returned with the Crimson Bat. She later rose into the Middle Earth as the Red Moon after appointing her son as her regent for her mundane affairs.

In 1313, a Stranger came ashore in Kethaela despite the Closed Seas. He made alliances with the Silver Age heroes of that lands, gained acceptance of their gods and goddess, and overcame the Only Old One, the dark lord of that land since prehistory. He instituted rites and ceremonies by which the Gods World could remain in proximity of the mundane world, and began the Tournament of the Masters of Luck and Death to keep those pathways active and empowered. Kethaela became known as the Holy Country because of this.

In 1470, a wanderer named Sartar came to Dragon Pass from the Holy Country. Without using violence himself, this wanderer united the quarreling Orlanthi of Dragon Pass, made friends with the dwarfs, centaurs, dragonewts, ducks, and werewolves, founded cities and built roads, temples, and libraries, and made himself King of Dragon Pass when he married the Feathered Horse Queen (another mythic adventurer from the Grazelands). He displayed the secrets and magic of Orlanth Rex, but also maintained draconic friendship. The kingdom he founded became rich on trade, and was influential far beyond its size and population.

This backstory helps explain the context of the Hero Wars, and gives ideas as to what they are all doing. Few if any of the main heroes are repeating the deeds of others. They are forging new paths, experimenting and exploring. Like your adventurers likely do!

Harrek the Berserk

Jeff takes a look at another big, epic, and iconic figure of the HeroWars: Harrek the Berserk. After all, the original Gloranthan game, White Bear & Red Moon, was named partially after him, not Argrath or whoever else.

Separating the stories of Harrek from the truth of his life is nearly impossible – certainly Irrippi Ontor has so far failed to do so. Harrek was, as far as any can tell, initially a normal Rathori warrior. There are rumors that Syndic’s Ban was somehow connected to his adulthood initiation but those are but rumors. What is known is that after he awakened in 1594, he was extraordinary. For over a decade, Harrek wandered the world without – both the mundane world AND the mythic realms. Stories of him as a penniless mercenary, a slave, a Lunar gladiator, etc., are often associated with this time. In 1605 he received training as a Dart Warrior.

Rathori are bear Hsunchen people, similar to, say, how Telmori are wolf Hsunchen people. They’re typically from Fronela.

© 2021 Chaosium Inc.

In 1607, as part of a Dart War, Harrek killed the Red Emperor and fled through the wilds of Dorastor to escape. Harrek is known to hate the Red Emperor and the Red Goddess with an overwhelming passion – it is thought this hatred originates from those experiences.

Harrek’s training as a Dart Warrior means he was basically a black-ops operative for the Red Emperor, or for one of the leading households of the Empire. He probably witnessed the worst side of the Lunars during that time, which played into his later hatred of it.

And then in 1609, Harrek slew and bound the White Bear God – and now always wears its skin and claws. After this, Harrek was no longer merely extraordinary – he was a superhero, a shaman with a god as a fetch, a demigod of destruction and disorder. Constantly wandering through this world and the Mythic Realm, Harrek is constantly seeking treasures, weapons, and fame. But his goals are erratic. He’s thrown away fortunes and even kingdoms for further adventure, traveled all the way around the world, and quested along unknown paths.

Oh that’s interesting: I thought the white bear god was a bound spirit for Harrek, but it’s actually his fetch… which means that a fetch is not necessarily your own “awakened” spirit, but can be another spirit you “acquire” somehow during your initiation? Interesting. I guess that brings exciting possibilities if you have a very ambitious shaman in your party, especially if they take an unusual path towards shamanism. In particular, Jeff commented:

I personally find the idea of a self-initiated shaman terrifying.

What about Harrek’s Facebook profile?

Harrek is said to be loyal only to Gunda, his Shield Maiden. His relationship with Argrath is more complicated; Argrath is the closest thing Harrek has to a true friend, but they also come to blows on several occasions. Harrek has an intense and inflexible hatred for the Lunar Empire and everything in it.

Given Harrek’s hatred of the Lunars, you might wonder why he still worked for them in a couple occasions, like the taking of the city of Karse, or the destruction of the Holy Country’s fleet. Personally, I interpret these as some other Wolf Pirates doing these things (Harrek isn’t necessarily the leader of all Wolf Pirates… they existed before him), but Jeff also offers another explanation:

One theory is that Harrek’s hatred is very personal (and focused on the Red Goddess, Red Emperor, and the demigods around them) and he didn’t appreciate that Gimgim the Grim or whoever brokered the deal was an agent of the distant Red Emperor.

Gimgim the Grim is a secret operative of the Red Emperor, who was at some point posted in Pavis to gather intelligence and run operations in Prax.

Harrek can be thought of as a great random factor throughout the Hero Wars. And one who does not fit easily within anyone’s models or frameworks.

Harrek’s combination of power – both physical and spiritual – with his unpredictability makes him perhaps the most dangerous protagonist in the Hero Wars.

Harrek is savage and uncivilised, but he’s also been trained by the Lunars, been to Dorastor, plundered cities in Fronela, Teshnos, Fonrit, and Seshnela. He’s definitely no fool and has bestial cunning.

Heroquesting

Jeff hopes that people will have moved on from heroquesting as pictured in the King of Dragon Pass computer game, or the HeroWars/HeroQuest books.

Every culture performs ceremonies and rites that cause the mundane and divine worlds to overlap into what is called the Hero Plane. This is where you get your Rune magic from, your allied spirits, befriend cult spirits, and all that stuff.

Now that stuff is gameable, but it really only gets interesting IMO when things go wrong. When the ceremony no longer predictably works, when dangerous enemies show up, etc.

So this is what heroquesting has mostly been about since the HeroWars/HeroQuest line: you go in thinking you know what’s going to happen, but the gamemaster throws in a bunch of surprises and twists. Jeff goes farther:

But far more interesting to me is deliberately exploring the mythic realms and discover previously unknown paths through the divine world. This is what heroes such as Alakoring, Argrath, Arkat, the Feathered Horse Queen, Harmast, Harrek, Jaldon Goldentooth, Pavis, Sir Ethilrist, Cragspider, Jar-eel, Hwarin Dalthippa, Hon-eel, and the Red Goddess. They did not “invent” new myths – they traveled previously unknown paths through the Hero Plane and brought back their experiences to the mundane world. They discovered paths and events that had always been latent in the God Time.

Being a recent convert to Glorantha, and playing with people who didn’t know anything either until a few game sessions ago, I have to say you probably need to do the former before you do the latter. Players need to know that heroquesting is a thing, how it works, and what it can give them, before they can start making it their own with advanced exploratory heroquesting.

And this ties a lot into rules and world-building to me. On the one hand, heroquesting is supposed to be very dangerous and require lots of magical support, but on the other hand we want to facilitate it for players to go wild with it. But it’s easy to undermine the heroquesting prowess of Kallyr, King Broyan, or even Belintar if that kind of advanced heroquesting can also be done by the thanes of Apple Lanes after a few seasons of adventuring in Colymar lands. Without going into details (that’s maybe for a future Runic Rants article), there are a few ways to resolve this conundrum depending on your players and your campaign:

  • If you have ambitious players, let them become leaders, and give them followers that can (at least narratively) provide magical support for big heroquesting.
  • Decide that actually anybody can move the heavens… it’s just that farmers have better things to do, and other thanes are not crazy enough to try it.
  • Make the adventurers join the entourage of big NPCs like Kallyr or Argrath, and have some missions essentially be about going heroquesting somewhere to figure out some kind of weakness in an enemy, find some advantage, or whatever else. The mission giver doesn’t have any precise instructions: “just figure it out“.

This approach to heroquesting was fairly common in the late First Age and through the Second Age. Most people shunned it after the cataclysms that ended that Age. BUT not everywhere – in the Lunar Empire and the Holy Country this sort of spiritual exploration remained, although for very different ends. And Sartar and his dynasty inherit the techniques developed in the Holy Country.

As the Hero Wars develop, the protagonists take more risks and gambles in their heroquesting – such as rediscovering the techniques of the God Learners and the Empire of the Wyrms Friends, using Chaotic magic in heroquests, and more. People take short cuts, make permanent changes for short-term gains, and all the sorts of things that people do when they are desperate and ambitious. That becomes the Hero Wars. We start from a familiar starting point, but by the end, the world has changed so much we can barely recognize where we began.

So I guess this gives weight to the second option from above: people are just warming back up to doing “creative” heroquesting, and the adventurers are part of the “innovators” or “early adopters” of the heroquest techniques adoption cycle.

Jeff concludes with this:

It is important to keep in mind that underlying Glorantha are the Runes and other archetypes. These archetypes are more real than reality. We know that the Runes joined together, came into conflict, devolved, and made the world we live in. But how we interact with these archetypes is based on our experiences which in turn is the foundation of our understanding of it all.

Repeating somebody else’s story is not the point of heroquesting – nobody becomes a hero by simply being the understudy! One becomes a hero by making your own path through the mythic realm of archetypes and Runes. Make the divine and eternal the personal and psychological!

Cults Friendly or Neutral to Chaos

From a question posed on the Facebook group about cults friendly or neutral to Chaos, Jeff’s answer gives a sneak peek at some cult relationships from the upcoming Cults book:

Let’s put aside cults with the Chaos Rune (Red Goddess, Nysalor, Thed, Vivamort, Crimson Bat, etc.) or weird specific Chaotic cult specific associations (like Thed and Daka Fal) and just look at non-Chaotic cults that are Friend towards Primal Chaos:

Hon-eel
Hwarin Dalthippa
Yara Aranis

And those neutral towards Primal Chaos:

Black Fang
Etyries
Gorgorma
Humakt
Ourania

Another short (but interesting) list.

Yelm is an Enemy of Primal Chaos. He makes a few Chaotic exceptions – Red Goddess and Nysalor – but in general he hates Chaos.

As an aside, Yelm is Neutral not Hostile let alone an Enemy of Orlanth. And vice versa. If Orlanth was enemies of every god he fought with, he’d have no friends at all! And if Yelm was enemies with every rebel god, he’d have nothing to rule!

Community Roundup

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

RuneQuest Year Zero Podcast

Baz Stevens, one half of the excellent “What Would The Smart Party Do?” podcast, has started a new RuneQuest-specific podcast that aims to chronicle his first foray into the game. It’s called RuneQuest Year Zero and in some ways it’s Baz’s own series-long foray into what we’re attempting here with our “Glorantha Initiation Series”, where we interview newcomers to Glorantha one at a time. I’m looking forward to hear more from Baz, and hopefully we’ll have him on the God Learners podcast soon!

Painted Mad Knight Pre-gens

Phil Leedell did an awesome job painting Mad Knight’s RuneQuest pre-gens! I love how vibrant those colours are:

That’s the culmination of a year of miniature painting:

[…] I managed to paint 178 miniatures this year and most of them were Gloranthan.

Felix Figure Paintings’ Gloranthan Works

Felix Figure Paintings does, well, figure paintings, of a large array of collections and styles. Here are some Dragonewts, and some Lunar soldiers.

Thank you for reading

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

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

This week was of course holiday season, with some unusual low temperatures and snowfall here in Jrustela. While I was trying to wrap up some art for Jonstown Compendium customers and for my own projects, Jeff posted a lot of large notes on Facebook, with not much time left for me to analyze or research them in-depth… so apologies for the large blocks of quoted text this week!

God Learner Sorcery

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

‘Tis the Season

This week was the heart of the holiday season for most people who would be reading this kind of blog, so for all of you who celebrate anything, happy Sacred Time!

Now, the correspondence between Glorantha’s and Earth’s calendar has always been a bit iffy. Chaosium themselves have also given their Sacred Time Greetings this week, but in theory Sacred Time is a spring festival. The Gloranthan winter solstice happens in the penultimate week of Dark Season, as Ian Cooper explains, and as marked in the Glorantha Calendar and the Guide… But hey, I don’t see anybody getting two weeks off in spring to get drunk and eat piles of meat with their whole families! So I guess that when it comes to Earth/Glorantha correspondence, we have to pick between cosmological correspondence and cultural correspondence? Which would you pick?

Review: RuneQuest Starter Set

Did you think we would not start writing reviews of Gloranthan products? Well, to be frank, we weren’t sure either… but the pandemic holidays brought me some free time:

The RuneQuest Starter Set has already been reviewed many, many times, but since I have already gifted it three times this holiday season (yes, to my unsuspecting players), its merits and faults have been on my mind… and what kind of a Glorantha focused website would we be if we didn’t have some reviews? We’re just slow about writing them, being, like, two products behind schedule. But we are the God Learners, and you wouldn’t believe the kind of administrative puzzle we have to go through for approval of that kind of thing.

You can read this in-depth and, we hope, somewhat insightful or interesting review here!

We have linked to a whole bunch of other reviews in previous issues of the Journal already, but new ones keep coming! Lately these included Rolling Boxcars’ review, James Nicoll’s review, and Charles Dunwoody’s review.

Chaosium News

Here are this week’s Chaosium news!

Jeff Richard on Rambling about RuneQuest

Jeff Richard was interviewed on RPG Ramblings about RuneQuest and Glorantha.

Jonstown Compendium

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

Glorantha Area Map: Kanthor’s Islands

© 2021 Mikael Mansen & Chaosium Inc.

Mikael Mansen has been working on pimping up the Argan Argar Atlas’ maps, and doing a pretty good job at it! The first map is out on the Jonstown Compendium, and covers Kanthor’s Islands, in Seshnela. This is a pretty minimal product (two maps, one with text and one without), but it’s quite pretty and high resolution.

Mikael is also working on other maps, such as the Elf Sea area and other parts of Genertela.

RPG Imaginings Unboxes Armies & Enemies of Dragon Pass

If you want to see what the Print-on-Demand version of Martin Helsdon’s book looks like, here is RPG Imaginings flipping through it on camera!

Jeff’s Notes

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

Nochet and Other Metropolises

Jeff tries to remind us how densely populated cities like Nochet are, giving Bombay or Calcutta as a point of comparison.

Nochet’s population density averages somewhere around 18,000+ per square kilometer. That’s average – for every Sacred City garden that means somewhere else people are piled on top of each other.

Boldhome in comparison is a mere 3000 people per square kilometer, but it has plenty of empty space, which means that in the Pockets and the Main City, things get piled up.

In comparison, the population density of modern London is 5700 per square kilometer; modern Manhattan has a population density of 29,000 per square kilometer and San Francisco about 6600 per square kilometer.

While Nochet’s density is incredible, it isn’t unheard of for Earth’s bronze age cities either.

For instance, Alexandria in the last century BCE might have had 500,000 inhabitants, and even if only a fraction of those lived inside its walls (an area of about 5.3 square kilometres), that would still be way more dense than Nochet.

Another example is the ancient Greek city of Antioch (in modern day southern Turkey) is said to have peaked with at least 250,000 inhabitants around the same time frame (last century BCE), and potentially as high as 500,000 inhabitants. I’m having trouble figuring out its area (there’s the intramuros area and the general suburbian area, and some of that area was uninhabited rocky mountain), but even with a conservative estimate, it might have been twice as dense as Nochet.

Anyway, back to Glorantha:

Interestingly, although Boldhome averages only about 3000 people per square mile, Jonstown averages somewhere around 16,000 people per square mile. Which means it is built up more like Nochet than Boldhome.

Sheng Seleris, Shadow of the Lunar Empire

Jeff shares some thoughts about everybody’s favourite ruthless horse riding crazy nomad:

Sheng Seleris and his nomad army entered Peloria for the first time in 1375. Sheng Seleris was a celestial hero, whose horses could run through the sky, and whose companions were as pure and as merciless as the light of the sky.

As we mentioned in last week’s Journal, Sheng Seleris used his army’s superior mobility to force the Lunars into battles during Dark or Dying lunar phases. For almost 30 years, the Lunars knew “little more than defeat and humiliation”. Ouch.

© 2021 Chaosium Inc.

Jeff shared map sketches (above for the 3rd wane, later below for the 4th wane), but if you look at the nice colour versions in the Glorantha Sourcebook, you’ll see how the Lunar Empire got broken up in small pieces between 1355 and 1389. The Red Emperor really just had a few strongholds left (Glamour and the Silver Shadow area, Sylila, and the West Reaches).

The Red Emperor engaged in several magical contests with Sheng Seleris, but appeared to have lost them all.

I’m not sure what these magical contests would have been… Face to face battles, such as their “wrestling” in front of Glamour’s gates? Encounters during heroquests where the Emperor and the Nomad recognize each other? Something else? Either way, I’m pretty sure it was awesome.

Much of Peloria was overrun, and many cultivated areas returned to grassland. For FOUR GENERATIONS(!), nomadic herds roamed over the Pelorian grasslands. In some areas, city and town life continued, ruled over by Yelm-worshipping horsemen. Other areas paid tribute to whatever nomad chieftain demanded it, and submitted themselves to whatever other demands were made, in exchange for limited autonomy.

These four generations of nomadic supremacy ended in 1460, when Shen Seleris was finally defeated by a later Red Emperor. But let’s go back to the early 15th century first:

In 1409, the first Temple of the Reaching Moon founded. Within the “Glowline” formed by her temples, the Red Moon was always magically at Half Phase, which helped to mitigate the Lunar magical weakness that Sheng Seleris exploited. The Lunar Army knew a few successes against the lieutenants of Sheng Seleris, although whenever Sheng Seleris was present, the Lunars were badly defeated.

Reading the corresponding part of the Glorantha Sourcebook, my understanding was that three Temples of the Reaching Moon (and the Glowline they produce) was actually in effect several years prior to that, as early as 1397. My understanding here is that 1409 is the year during which the name “Temple of the Reaching Moon” was made official, and when the effect of the Glowline was revealed publicly.

Imagine the fun stories to tell and play in the years when the Lunars are building this magical infrastructure, but have to keep it secret from their enemies… could there be a Lunar sorcerer who, for reasons unknown, betrays the Red Emperor and designs a fatal flaw in the temples’ magical lattice, or something? A flaw that could be exploited by a small band of nomads who just have to lob an explosive into a small shaft to blow the entire thing up? Am I watching too many movies? Is my analogy completely wrong because the nomads are the ruling bad guys in this case? Am I asking to many questions in my own newsletter?

Anyway, you can check last week’s Journal for more discussion on the Glowline.

© 2021 Chaosium Inc.

In 1415, Sheng Seleris killed the Red Emperor in a magical duel. This is the first time the Red Emperor is known to have died. He had ruled for over 150 years but now was gone. For 15 years, there was no emperor.

For those of you following at home, for some reason this is not mentioned in the Glorantha Sourcebook… I blame the Lunar Ministry of Truth and its “correction” of historical records. Thankfully, the Guide to Glorantha has a mention of the event. After that, you can follow Sheng Seleris and the Red Emperor’s battles in either books, but I like how it gets pretty epic at some point:

In 1442, Sheng Seleris defeated the Kralorelan Emperor and became a god. A new star appeared in the heavens. The remnants of the Lunar Empire shuddered before the Celestial Empire. The Red Emperor confronted Sheng Seleris and was killed again, and Sheng Seleris flew his elite warriors to the Red Moon to search for him. The scars on the Red Moon can still be seen by the naked eye.

That’s pretty bad-ass. But things started to change:

Sheng Seleris continued to search for the Red Emperor, and ravaged the land and mythology. He killed those who were formerly neutral in the conflict, and made a growing number of enemies. Even those who had once hated and feared the Red Goddess increasingly viewed her as the lesser threat.

In 1460, the Red Emperor returned (in a new form) and finally defeated Sheng Seleris in a magical duel the Battle of Kitor. Lunar propaganda claim this was a long-planned master scheme of the Red Emperor, but other accounts suggest it was more opportunistic and that many former enemies aided the new Red Emperor.

Over the next few years, the Lunar Army forced the now leaderless nomads to withdraw from the Lunar Heartlands into the Redlands. But the nomads were still powerful and a near-equal to the Lunar Army. The threat was not ended for another two generations with the Nights of Horror (1506), which destroyed both the Lunar Army and the nomads. The Lunar Empire raised a new army, but the nomads were forced deep into Pent.

The Redlands are immediately east of the Lunar Heartlands, with Pent far further north-east from there. The Nights of Horror was a two-day battle where most of 150,000 warriors and magicians were slain, Hon-eel (daughter of the Red Emperor) died, and Chaos and Dragons were involved. Exciting stuff. And yes, Chaos was summoned by the Red Emperor… I’m sure that using Chaos to finally get rid of the nomad bane was a big step at the time, but given its success at the time, the Lunars probably won’t think too much before they do it again if needed.

Sheng Seleris’ game of Whack-a-Mole against the Red Emperor exhausted the Celestial Emperor and turned formerly neutral (or even potentially friendly) forces into enemies. Ironically, this sounds a lot like what happened to the Lunar Empire in the Eighth Wane.

The Eigth Wane is of course the “current” wane, as per RuneQuest’s starting date.

Almost every institution we associate with the “modern” Lunar Empire except the Seven Mothers and the Red Goddess really is the result of the struggle with Sheng Seleris and the nomads. The Glowline. The Lunar College of Magic. The Cavalry Corps. The widespread nature of New Pelorian. Referring to each new Red Emperor as a “Mask” of the Red Emperor. And so on.

So before you think about the Lunar Empire, remember that it rose out of the ashes of a previous Lunar Empire, one nearly destroyed by Sheng Seleris. The Lunar Empire has known defeat and had to recreate itself out of the ruins.

The Seven Mothers Cult

Jeff wants to set the record straight about the Seven Mothers cult, which is sometimes pictured as imperialist colonial administrators similar to those of the 19th century British Empire. But they’re not thinking of themselves as “bringing civilization to the barbarians of Dragon Pass”, and don’t act in a condescending way to the cultures they are proselytizing in:

The Seven Mothers purpose is to prepare people to embrace the Red Goddess. Most people never become Illuminated, but the Seven Mothers creates an environment where Illumination can be welcomed and respected – not feared or killed. The Seven Mothers likes those things that like the Red Goddess, and it fights against those who would fight the Red Goddess.

In my campaign set in the 1610s near Alone, I gave a few glimpses of the Seven Mothers missionaries getting set up around the confederation: they are advocating inclusivity, telling all the kids they can be “whatever they want to be when they grow up”, hand out candy and free t-shirts at their worship ceremonies, advertise the tax cuts you get when you join them, and so on. They’re very nice people (at first glance), and I sort of modelled them after real-life cultists like Raelians or Scientologists.

Often Seven Mothers missionaries find themselves in cultures that are as wealthy, technically skilled, whatever, as the Lunar Heartlands. Carmania was wealthier, more developed, etc. than Rinliddi – that didn’t matter. Carmania threatened the nascent Red Goddess and needed to be defeated so that its population could be prepared to embrace her.

For most Seven Mothers cultists it is a universal goal – the Red Goddess needs to be embraced by the world so that we all can finally be healed. The Lunar Heartlands are in just as much need of healing as the barbarians.

See? They’re nice people! They’re looking after your well-being!

Now add to that a level of imperial chauvinism – that it is only right and proper that the Red Emperor rules the world and that Lunar/Dara Happan/Pelorian society is the only right and proper society and that everyone not of Lunar/Dara Happan culture is a benighted barbarian. This cultural chauvinism is always present but is also at odds with the Seven Mothers mission. It is sometimes suppressed (by enlightened provincial administrators like Phargentes, Moirades, Fazzur Wideread, or Sor-eel), but just as often it suppresses the Seven Mothers mission (e.g., Euglyptus the Fat, Tatius the Bright, Halcyon var Enkorth, etc.).

Well, you know, they’re people too, and they have their flaws. Still… free t-shirts! Come over!

These imperialists rarely justify their rule by saying they are building roads, aqueducts, whatever – because they aren’t! Maybe they introduce maize through the Hon-eel cult, if they remember to do that. They tolerate the Seven Mothers missionaries, but primarily they justify their rule because it is right and proper that the rule of the Red Emperor should be universally acknowledged. They are imperialists first and foremosts.

Remember that Sartar already has fancy roads, cool dwarf-built architecture, and so on… so although I love the Life of Brian references as much as the next guy, they don’t quite apply as much in the “new Sartar” described in the latest RuneQuest line.

The imperialists and the missionaries often work hand to hand, but also are often in tension. Many suggest that the closer to Mirin’s Cross, the more likely the missionaries get their way – the further away, the more the imperialists get their way. But enough exceptions exist to make this a dubious political maxim.

It sort of nice to think about because you could even show the difference between the Lunar soldiers, administrators, and tax collectors, and the Seven Mothers missionaries, with one getting obviously annoyed by the other. One wants to invade and control everything, the other wants to spiritually liberate everybody. That could generate some sympathy for the missionaries, and even lead to interesting alliances, stories, and even cult memberships…

Jar-eel the Razoress

What’s more bad-ass that Jar-eel’s nickname? Well, a Jon Hodgson painting for instance!

Art by Jon Hodgson © 2021 Chaosium Inc.

Jeff says:

Arguably the mightiest hero in Glorantha at this time is Jar-eel the Razoress. She has loads of titles – Fourth Inspiration of Moonson, Incarnation of the Red Goddess in Time, daughter/lover/mother of the Red Emperor, poetess and musician, defeater of barbarians, etc. But let’s talk about HER for a moment.

Jar-eel was born in 1588 in Glamour and when she was only one year old she was part of the Legion of Infants that traveled over Fronela in Moonboats and thawed Syndic’s Ban. At ONE year old.

At eight, she was Illuminated and traveled to the Red Moon itself.

At fourteen, she was a leader of the elite warriors who sacked Boldhome.

When she was twenty-nine, the Temple to Jar-eel was consecrated in Glamour. The Moonsword cult already worships her. She dismembers Belintar, suppresses the White Moon Movement, and defeats the Voor-ash confederation. And so on, and so on.

[…] Jar-eel was born to incredible power and privilege and has achieved more.

She is not a ruler, but even the Red Emperor is often over-shadowed by his glorious “daughter”. She is a figure like Krisha in the Mahabharata – operating at a different plane of existence than those around here. Let her drive your chariot, and she’s likely to Illuminate you on the trip across the battlefield!

“The energy which the gods are endowed with is indeed great, but mine is greater.” – from the Song of the Razoress.

She so incredible that Jeff thinks she’s probably the most famous person alive if you play in the standard timeline. She is “revered within the Lunar Empire, feared in the Redlands, Holy Country, Dragon Pass, and Prax”.

And Jar-eel embraces contradictions. She is both notably merciful and notoriously cruel. She loves, but kills without hesitation or remorse.

Jar-eel is a patron of the arts, a musician, and a poetess. She debates with the White Moon Movement and many of those who witness her renounce their errors and return to the Red Moon. Those who reject her words are killed.

I picture these “debates” are incredibly tense scenes in the Lunar halls, like a magical and heroquesting version of the movie Ridicule, where “simple” discussions and witty exchanges in the French King’s court can lead to extremely serious, violent, and deadly outcomes later on.

And they are true debates, magical events where she invites the leaders of the WMM to prove their claims. Jar-eel devastates them so badly that some bleed from the eyes as their tears run out.

Jar-eel, not the Red Emperor, is the real Elvis of the Lunar Empire. She walks into a room and everyone – even gods and spirits – stops to look at her. She’s that beautiful, that charismatic.

So whenever you think of the Lunar Empire, always keep in mind the presence of Jar-eel, for good or ill. Her charisma overwhelms that of the Red Emperor or Great Sister. She is a rock star, movie star, star athlete, and so much more.

Of course, she can juggle the duality of Moon and Chaos without any problem:

As for Chaos, Jar-eel accepts it as any Red Goddess illuminate should. Jar-eel has ridden the Crimson Bat, unaffected by its Chaotic abilities. I’ve heard stories that she has even allowed civilised broo to join the Moonsword regiment, as long as they maintain discipline and standards.

Jar-eel is said to be inhumanly graceful and agile, and dances with her two swords to cut down entire regiments. Afterwards, she is famed for composing poems. One famous poem compares bloodshed in battle to a field of red roses, with the impression that both are equally expressions of beauty.

After reading all this, I’ve been wondering whether Jar-eel actually gets more magic from her Hero Soul than from her worship of the Lunar deities?

For than a generation Jar-eel has been a – and more often THE – dominant light in the Lunar sky. Most accounts place her far above the mundane and magical machinations of her Eel-ariash kin, who nonetheless have gained tremendously by her presence. Even the Red Emperor might have second thoughts before acting against the family of the Fourth Inspiration of Moonson. Imagine how the other satraps and imperial nobles must feel!

The Great Compromise

We know that the Great Compromise was created after the Gods War to separate the Gods from the mortals, binding the latter to Time. Jeff adds a few details: three “universal rules” that the deities agreed to.

First, they would concede previous claims, and mutually agree to define themselves as they were, making no further attempts to interfere with the realms of other deities. They shared Nature among themselves. No longer would Orlanth strive to be Lord of the Underworld, nor Yelm to be King of Middle Air.

Second, all the goddesses and gods accepted to include within their being all which had occurred to them before, each event being in appropriate measure. Thus Yelm would spend half his time in the Underworld, and half in the upper world.

They agreed too that no deity would directly manifest themselves into the world, but instead work through Nature, worshippers, proxies, avatars, and incarnations which would be inferior to the true deity.

I think that most deities took it the same way Captain Barbossa takes the rules of parley: “it’s more what you’d call guidelines than actual rules”…

The Red Goddess in Time

Speaking of violating the Great Compromise, let’s look at the Red Goddess:

She is a Greater God who appeared during Time, embraces Chaos, and her very existence violates the Cosmic Compromise. Many of the Old Gods refused to acknowledge her because of this – her victory at Castle Blue forced them to acknowledge her power, and many now accept and even embrace her (most significantly Yelm). However, several of the most powerful gods remain her resolute enemies (Orlanth most prominently, but also Storm Bull, Valind, Kyger Litor, Humakt, Eurmal, and Zorak Zoran). Many others (Aldrya, Magasta, Yelmalio, and the Malkioni) remain hostile to the Red Goddess.

The Battle of Castle Blue was a year-long affair that’s a bit convoluted, but as far as I understand the Red Goddess (who was not a deity yet) triggered it as a way to “prove” herself, drawing in all the Old Gods and forcing them to accept her in the God Time. That’s when she truly became the Red Goddess.

Through Illumination, the initiates of the Red Goddess are liberated from the reflexive fear of Chaos and oblivion. They believe that by following along the path of the Red Goddess, they can thread this needle and embrace ego annihilation as a means of liberating the true self. Enemies of the Lunar Way point out that in many cases this path to “ego annihilation” results in an even greater false self – Gbaji. The parallels with Nysalor and the Broken Council are there for all to see, although many Lunar apologists claim that with the Red Goddess’ aid, Nysalor has now defeated Gbaji (Sheng Seleris). Others claim that at the Shadows of the Empire, Arkat or Arkats are being formed once again.

More disturbingly is the rise of the Lords of Terror with at least the tolerance of the Red Goddess. The Lunar Empire sponsors the Chaos demon called the Crimson Bat, accepts worship of Primal Chaos, and is known to cooperate with such Chaotic cults Krarsht, Mallia, Thed, and Vivamort against the mutual foes. Within Chaos strongholds such as Dorastor, Snakepipe Hollow, and the Footprint, the Lords of Terror have awakened.

Some mystics claim there is uncertainty at the core of the Red Goddess’ existence that makes it impossible to resolve whether she is a deity of Chaos or of the Cosmos, or even that she is both simultaneously. This uncertainty and ambivalence is a key driver in the cataclysm later known as the Hero Wars.

Here, frankly, I’m not sure it matters? When it comes to the people of Glorantha, they probably judge her on her actions and the actions of her followers: she’s crazy, rides a giant Chaotic weapon of mass destruction, and says you can reach illumination and be one with the cosmos. Or something like that. Classifying deities is the purview of the God Learners and other intellectuals. Others just know that their gods hate the Red Goddess, and that’s enough for them?

It is perhaps inevitable that the Hero Wars ultimately is conflict between the two most complex of Gloranthan deities – the Red Goddess and Orlanth. As we know, Orlanth is both a Destroyer and the Upholder of the Cosmos. Like Shiva, he destroys and creates. He plunged the Cosmos into Darkness when he slew Yelm, but his Lightbringers Quest was the key to the preservation of the Cosmos.

Memory of the Elder Races

Jeff muses about the memory of the Elder Races. For instance, a lot of elves will remember the Inhuman Occupation, and be unable to differentiate much between the various humans who came back into Dragon Pass. The “political squabbles” between the Lunars and the Orlanthi doesn’t mean much to them… this means you can have any elf show up on any side, or be an annoying road block to both sides!

And some elves have been replanted or reseeded, and recall events from the Second or even First Age.But this memory also means that old feuds and betrayal are not forgotten. Humans are a secondary concern – the other Elder Races are existential threats.

Ok, on to the Uz. Mistress Race trolls are immortal, but there’s only very few of them around:

Most Mistress Race Trolls were born in Wonderhome, before the Dawn. The race was already diminishing in the First Age before the Curse of Kin. Arkat and his companions were the last Mistress Race Trolls born in Time, until recently.

Arkat is considered a Mistress Race Troll? Huh, interesting (disclaimer: I don’t know much about Arkat). And “until recently”? Ok, who got some big babies?

Some are many thousands of years old. They barely recognize the dark trolls as their descendants – the trollkin are hated mockeries. The Mistress Race remember Osentalka! They remember the Broken Council! They remember the betrayal of the dwarves and elves, the fickleness of the dragonewts.

A Mistress Race Troll should be a terrifying encounter – likely to occur only in the deepest Darkness of a troll stronghold. She is a dark, rumbling thing, constantly hungry, utterly without mercy, and those with Second Sight will wish they did not. Sure she has dozens of Rune points but most have also wrested strange powers from gods and spirits. Your human tribe, kingdom, or empire is irrelevant to her, unless she learns that it is tied to something she experienced and still cares about.

The Deadwood

Jeff is talking about something we just explored in my campaign: the Deadwood, up in the Indigo Mountains near Alone… and not to be confused with the Woods of the Dead, which is also near Alone, but is completely different! (seriously, Greg, what the fuck)

Deadwood was the site of an Early Third Age conflict between elves and trolls. After the Dragonkill War killed all the humans, the elves tried to reclaim the Pass from 1120 to 1150. Reinforced by Brown Elves from the Old Woods, the Stinking Forest expands to the Indigo Mountains (as well as down the Dragonspine).

The Elves planted a marching forest to try to break the back of the trolls. That’s why the trees go so far up the mountains. To the elves’ horror, the trolls summoned Gorakiki Beetle and swarms of bark-boring beetles killed trees and elves alike. The trolls awakened the Indigo Mountains and an eruption killed the trees inside the Indigo Mountains, and then the trolls released the beetles on the rest. The trolls were also aided by spirits and by the half-trolls of the Ivory Plinth.

This broke the back of the Aldryami attempt to reclaim Dragon Pass. The trolls keep the dead trees standing as a reminder to the elves what will happen if they try again. The angry ghosts of the Aldryami still haunt Deadwood.

I didn’t have angry elf ghosts in my Deadwood (maybe I’ll add them next time I run the adventure!) but I went a bit farther, trying to explain why the trolls didn’t unleash these bark-boring beetles onto other elven armies: I turned it into a unique type of beetle that a Gorakkiki Rune Lord got only through advanced heroquesting… and paid a steep price for.

I’m sure you can also explain it more simply by the fact that the elves kept their distance anyway, and that Dragon Pass got repopulated with humans quickly after, which created a lot of buffer between the two warring Elder Races.

Now this nicely illustrates the conflict between the Elder Races. Always remember that the Elder Races usually view all humans as the Lesser Enemy. The True Enemy is the other Elder Races. And they have very good reasons for this.

This I got right: in my adventure, both the trolls and the elves have no regard for the humans of the Alone Confederation tribes, using them as cannon fodder or meat shields in their centuries-long battles… still, my players sided with the elves in this case! Go figure!

Random Events

Jeff shared a snippet of the upcoming Dragon Pass Campaign (or whatever it will be called): a few tables for random events at the clan, tribe, and entire region levels! This is a really nice treat as far as I’m concerned… Here they are, lightly formatted for your enjoyment.

This kind of table is nice for rolling or picking an idea for a new adventure or a complication in an existing one. Jeff also adds:

This is intended to be out of the ordinary events. So stuff like a caravan shows up is an ordinary activity. Or the stuff that normally happens at assemblies, militia musters, or seasonal holy days. That stuff happens according to the calendar – or often enough that it is pretty darn predictable.This is the unpredictable stuff that happens, and screws with player plans!

A Summary of Argrath’s Life to 1627

Jeff shared a short document he and Greg worked on to get an outline of Argrath’s life path until 1627:

Born on Starfire Ridge to the Colymar Tribe
Maniski killed in fall of Sartar
Yanioth killed (by Telmori?)
Initiated to Orlanth
Outlawed from Starfire Ridge
Made slave among Bison Riders
Discovered White Bull, founded secret society
Became Wind Lord of Orlanth, gained a draconic entity as an allied spirit
Adopted name Garrath Sharpsword and resided in New Pavis
Quest of the Drinking Giant’s Cauldron
Giant’s Cradle
Met Harrek
Circumnavigated the World, many adventures
Battle of Pennel Ford
Was lover of Queen Samastina
Left for Prax, gathered White Bull society and summoned Jaldon Goldentooth
Liberated Pavis
Liberated Corflu
Defeated at Hender’s Ruins
Founded first Magical Union, gained Dragon Teeth
Defeated Lunar Army in Far Place, liberated Alda-Chur
Became Prince of Sartar

And some peek behind the scenes:

When we were writing this, we looked at the early years of Alexander and Napoleon Bonaparte – Argrath’s manic activities seem pretty reasonable in comparison!

But Argrath has the farthest to travel in order to become a peer of the likes of the Red Emperor, Gunda the Guilty, Beat-Pot, or Sir Ethilirist.

The Sisters of Mercy

I thought that “Sisters of Mercy” was just a term for Chalana Arroy hospital staff, but apparently they’re also actual daughters of the goddess? I don’t know, I haven’t read much of the Stafford Library’s stuff. But Jeff knows of course!

The Sisters of Mercy are the daughters of Chalana Arroy, adopted or otherwise. Malamse, Oronio, and Amprefesne are the three holy Sisters most often called upon, but there are many others. Many living High Healers are often accounted among their numbers and the title “Sister of Mercy” is a common name for High Healers in Dragon Pass.

They live in an invisible nunnery whose exact location or dimensions are unknown. Some claim that it is as large as the world, encompassing all of the cosmos within its walls. This is, however, untrue as proved by the Sage Elad Kramdnil during the reign of Prince Salinarg. He showed that the Sisters are met wherever the old Empire of the Wyrms Friends was dominant, and he was the first to state that they should be considered remnants of that lost empire. This lends credence to the belief that the Empire was not totally corrupt, as such remnants as the Tusk Riders and Delecti would suggest.

The Sisters of Mercy is the subcult most commonly worshiped in Dragon Pass and Prax. It provides the Refine Medicine spell. The center of the subcult is the Nunnery in Dragon Pass.

You can find the Refine Medicine spell in the Red Book of Magic, along with all the rules for finding and processing healing plants!

The Middle Sea Empire and the God Learners

I know we’re supposed to be the God Learners and I should know about this, but I’m mostly ignorant about the Middle Sea Empire, aka the Jrusteli Empire, the farthest-spanning nation in the history of Glorantha. Jeff says:

Its core was city-states of the island-continent of Jrustela who were tightly allied with the kings of Seshnela, and in 789 they formed together the Middle Sea Empire.

Seshnela and Jrustela were ruled by Hrestoli Malkioni, although they had significant Theyalan influences, particularly in Jrustela. The Umathelan Coalition was part of the original alliance, and in Pamaltela, the Empire expanded to conquer Fonrit, Laskal, and Jolar (where it was known as the Six Legged Empire).

To help place things geographically, Jeff shared another map sketch, and if you want the pretty version you can look into the Glorantha Sourcebook or the Guide, of course.

© 2021 Chaosium Inc.

Slontos was conquered by the Middle Sea Empire, and it formed a borderland between the Middle Sea Empire and the krjalki of the Empire of the Wyrms Friends, with its dragons and trolls. Akem in Fronela was also a stronghold of the Empire, which later expanded to rule much of Frontem (Loskalm).

The Middle Sea Empire ruled Teshnos, Teleos, and Loral and included the New Dragon Ring of Kralorela.

With the core of the Middle Sea Empire being a bunch of Malkioni sorcerers, and the Empire of the Wyrms Friends being more theistic, I don’t imagine they got along philosophically speaking at least.

The Dark Empire of Ralios was conquered in 740, and the Arkati secrets taken from the Stygian Archons formed the basis of the Mythic Maps of the God Learners, which enabled their great conquests.

Ok so here we have the remnants of Arkat’s empire, with some of the secrets he got from his awesome heroquesting and battling against Gbaji a couple centuries prior. The God Learners plunder that and start piecing things together.

The Mythic Synthesis Movement enabled the God Learners to develop the Monomyth, a holistic understanding of all the mythologies of their allies and subjects. Cults such as Chalana Arroy, Issaries, Lhankor Mhy, and Wachaza were deliberately encouraged and spread by the God Learners, although the ruling caste was largely Hrestoli Malkioni, at least at first.

And this is something worth keeping in mind – the Middle Sea Empire was not a Malkioni missionary movement. Each new culture it encountered or conquered had secrets and insights which were synthesized into the Monomyth, and the God Learners came the closest of any mortals to seeing the “whole mythological picture”. Their insights were adopted by their enemies, for example, Jrusteli information and trade filtered into Dragon Pass, where it was quickly appreciated by the rulers and used in tandem with their new draconic magics.

The Empire of the Wyrms Friends

And of course now that we talked about the Middle Sea Empire, we have to talk about the EWF. Jeff shared this abridged text from the upcoming Cults books:

Two great schools of investigation existed in the Second Age. One originated in the far east. It became a popular mystical religion in Dragon Pass and created new horizons of magic. The political form of this religion was the Empire of the Wyrms Friends, who had learned powerful secrets from the dragons and enjoyed the support of the dragonewts and the rest of dragon-kind. This splendid and colorful age combined many parts of many ideas to make a new wholeness to face the world.

The ruling humans became progressively more interested, fascinated, and enmeshed in the strange draconic magics. These left-handed pathways offered exotic and strange powers, whose effects could be exceptionally devastating when manifest in the physical world. In 826, the Empire of the Wyrms Friends—or the Third Council—was established to rule over the material interests of the leaders of the draconic movement. The rulers began a long and intense ritual that was expected to take generations to conclude.

During the development of the Grand Ritual, the fortunes of the Empire of the Wyrms Friends grew. Armies of dragonewts and trolls led by Lightbringers who rode dragons and wyrms conquered much of central Genertela. The barbarians of Prax were defeated, and the Shadowlands and the Storm Hills paid heavy tribute rather than fight. Jrusteli information and trade filtered into Dragon Pass, where it was quickly appreciated by the rulers and used in tandem with their new draconic magics.

Here we are catching up to what we had in the previous note (above), where the Mythical Synthesis Movement was used to actually strengthen the religious understanding of the EWF.

Also, if you want to ride dragons into battle, here is where and when you can do it! (the “Lightbringers” in this case are, I believe, Runemasters of Lightbringer deities)

In 889, the Third Council demanded to be worshiped in place of the traditional Lightbringer deities. Immense energy and power were needed to sustain the Grand Ritual. The dance of the gods in the early stages of the ritual provided much of the energy used to expand the Third Council’s domain. However, in the latter parts of the spell, more and more power was to be provided by the population, who were at the same time growing distant from their increasingly-demanding Council. The Council, deep in spectacular meditation, was either unaware of the dissatisfaction, or unable to break their concentration to do anything about it.

[…] The Pelorian peasants welcomed Carmanian spirits into their newly-built temples, and burned the images of the Third Council members. The dark trolls of the Blue Moon Plateau killed and ate the dragonewts that garrisoned Peloria. Dara Happa rebelled and Prax fell. Orlanth Rex reestablished his primacy over the gods and slew his Third Council imposter.

Another member of the Third Council awoke to the threat of the barbarian hero Jaldon Goldentooth, and directed some divine energies to aid the beleaguered Six Sisters upon the border with Prax. The tattered remains of the Empire gained heart, and members of the Council took form and descended to the earth to aid their people.

Such was the cause of their downfall, for in aiding their fellow mortals, the Council abandoned their unfinished ritual. The Grand Ritual was left with insufficient leadership among those few Council members who did not return to earth. The magic lost direction, and its release was directed first against its makers and then against their followers.

As always, Jeff adds a few insights in follow-up comments:

So imagine the EWF as “something like” the old World Council of Friends, BUT the Orlanthi are clearly the dominant group and they are firmly allied with the dragonewts and other draconics. And their rulers are in deep conversations with the dragons, seeking power and understanding. Eventually, that ruling council concludes that they are gods and should be worshiped as such.

So we have this Orlanthi empire that dominated central Genertela. Now wait you might say – the Third Council insisted on being worshipped as gods! How can you say they were Orlanthi?

Simple – the rulers established themselves atop the traditional cults and allocated more and more the worship energies to the great great ritual of the Proximate Realm. But the base was always the traditional cults at least until near the end.

But this mighty empire – which steamrolled Dara Happa while fighting off the Middle Sea Empire – lurks behind Orlanthi history.

“We hate dragons and would never cooperate with them.”
“Perhaps that is true. But our ancestors did, and they ruled the world.”

I guess that’s Argrath’s marketing pitch?

So where we see the EWF dominant, we also see the Lightbringers Pantheon (Orlanth, the other Lightbrinters, Ernalda, Humakt, etc). The very top of the society are engaged in mystical experimentation, but most people at most dabble in this and worship their Theyalan gods as led by their priests (who are increasingly engaged in mystical experimentation).

This is of course a gradual process. In 826, we might have a ruling council allied with the dragonewts and dragons, who are supported by the priests who seek to maintain the Proximate Realm, and the rest of society just do what they have always done with a little extra for the Proximate Realm.

By 889, those rulers are now gods and demand to be the primary focus of worship and are supported by the priests. The rest of society is torn about this, but the rulers are as powerful as gods, are backed by dragonewts, dragons, and many mercenaries. And so things erupt in violence and peoples who might have supported the original Empire of the Wyrms Friends now oppose it. And people who did oppose the original EWF, now support it.

And:

The EWF was dominated by its Storm Voices, many of whom had learned to speak with the dragons and dragonewts. The priests formed the council that ruled Dragon Pass and beyond, and the chieftains and war lords were bent to their will. Orlanth Rex fixed this, so that the Rex rules the priests and can even cut them off from their magic.

Oh that’s very interesting… I had heard before that the Orlanth Rex tradition of ruling only came towards the end of the Second Age, when Alakoring Dragonbreaker introduced it to the Orlanthi tribes… and guess what, that guy was a big enemy of the EWF, organizing various rebellions and acts of sabotage against it.

So really, the introduction of the Orlanth Rex cult was a way to separate powers in different branches of government! Well, until Argrath, that is:

And now, we have an Orlanth Rex who can speak with the dragons and dragonewts. And not just any Rex, but the Prince of Sartar, who also has Jaldon Goldentooth at his side.

History sure can have a sense of irony!

The Empire of the Wyrms Friends still haunt the dreams and ambitions of the Orlanthi – and is still feared by the Praxians, the trolls, and the Pelorians.

Community Roundup

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

King of Dragon Pass is on Sale

© 2021 A-Sharp

The PC version, that is. It’s part of the Steam Winter Sale, at -70%! You can even get it in a bundle with its sequel Six Ages.

RPGImaginings Plays Vasana’s SoloQuest

In case you’re too busy to play the SoloQuest yourself, but you can multitask enough to watch someone else play it, RPGImaginings has got you covered!

The video is part 1 of a series, and includes some introduction on RuneQuest, some commentary on BRP rules or the world of Glorantha, and so on.

“Stand Watch”, a Holiday Tale

Ian Cooper shared this nice holiday season story:

“Stand Watch” – that was Orlanth’s instruction to Rigsdal. At this time of year in Glorantha (the Winter Solstice falls on Fire Day, Illusion Week of Dark Season) the Heortlings look up at the Pole Star and think about him as the Night Watchman.

Sacred Time remains weeks away, when spring comes in Sea Season, but many Heortlings doubtless look forward to it, as Rigsdal stands guard, and they gather around the “first hearth’ that is dedicated to Elmal – the light in the darkness, shining atop Kero Fin. Perhaps they indulge in salted beef, pickles, and pass around clay jugs of cider and other winter foods.

So prayers to the Night Watchmen and Elmal, who watch over us all, whilst Orlanth and Ernalda are the underworld.

“Stand Watch”

Elsewhere on Arachne Solara’s Web

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

Some Old Egyptian Board Game

Photo from the British Museum

Above is a good reference for board games in ancient times! It dates back to the 4th or 3rd millenium BCE, in the Early Egyptian Dynastic Period.

Who Were the Phoenicians and Where to Find Them in Glorantha

Joerg decided to pop into the newsletter this week!

While much of the Phoenician history falls into the Iron Age, their beginnings lie in the Bronze Age. (But then, a lot of the same can be said about the Greeks.)

There are few surviving records written by Phoenician sources, as they were vilified by their antagonists – most prominently the Romans, whose struggle with the Phoenician-founded city-state then empire of Carthage was bitter and genocidal.

The Entire History of the Phoenicians (2500 to 300 BC)

The Phoenicians provided one of the earliest transportation network not only along the (mostly southern and central) Mediterranean coasts, but also in the coastal Atlantic on both northern Africa and western Europe. They served as middlemen already to the Bronze Age Egyptians, and may have been responsible for providing the tobacco found in certain royal mummies.

The Quinpolic League of southern Seshnela and Tanisor resembles the Phoenicians somewhat in their de-centralized city-state approach and their reliance on naval trade, and the Waertagi- and Tanisoran-enforced exodus of the surviving remnants of their merchant navy and patrol duty mercenary fleet may be the kernel of a new development, as touched upon in Martin Helsdon’s Periplus of Southern Genertela which had been available on Facebook for a short while, and of which there are about two dozen fund-raiser hardcopies in circulation since Dragonmeet. Martin has posted a few art previews on Facebook, mythological representations of the Mirrorsea Ports of Rhigos and Durengard by Katrin Dirim.

The Maslo cities might be another such non-centralized thalassocracy, even though they have Hoom Jhis as the Dynast of Flanch. Half the Maslo catamarans may come from Elamle, possibly more as the Masloi there are in league with the Alryami and may receive purpose-grown tree trunks for immense dugout hulls.

The Vadeli naval empire prior to the disastrous loss of the Battle of Oenriko Rocks against the Masloi and what remains of it in the Vadeli enclaves in Umathela and Fonrit and their port cities in Jrustela is another Gloranthan thalassocracy which bears some similarity to the Phoenician one, especially since the Vadeli lack a central government or leader due to their caste restrictions. Rather than being accused of burning their firstborn to Baal Ammon, the Brown Vadeli are rumored to eat their children to maintain their immortality. But then, the Vadeli are objectively vile, by their own choice, or that of their ancestors few generations earlier, in the Gods War.

Finally, the Waertagi trading monopoly in the Western Seas bears some similarity to the role of the Phoenicians following the Bronze Age collapse in the Mediterranean.

Hanno the Navigator

The most famous Phoenician mariner probably was Hanno the Navigator, a fifth century BC explorer whose periplus only survives in a Greek translation, which did reach much of the West African coast, and which has the remarkable observation of seeing the sun cast shadows toward the south, something observable only a fair bit beyond the tropical (or at high northern latitudes). While disputed, his travels may have carried him all the way to Gabon.

Alongside St. Brendan and his Old Irish cognate, Hanno is one of the achtetypical explorers that both Waertag and Dormal have been drawing on.

The Habiru and King Idrimi

The penomenon of the Apiru or Habiru in the late Fertile Crescent Bronze Age is interesting as the composition of their forces has a lot in common with how Umath and after him Orlanth assembled his Storm Tribe around him. The name “the dirty” also applies to the Burtae, and the appearance of the Storm Peoples.

One Habiru leader was Idrimi, a disowned son of a king who made himself leader of a sizable contingent of the Habiru and leading them against numerous established cities. The story of many a Gloranthan hero fits this bill, like Prince Aamor mentioned in the Seshnela chapter of the Guide

Thank you for reading

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

The RuneQuest Starter Set has already been reviewed many, many times, but since I have already gifted it three times this holiday season (yes, to my unsuspecting players), its merits and faults have been on my mind… and what kind of a Glorantha focused website would we be if we didn’t have some reviews? We’re just slow about writing them, being, like, two products behind schedule. But we are the God Learners, and you wouldn’t believe the kind of administrative puzzle we have to go through for approval of that kind of thing.

The Box

As I wrote earlier this year on my personal blog, the RuneQuest Starter Set is part of the “RPG boxed set come back”, where the boxes of yore are coming back as introductory game material.

RuneQuest © 2021 Chaosium Inc., artificial Christmas tree decoration © 2021 my kids

Here, the RuneQuest Starter Set is following in the footsteps of its older Call of Cthulhu Starter Set sibling, with a very sturdy box of unusual size. The reason for this unusual size is that all the booklets and handouts inside the box don’t leave any empty space (unlike some other disappointingly empty Starter Sets we won’t name here), so the set of dice that Chaosium provides has to find room at the top, with a taller-than-usual box.

RuneQuest © 2021 Chaosium Inc.

If you have very snug shelves, you might have trouble fitting the RuneQuest Starter Set on them. However, if you have the Call of Cthulhu Starter Set, some old Chaosium boxed sets like Thieves’ World or Superworld, other tall game boxes like Harnmaster, or any kind of European game books or boxes, then the RuneQuest Starter Set should fit perfectly next to them.

Since we are looking at the dice, those are pretty nice by the way: they are very legible, and have a nice colour that evokes the bronze age setting of Glorantha.

RuneQuest © 2021 Chaosium Inc.

The box itself is quite impressive. It’s among the sturdiest boxes of all the starter sets I have in my library, and the art is stunning, original, and evocative. Vasana’s pose is even reminiscent of the original female warrior on the first two editions of RuneQuest, which is a nice touch for the fans. The only nitpicky remark I have here is the back illustration (right, above) which depicts what seems to be a port city, maybe Nochet. It does a great job of showing the colour and density of a bronze age city, but it’s not representative of the region described in the booklets where players will have their first adventures.

Another notable aspect of the RuneQuest Starter Set is its weight… so much so that my first step was to weigh it against my other starter sets!

Scale… for scale… all games © 2021 their respective publishers

The RuneQuest Starter Set comes in at a whooping 1.380 kgs! The lightest of the bunch is around 670 grams, with most of the others between 800 grams and 1 kg. The excellent Alien RPG Starter Set is right behind RuneQuest, at 1.300 kgs (I hope I didn’t forget to put everything back in it to get a proper measurement!), and the even more excellent Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay Starter Set (which we will mention again) is just above one kilogram.

You might be shocked to learn however that RuneQuest’s box is not the heaviest of the bunch. There is another one on this picture that comes in at a stunning 1.700 kgs! It’s the Mongoose 2nd edition Traveller Starter Set, whose box is also notable for having a nice little ribbon at the bottom to help you lift the contents easily (publishers, take note). But as far as I can tell, it’s not available anymore, except in PDF on DriveThruRPG, so I guess it doesn’t count? Yeah, let’s go with that. The RuneQuest Starter Set is the heaviest on the market! Yay!

Introduction and Reference Sheets

RuneQuest © 2021 Chaosium Inc.

When you open the RuneQuest Starter Set box, you’re greeted with a traditional “what’s in the box” sheet. I love that Chaosium also thought of including a “what’s NOT in the box” section, to set people’s expectations right. In particular, the box does not contain character creation rules: there just wasn’t enough room, especially with the lengthy Family History section that takes up almost 20 pages in the core rulebook. Instead, Chaosium provides more than a dozen pre-generated adventurers, which is more than enough for getting started. Other notable omissions are rules for high level characters like Shamans and Rune Masters, which is again understandable for a starter set.

RuneQuest © 2021 Chaosium Inc.

A few reference sheets are provided: the usual Gamemaster aids (ability results table, resistance table, hit locations, and so on), a player-facing description of Gloranthan Runes, and a Strike Rank Tracker for combat (which also nicely incorporates some rules summary).

The Strike Rank Tracker is made of thick paper, which is excellent since it’s bound to be used a lot during gameplay. Sadly the other two handouts are made of “normal” paper, which is surprising because I would actually expect them to be manipulated a lot more: the Strike Rank Tracker would probably just sit there on the table, while the other two are flipped, picked up, and passed around all the time even outside of combat.

Last, the back of the Strike Rank Tracker is an ad for other Chaosium products. It would have been nice to see, say, the ability result table on the back instead, so that you can flip this reference sheet on one side during combat, and on the other side for other scenes.

Booklets

RuneQuest © 2021 Chaosium Inc.

The RuneQuest Starter Set’s main material is split between four books. The first book is the rulebook, the second describes the world of Glorantha in general and the area around Jonstown in particular, then there’s a “SoloQuest” book, and a book of adventures.

The SoloQuest is notable because it’s both a call back to RuneQuest’s early tradition of “Choose You Own Adventure“-style books (which are now available in Print-on-Demand), and to Call of Cthulhu’s own solo adventure in its Starter Set.

If you turn the booklets around, you realize that they all line up and form a map of northern Sartar, which is a nice touch. You know I’m a sucker for maps.

RuneQuest © 2021 Chaosium Inc.

Book 1: Rules

The first book throws you into the complex and crunchy rules of RuneQuest. I’m not totally convinced that this is the best way to make a good impression on new players, but Chaosium put some effort in simplifying the rules and making them easily understandable.

But first things first. The first few pages deal with the usual introductory material: what’s a roleplaying-game, how do you roll dice, and so on. More importantly, it has some good summary of RuneQuest’s core activity: playing adventurers that are members of a community and a cult, and who will rise up as heroes during the Hero Wars.

The next few chapters of the rules booklet by and large contains similar material as the core rulebook, although the text has been shortened in many places. In some cases, this is actually beneficial for long-time RuneQuest players and gamemasters: the core rulebook has, in my opinion, many editing problems, so the shorter and simpler rules of the starter set help understand the “rules as intended”. In many other cases, however, the same editing problems persist and new players are bound to have the same slew of questions as everybody else. Let’s point these people to the Well of Daliath!

In some occurrences, rules have been modified to be simpler. The most obvious example is that the core rulebook’s fumble table, which is rolled on with a D100, has a simpler D20-based version in the starter set. This is fine, and quite welcome for a starter set product.

What’s more baffling are rules modifications that don’t really simplify anything: they’re just… different from the core rulebook for no reason I can think of. For instance the attack/parry table has a couple of subtle differences between the two rulesets. Sometimes, the starter set even introduces entirely new rules, which seems counter-intuitive for a product that aims to simplify things. For instance, there are some new rules around language which cap your adventurer’s communication skills… I don’t like these rules, and will thoroughly ignore them. I’m just surprised to see new rules in a starter set: I expected less of them.

Thankfully, this problem is quite limited.

RuneQuest © 2021 Chaosium Inc.

These early rules chapters (game system, skills, combat) are occasionally decorated with very nice art pieces plundered from Chaosium’s older books, such as this wonderful duel scene (above) from the mind-blowing Guide to Glorantha.

Once we get into the Magic chapter, things become quite shortened compared to the core rulebook. Only spells and rules needed by the adventurers are described, and everything else gets a hint or short write-up, nudging you to get the core rulebook if you want to know more. The material on the Spirit World and Shamanism is short, since neither the adventures of Book 4 nor the pre-generated adventurers would have much to do with it, but there’s enough to whet a new player’s appetite. I really appreciate that because these are some of the game elements that set RuneQuest and Glorantha apart for me.

Book 2: The World of Glorantha

The second booklet in the box describes Glorantha in general, and the city of Jonstown (and surroundings) in particular, which acts as the stomping grounds for new players.

RuneQuest © 2021 Chaosium Inc.

In the first part, Chaosium really sharpened their ability to distill Glorantha’s essence in a minimum of pages, with some nice art (including new stuff, as far as I can tell, see above). In a short 20-ish pages, we learn about the bronze age flair of the setting, the magic, the Gods, the Runes, and other explicitly called out “Unique Aspects of Glorantha”. We learn about Dragon Pass, its myths, and its history from the Gods War all the way to the present. This is the best summary of Glorantha I’ve seen to date: short enough to keep the reader’s attention, but with enough detail to keep it exciting and unique.

The second part of the booklet details the city of Jonstown and its surroundings. This is where the RuneQuest Starter Set shines: Chaosium wanted to release a product that would appeal to new and experienced players alike by providing valuable exclusive material, and this is our first encounter with it.

RuneQuest © 2021 Chaosium Inc.

Not only is this an in-depth look at a Sartarite city that hasn’t been featured much in official books (I think the only existing write-up of Jonstown is in the now defunct HeroQuest line), it’s also a great reference for any Sartarite city, period. The information on buildings, citizenship, walls and guards, markets and trade, government, militia, and more is already worth half the price of the box in my opinion. This kind of “everyday life” information was what I was lacking when I originally read the core rulebook (being wholly ignorant about the bronze age at the time), which meant I had trouble picturing the world of Glorantha in practice.

Next are write-ups for important NPCs, with some good background and detailed stat blocks for each. The remaining 20 or so pages weren’t as exciting to me, however, because they were a mostly descriptive list of places across the city. The gamemaster will have to come up with their own ideas to fill the city with intrigue, adventure, secrets, and more, using this rather cold and factual material as the foundation… by comparison, the previously mentioned Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay Starter Set fills its description of Ubersreik with places and NPCs both big and small, and there’s an adventure hook (or two!) on every page:

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay © 2021 Cubicle7

Thankfully, Book 4: Adventures contains a few scenario seeds and encounters, which mitigates this problem a bit.

Going back to Jonstown, the one thing I got very excited about is the map. It’s an absolutely stunning map, both pretty and functional, extremely readable, and equipped with a scale! (believe me, it’s not a given with Gloranthan maps…)

RuneQuest © 2021 Chaosium Inc.

The map pictured above is actually a poster-sized handout available in the box (there’s a smaller full-page version in Book 2), but you get the idea: it’s very good looking! And while we are on maps, let’s look at the other poster map, which covers northern Sartar:

RuneQuest © 2021 Chaosium Inc.

This is another great map: it’s both prettier and vastly more legible than the maps from the core rulebook. Somehow, it looks to me, style-wise, like a modernized version of classic Gloranthan maps such as the Dagori Inkarth map from Trollpak.

Book 3: SoloQuest

Next, we have the SoloQuest book, which puts the reader in Vasana’s… err… greaves during the epic Battle of Dangerford. This is a great choice to put a new player in the heart of Gloranthan and RuneQuest action, and you can even play this adventure for free in your browser.

The adventure does a good job to show many different mechanics, introduce recent events of Dragon Pass, and get up-close with important NPCs. After running the adventure, you not only should have a better grasp on the crunchy RuneQuest rules (there’s often a big difference between “getting it in theory” and “getting it in practice”!), but you also should get an idea of the grittiness and “swinginess” of RuneQuest combat: anything could happen, and playing through a few scenes twice yields vastly different results, from glorious to deadly.

Sadly, the solo adventure also exposed one of the classic problems with RuneQuest combat. Without spoiling much, at some point you get a chance to fight a duel against a Lunar soldier. Up until then, I was playing the adventure along with my 10 year old kid who was quite invested in the story. But with Vasana’s 90% Broadsword up against an opponent’s 80% Kopis, the game came to a crawl, as we rolled and rolled and rolled, neither combatant able to hurt the other. My kid got bored and moved on to something else, asking me to call him back “when something happens”. Ouch. “Out of the mouths of babes” and all that, I guess, eh?

Generally speaking, this SoloQuest was a solid and enjoyable experience. I preferred the solo adventure from the Call of Cthulhu Starter Set, however. Maybe it’s because I’m such a giant horror gaming fan, but maybe it’s because it’s so innovative. It is actually the first booklet in the Call of Cthulhu Starter Set box: it makes you go through a simple version of character creation as part of the first few steps in the story, and follows by teaching you the rules in an interactive way. This makes getting into Call of Cthulhu so easy and entertaining! In comparison, the RuneQuest Starter Set has a more “standard” setup, where you first learn about the rules, then the setting, and then you play a game to see if you got it all correctly. The innovation of having this first game be a solo adventure remains, however, so the RuneQuest Starter Set keeps a leg up on the non-Chaosium competition. I don’t know if Chaosium could have done it differently anyway, since RuneQuest and Glorantha are much more complex to grasp than Call of Cthulhu and, well, Earth… I would love to read a “Designer Diary” about whether they tried it!

Book 4: Adventures

I’m obviously not going to say much about the last booklet in the box, since it contains the adventures and I’m trying to keep this review spoiler-free. What I can say is that it contains three adventures, and a few adventure seeds and rumours for further gaming.

The first adventure has a pretty simple premise that will work wonders for players migrating from other fantasy games like D&D or Pathfinder. You can see an actual play of it here, courtesy of the Glass Cannon. But I think it lacks in Gloranthan flavour, and for a “first contact” I much prefer the Quickstart adventure “The Broken Tower”, which is free to download in PDF.

The second adventure is great because it has the kind of stuff I like, such as a big investigation element. Both the first and second adventures are also well anchored into recent events of the setting, which is great.

The last adventure is an update of The Rainbow Mounds, originally from the Apple Lane supplement (now available in Print-on-Demand), where the players are sent to the titular caves. This is a classic Gloranthan dungeon crawl, where the dungeon has a fine backstory, its inhabitants have agendas and reasons to live there, and things are more complicated than they seem.

Pre-Generated Characters

The last material in the RuneQuest Starter Set is a pile of 14 (fourteen!) pre-generated characters. Surely there will be enough choice to mitigate the lack of character creation rules: these pre-gens range from a blood-thirsty axe-wielding Babeester Gori, to a pacifist Chalana Arroy healer, to a “reformed” Lunar soldier, and more. The heroine of the SoloQuest book, Vasana, is of course there too.

These pre-gens come in fancy “folio” format, as previously seen in the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay Starter Set (which also forgoes character creation rules, by the way), and you can see the resemblance:

RuneQuest © 2021 Chaosium Inc., Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay © 2021 Cubicle7

WFRP’s folios are printed on thick paper, so the RuneQuest ones feel flimsy in comparison. On the other hand, WFRP only offers six pre-gens, so there must have been a compromise there.

RuneQuest © 2021 Chaosium Inc., Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay © 2021 Cubicle7
RuneQuest © 2021 Chaosium Inc., Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay © 2021 Cubicle7

Another small problem is with what goes where. WFRP puts all the character’s abilities in the folio’s interior: the side panels’ exterior only has character background (above, right). RuneQuest’s folios have the character’s Runes on the left panel’s exterior (above, left), which means you have to flip it open and closed depending on what ability score you need… it’s easy, at least at first, to look for a Rune rating for a while before remembering that it’s on the other side.

Conclusion

Overall, the RuneQuest Starter Set is a fantastic product, especially given the very low price tag of about $30 USD. In my opinion, it sits firmly in the now triumvirate of the best RPG Starter Sets on the market today: Call of Cthulhu, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, and RuneQuest. With two of them from Chaosium, and all three based on class-less D100 systems, one might say I’m biased… but I’m ready to argue my points if needed! Well… who am I kidding… I’m a software engineer and I’m French: of course I’m ready to argue anything.

One of Chaosium’s goals was to make this product useful even for veterans of RuneQuest and Glorantha, and I think they have greatly succeeded here. Out of a total of 272 pages across all four booklets, there’s about 185 pages of new material, from the Jonstown write-up to the SoloQuest and adventures: that’s more that two-thirds of useful stuff for someone who already owns the core rulebook! The poster map of Sartar, the pre-gens, and the Strike Rank Tracker are just icing on the cake at this point!

RuneQuest and Khan of Khans © 2021 Chaosium Inc.

My final advice is that the best “introduction to Glorantha” combo is to offer one gift for your RPG nerd friend, and one gift for their family: the RuneQuest Starter Set plus Khan of Khans is your best bet at a successful summoning spell for your gaming table!