Drew Baker is back on the show to accompany Ludovic on the last leg of Biturian Varosh’s travels. Sadly Joerg could not make it this time, and stayed behind in Pavis to rest.

Introduction

Drew introduces himself and talks a bit about the upcoming book 4 of Duckpac, the last in the series about playing Duck characters in RuneQuest Glorantha. The three first books are available here:

Appropriately for the topic at hand, Drew also wrote “Highways & Byways“, a book on travelling across Dragon Pass. All the other books by Drew can be found here.

Ludovic mentions that the Glorantha Initiation Series has reached the end of its “first season”, so to speak, but that other interviews with newcomers to Glorantha will be scheduled soon.

Drew mentions New Pavis: City on the Edge of Forever, by Ian Thomson and friends, which is a reprint of some of the materials from Ian’s old “Pavis & Big Rubble Companions“, which are hard to find these days.

Main Topic

As this is part 5 in our series on Biturian Varosh, Drew and Ludovic tell the story so far.

You don’t need to be an old grognard from the 1970s to get Cults of Prax: it’s available in Print-on-Demand and PDF from Chaosium.

Kyger Litor

Ludovic tries to bring up the fandom in-joke about Kyger Lytor having had more write-ups than any other cult somehow… (RuneQuest 1st and 2nd editions, Cults of Prax, Trollpak, and then in RQ3’s Gods of Glorantha, Trollpak, and Troll Gods, and I might still be missing some other ones)

Where is this Trolltown that Biturian goes to? It’s not on the Argan Argar Atlas or the Guide to Glorantha, so we speculate a bit (including the fact that it might be just about too small to show up on those maps). We also take a quick tour of the region, which has been developed with new landmarks since Cults of Prax was written.

We take a closer look at the troll population in this settlement, and how trollkin are treated.

Speaking Old Pavic to reduce the Bargain skill… it depends on the language rules in play.

How is Bladesharp called in practice in Glorantha? Biturian probably uses God Learner shorthand or Tradetalk terms. Ludovic mentions Austin Conrad’s head-canon about Tradetalk terminology and its use in non commercial contexts.

We looking at the items that Biturian trades with the trolls… and conclude that the trolls are French. Not the Morokanth, which Drew pictured as French because of the RuneQuest 3 Gloranthan Bestiary cover for some reason:

Drew has a theory involving framing trolls for Orlanthi rebel activities.

Next we look at dragon teeth and figure out what size those might be, depending on what kind of teeth they are.

What’s up with animal tails? Ludovic has a “completely bonkers conspiracy theory”. Drew has a much more reasonable one.

The Kyger Lytor priestess is on a heroquest, of course… is everybody heroquesting in this story?

Which ancestor do you get when you trade the Summon Ancestor spell? Drew and Ludovic exchange opinions.

A bunch of trollkin get trampled, which is both awesome and sad.

Zorak Zoran

We revisit the question of whose ancestor spirit shows up when you cast a spell you got from someone else. Ludovic also assumes that Biturian got lucky by not getting a malign ancestor or a weak one.

Biturian is packing good healing magic for RQ2 rules… but healing a severed arm is a lot more accessible in RQG.

Drew thinks about the poor Chalana Arroy (from the last episode) who went on a heroquest with Biturian’s spells inside a Truestone… assuming that things didn’t go very well since she had to cast all these spells for Biturian to get them back by now.

Drew does some forensics on the combat between Biturian’s camp and the trolls, making fun of Biturian’s motivations in the process.

Drew has a problem with Rurik, who is (of course!) heroquesting. Ludovic makes up a stratagem to get more out of Rurik.

What has made the Zorak Zorani to attack the camp? What is Rurik doing around here? Ludovic and Drew have theories.

We look at Biturian’s use of the Lock spell and, again, have a quick thought for the poor Chalana Arroy adventurer.

The Zorak Zorani blood vengeance is mentioned, along with the tricky prospect of having to explain to berserker trolls that Biturian didn’t technically kill any troll.

Aldrya

We reach the Redwood Forest, which was unnamed back in Cults of Prax, but is featured in the Argan Argar Atlas maps.

Drew spots an error in the dates, which is also present in the Cults Compendium. Ludovic mentions some typos in the new PDF version of Cults of Prax, possibly from OCR gone wrong.

Ludovic talks about the bow seeds and how cool it is that Aldryami grow their tools. We actually have an episode on the Aldryami and everything else that’s cool about them.

Drew goes over the increasing foreshadowing of Morak’s true nature by way of the Aldrya cult’s limitation for lay members, which indicates that Morak is most likely a Beastfolk.

It is implied that Biturian and Norayeep eloped, possibly back at the Pairing Stones.

The Beastfolk can be found outside of Beast Valley in elf forests so it makes sense they would be Aldrya lay members at the very least.

Drew has another cynical theory about Biturian’s motivations here, as Morak is taken by the local Minotaurs.

Epilogue

We chat about the travel logistics of Biturian, and his wedding costs.

Drew puts on his “Joerg hat” to mention the “Biturian is on a heroquest” theory, but Ludovic doesn’t buy it… although he is intrigued by the “inception” aspect of a heroquest inside a heroquest.

We take a look at Vareena Coweye, the Bison Rider chieftain’s wife, her role in the wedding, and what magics she could be casting.

Drew goes back to the wedding costs in detail, because, of course, he has crunched the numbers for you! We compare these costs to Biturian’s gifts to the Bison Rider chieftain’s wedding (which we talked about back when the podcast was named “Wind Words”). Ludovic theorizes that the Bison Rider tribe paid for the whole of Biturian and Norayeep’s wedding in return.

Drew thinks that the elves will scam the Bison Riders with their deal on freed elves vs bison tails.

Outro

Drew tells us what became of Biturian in the RQG timeline, and quotes Greg from the letters found in the Stafford House Campaign.

Art by Kristi Jones

We are back into Gloranthan anthropology (more or less) for this episode, with our guest Brian Duguid, author of Children of Hykim. By virtue of having literally written a book on the subject, Brian is an expert in the Hsunchen, the stone age people who are each associated with a tribal totem animal.

This topic might be rather unfamiliar to newcomers to Glorantha, since the Hsunchen are only mentioned briefly in the core RuneQuest books — mostly in the entry for the Telmori Wolfbrothers in the Glorantha Bestiary.

Joerg wasn’t available for writing these show notes so they are a lot shorter and less detailed than usual.

In this interview, we talk about:

  • Brian’s path from playing RuneQuest in his youth, going through a deep-freeze, and coming back to Glorantha in the post HeroQuest / Guide to Glorantha era… and the massive amount of materials that this brought upon fans.
  • Who the Hsunchen are, and what the average RuneQuest adventurer might know about them.
  • What does a “stone age culture” looks like.
  • Who is this Hykim, and what do Hsunchen myths look like.
  • Hsunchen magic and the problem with RuneQuest’s Transform Self spells.
  • Bringing Hsunchen NPCs into your adventures set in Dragon Pass, and sending your PCs out into Hsunchen lands.
  • Portraying Hsunchen NPCs.
  • Playing Hsunchen adventurers, and the themes and locations of a Hsunchen campaign.

To learn more about the Hsunchen, the main two sources are:

  • The Guide to Glorantha (especially Volume 1): it’s pricey but it’s a giant pile of awesome information, and a great source of ideas for any gamemaster. The PDF version is a lot more affordable, and the one I personally use almost all the time by virtue of being searchable.
  • The Children of Hykim (of course): it’s non-canonical (for whatever that’s worth to you), but not only does it give detailed information on many Hsunchen tribes, it also provides rules for creating and playing Hsunchen characters.

This twelfth episode of the Glorantha Initiation series brings us to the last of the interviews we recorded in the fall of 2021! We are talking to Chris, who discovered RuneQuest 2nd edition just last year and, only a few weeks later, upgraded to RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha! He doesn’t have an ongoing Gloranthan campaign yet but we talk about his sudden love for the setting, playing soloquests, and his plans for a future game.

Things mentioned in this episode include:

For this episode we welcome two guests: Katrin Dirim and Claudia Loroff.

The Guests

Claudia is part of Jeff’s house campaigns with notable characters like Gina Gravedancer in the White Bull campaign, Yanioth, and the snake-dancer mystic in the HeroQuest Glorantha examples. Claudia is also the author of an upcoming Gloranthan cookbook. It is about 95% done, and is a travel guide accompanying Yanioth and Sorala, from Boldhome via New Pavis to Wintertop.

The difficulty level is kept rather low. There are recipes for starting your own yeast or sourdough, although you can buy finished starters. The travelogue also takes down their experience, like pub crawls, feasting with Argrath, etc. Kitchen hardware includes a fire-pit, a big cauldron (preferable out of enchanted iron), and the usual cutlery.

Katrin is the sole illustrator of the upcoming Prosoaedia, with two pieces in the Starter Set. Katrin is also prominent in the Jonstown Compendium, as in History of Malkionism, Six Paths, some pieces in Corn Dolls, and a major contribution of map-like illustrations for the travelogue narrative and numerous smaller pieces in Martin Helsdon’s upcoming book on ships and sailing around southern Genertela. That book will also feature quite a number of illustrations by Mark Smylie. See links at the bottom of these show notes.

Ludo talks about the Aztec-like style of representations of deities for the Prosopaedia and the pantheon maps.

Main Topic: Ernaldan Adventuresses

Today’s topic is about Ernalda, the Queen of the Gods.

Claudia as the professional Ernalda player does a short presentation of the Earth goddesses.

We learn about the in-house brainstorming sessions between Jeff Richard, Claudia and Neil Robinson about how to make the Cult of Ernalda playable for adventuring. The Cult has been around for a long time – she only finds mention as associate cult in Cults of Prax, but her cult was the first to be published for the third edition of RuneQuest, in booklet 5 (the short introduction to Glorantha) of the deluxe boxed set. This was presented in the same long cult format that was used by both Cults of Prax and Cults of Terror (and in the other RQ2 products with cult descriptions).

Ernalda and the accompanying Dendara would remain the only full cult write up for a few years, followed by Kyger Litor in the Trollpak reprint and the expanded other Troll Gods (and Kyker Litor again) in that box, and the three major Elder Races cults in Elder Secrets: Mostal, Aldrya, and Kyger Litor (yet again). The RQ3 Renaissance brought us updated  cults of Yelmalio, the Lightbringers from Cults of Prax, Zola Fel, Cacodemon and the Cults of Terror reprint Lords of Terror.

Claudia advocated a course for playing Ernalda cultists that she dubs as “Blood, Sex and Rock’n Roll”. Ernalda is about sacrifices of animals, with the meat being used for feasts giving back to the communities, and her rites also include quite a bit of sex as a healthy community requires a steady supply of children.

Ernalda is at the heart of the Orlanthi communities. Claudia points out that initiates and even more so God Talkers and Priestesses of Ernalda are welcome in any Orlanthi community.

Claudia stresses the importance of the Charisma spell and how her characters tend to solve a lot of problems using the skills Sing and Dance for ritual support of other players or in worship. For conflicts, there are war songs, battle cries, and war dances, possibly intoxicated on drugs or ritual drinks.

In the new treatment, Ernalda becomes an active deity rather than the damsel in distress.

We go through the other Earth goddesses:

  • Babeester Gor is the always angry death-wielding daughter of Ernalda. Fairly easy to play, but possibly a bit one-dimensional.
  • Maran Gor , the Earth Shaker goddess, who still remains a challenge for an interesting character concept.
  • Ty Kora Tek, which lets you play a necromancer in Glorantha. Ty Kora Tek is the twin sister of Asrelia, only mentioned as an associate cult in the core rules. She is the caretaker of the souls of the dead, an Underworld goddess who welcomes the dead as they let go of their mundane lives and rest in her halls waiting to be reborn. This makes her an important part of the cycle of life. Ty Kora Tek provides a good afterlife for the dead, as long as their descendants commemorate them with sacrifices and rites. Her role starts with the proper burials of the dead, putting their ghosts  to rest, etc.

Claudia points out one problem with all the Earth pantheon cults – all the cool spells are usually rune magic. While you need to be careful about spending your rune points, the spells tend to be kick-ass – Claudia riffs off about Earth elementals, Command Ghost, and others.

Ludo addresses the gender (or sex) limitations of many of these Earth goddesses, at least at the top ranks in the hierarchy.

Katrin re-tells the Making of the Storm Tribe and how Ernalda manages and manipulates all those disorganized and selfish Storm deities, giving them a common foe to unite against. At the end of these events, Orlanth asks his wife how the foe knew about where the meeting was to take place, and Ernalda tells him not to worry about that. Which Orlanth wisely does.

Ludo asks about the relationship between Ernalda and Dendara, and Katrin points out that Dendara (who is mainly the wife of Yelm) is mainly the goddess of wives, whereas Ernalda is the Queen of the Gods and the representation of the Earth without which nothing works.

Ludo points towards Esrolia as the center of her cult’s power, but Claudia stresses her importance already in the more male-cult dominated Sartar. In Nochet, she is the absolute ruler, and can dictate what to do, while in Dragon Pass she has to be a bit more roundabout, reminding kings as well as ordinary people that her blessings come with a cost (sacrifice and worship), and that she can become a bit ugly if neglected.

Ludo asks about the importance to have those female avenger cults like Babeester Gor or Maran when Ernalda has all those husband protector cults she can throw into the breach. Claudia reminds us about the scarcity of worshippers of these cults in Sartar. Esrolia may see a slightly higher proportion, or at least significantly higher absolute numbers because of its much larger population.

Maran Gor has her special temple in the Wintertop area, the Shaker’s Temple. Maran is the goddess of the wrathful earth and of earthquakes, with her worship mainly as propitiation to keep her from destroying or disrupting everything. Babeester is the Earth avenger, which is a rather narrow field.

Babeester Gor is also the lost daughter, standing for a lot of things that Ernalda doesn’t do or encompass. Babeester is angry most of the time, something that Ernalda rarely is.

Katrin gives an example how to make worshippers of Babeester Gor less boring or stereotypical, by stressing the investigative aspect of chasing down offenders. Her hot pursuit of such criminals makes her a possible choice for playing a detective. Ludo talks about “Sherlock Holmes with an axe”.

Ludo compares Babeester Gor’s birth to parents losing their temper, and only to regret the outburst five minutes later.

Claudia emphasizes that roleplaying opportunities can be made where others don’t see them. She talks about planning a role-playing session around a funeral feast with mysterious deaths, in the style of Agatha Christie.

Jörg sums up some of the ideas as having Babeester Gor as a James Bond-like provocateur with a license to kill where husband cults may balk at the prospect.

Ludo asks about how to attract more female players to Glorantha, and whether the cult of Ernalda is the vehicle to do that.

Claudia talks about the male and female archetypes available in RuneQuest and Glorantha. She mentions the considerable initial hurdle to overcome when entering the setting, and how having some of these gender limitations may help a player new to Glorantha to identify with the character.

Once you have made your entry into the setting, you can play around with breaking the expectations of archetypes and requirements.

Claudia tells how almost dying in childbirth gave her a different perspective on motherhood and parenthood in the setting.

Katrin agrees that while some aspects of Bronze Age life and how Glorantha works may appear stark and disturbing, dealing with those can make the experience of the setting richer.

Claudia recounts how she played in the Esrolian campaign around (future) queen Samastina, and how the party made sure that the character got pregnant from an important political marriage, and how Claudia’s Ernaldan priestess helped make sure that she became very pregnant, actually resulting in twins being born. There also were processions where the pregnant queen would emphasize her pregnant belly to the onlookers with gold dust, etc.

On a less exalted level, having a big feast in the village when asking for the blessings of the gods, slaughtering the sacrificial animals and making good dishes out of the meat.

With Ty Kora Tek, it is surprising how many ghosts you can control or lay to rest, gaining quite a bit of oomph out of that.

It is OK to be relegated to a support role in battle situations when you lead the social interactions, which can take up more of the game than actual combat.

Ludo brings up the political game, with intrigue, creating a social as well as an information or even spy network, with lots of minions and followers.

Claudia points out that you will find an Ernaldan shrine or better in even the tiniest village, which allows players of Ernalda cultists to have some sway or, at least, contacts anywhere they go.

Jörg points out that Ernalda is the wedding planner of basically everyone, and the networks of exogamous marriages will give you a female kinswoman in every other tribe.

Claudia emphasizes the role of Ernalda as the wise woman, allowing a player to inject her ideas as divine wisdom into the community.

Katrin talks about that little Ernaldan babooshka you will find in every village without whom everything would cease to function.

Ludo laments that RuneQuest combat can hog a lot of game time, making it hard to keep non-combat type characters engaged in such segments.

Claudia suggests being creative about skills and their application, like challenging Jar-eel using her dance skill, hindering her enough to be able to attain a heroquest station objective despite her opposition. This is well beyond the normal scope of the skill, but in the situation (in a magically different environment) it gave her character a handle on the situation. (But then, that is more of a Questworlds mindset of how to use interestingly named skills.)

The rules system is a guidance, not something set in stone.

Claudia also advocates to leave the healing to characters other than the Earth worshippers. We also learn about why Yanioth has a beast rune of 75%.

Katrin points out that there are better things to do than “I hit ‘em with my sword” for three hours. In one of her games, a Chalana Arroy cultist had their snake familiar entangle a combatant’s legs to take them out without actual bloodshed.

Claudia enthuses about Command Swine when facing Tusk Riders.

Jörg points out that all those monstrous swine were ultimately sent against the people of the region as punishment for neglecting the goddess, showing the ugly side of the cult.

Claudia admits that her earth worshippers tend to have some skill with axe and shield, but that is often more fun to stand back and use your skills in a more creative way. Rather than swinging a sharp implement for hours, she prefers supporting the fighters, cheer-leading them or raising the onlookers as a support force to overwhelm the opposition.

Ludo compares the role of Ernalda as a support character with multi-player video games. Claudia points out that while that may be the case in combat situations, the Ernalda player will often take the spotlight in social interaction, possibly having been the matchmaker for a local, being the first to get access to dirty secrets etc., likely side-lining the combat types.

“There is always another way”: Ludo asks about situations where an Ernaldan character would have spoiled a perfectly fine opportunity to have a battle.

Claudia recalls one game that had been very battle-heavy, to the extent that the entire party decided it was too dangerous, leaving the challenge unanswered. That made for a very short game as the GM had prepared mainly for that conflict.

Other GMs including Jeff experience again and again how a game unfolds very differently from what they prepared, often because of group dynamics, so that may actually be “the other way”.

Sometimes this can come about from real world influences. Katrin reminiscences about a case where a player had to leave abroad for two (weekly) sessions, returning to come into the chaotic aftermath of an attack on their community, gracing the other players and their characters with a scathing “I leave you alone for two weeks, and that’s what happens!”

Heroquesting for and with Ernalda and female archetypes: Claudia gives us a small peek into the playtesting of the new heroquesting rules, using Greg Stafford’s old maps of the hero plane (quite likely something like the “spiral map” that is shown in Arcane Lore) which had aspects of the earth pantheon. Meeting Aldryami, stone trees, doing “not very kids-appropriate” adult interaction, playing with the archetypes and the runes and passions. In the end, runes, passions and rune spells are the major elements that you use in the hero plane rather than mundane skills or average spirit magics.

Carrying children into battle? Putting the peace into a battle scene? Or rather putting Darwinism into action, survival of the fittest? Claudia retorts that Ernalda likes (watching) a fight, then marrying the victor.  “Marrying for a year and a day is fine, it’s enough.”

Ernalda has very weird children? “They are all beautiful”. Then Katrin mentions how difficult it was in the catalogue of the gods to fit all of Ernalda’s children into the diagram.

Ludo asks how pregnancies and having kids works out inside the game. Claudia reports how some aspects of real life arrangements getting the grandmother to look after the children crept into the game once, still being easier in game than it would be in real life.

“All the interesting magic is rune magic”. Does Ernalda have a big advantage in that regard? Claudia advocates to go for the throat, dropping the rune spells for good effect, and enjoying failure when it happens as those moments can be the most memorable (and the most fun, at least in hindsight).

Claudia’s favourite spells for earth worshippers:

  • Earth Elemental
  • Command Ghost (slay first, interrogate later)
  • Inviolable
  • Charisma

How does use of Charisma work out in the game? Ludo points out that the skill boost is likely minimal, but Claudia answers that you don’t need to roll skills, and just play to the story.

Katrin reminds that RuneQuest is not a game of slow attrition, but of few periods of high tension and glossed over dull everyday life.

Claudia also confesses that the GM may award the players regaining the rune points as a reward.

Jörg asks how to make getting back the rune points fun in the game, and Katrin’s suggestion of sacrifice and rites gets appropriated by Claudia’s “a roll in the field”, which leads to the question how much of a veil you drop onto the resulting sex and drugs and rock’n roll. Unsurprisingly, it depends on the people you play with.

In conclusion, Claudia talks about her two images of Ernalda – one is the voluptuous, broad-hipped fertility goddess, the other are the Minoan snake-dancers. Katrin confirms that those curves are a necessary feature when she is drawing Earth characters.

And with that, we conclude our episode.

References

While quite a few of the projects mentioned above still need to get published, here is a list of works already that feature Katrin’s stunning art prominently:

  • The History of Malkionism by Nick Brooke, illuminated by Katrin Dirim, with extensive bonus material on the art direction
  • The Six Paths, a sourcebook on gender among the Heortlings, by Edan Jones, art by Katrin Dirim

You can see Claudia play her Ty Kora Tek necromancer, Gina Gravedancer, in the White Bull actual play series.

Credits

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

In episode 11 of our Initiation Series, we chat with Juan Ochoa, an illustrator that fell in love with Glorantha with the most unlikely book you could ever start with. And he wishes he had started with King of Sartar instead!

Other things we chat about in this episode:

  • The one RPG shop in Columbia
  • Having a player buy more books than the gamemaster
  • Running Glorantha with the crunch of RuneQuest, or with FATE, or with Mythras
  • Playing in the west to avoid the “Argrath Cinematic Universe”
  • How to deal with diverging from the metaplot
  • Tekumel and Middle Earth as very linguistically developed settings
  • The Hall of Blue Illumination, a podcast on Tekumel
    • Note: this interview was recorded before “the news” about MAR Barker… if you don’t know what I’m talking about, it won’t take you long to find out

Where to find Juan’s art:

Credits

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

Our guest for this episode is Dom Twist of the Beer With Teeth writers’ (and gamers’) collective, known for his contributions both in a couple of Chaosium publications (Pegasus Plateau‘s Crimson Petals, and Weapon and Equipment Guide) and for various Jonstown Compendium publications by Beer With Teeth (including Dregs of Clearwine, Cups of Clearwine, Stone and Bone, and Rocks Fall).

Dom is another returnee to the podcast, debuting in episode 4: Writing Adventures in Glorantha.

This episode was recorded in early August 2022.

News

More up to date updates are available from Ludo’s weekly Journal of Runic Studies newsletter.

The Weapons & Equipment Guide made its debut in hardcover at GenCon after a previous PDF release late in 2021. Dom points out that this is going to be the last publication with a PDF release before the printed product. Ludo refers to a statement of Rick Meins reported (and commented) in issue 59 of the Journal of Runic Studies.

Ludo reports on the dates for the next Chaosium Con, which will happen April 13 to 16, again in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Dom talks about his plans to go to Continuum 2023 (first time it changed to annual turnover) and Dragoncon.

Children of Hykim by Brian Duguid is out on Jonstown Compendium.

We discuss the rune point cost of turning into a totemic beast.

Dom is enthusiastic about the quantity and quality of the Jonstown Compendium and the RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha releases.

The first volume of Duckpac was out at the time of recording, but by now there are already three of the announced four volumes available.

Chaosium interview with Jeff Richard on game balance.

Main Topic (“It is boaring”)

Ludo presents Dom as the person referred to us as an expert on these guys.

We assume that listeners have at least the RuneQuest rulebook and Bestiary, but Ludo does a 20 seconds presentation of the Tusk Riders

Public Knowledge

What would the average Gloranthan know about the Tusk Riders?

Jörg points out the chance of the adventurers parents having participated in the Boar Hunt of 1606, and Ludo mentions the one of 1622 that adventurers could have participated in themselves.

Dom states that in the eyes of the average Gloranthan of the region, the Tusk Riders are evil: they raid, not just for food and loot, they also want to capture and torture people for their magic.

Dom explains that each Tusk Rider is paired with one of these giant Tusker boars, pretty clever beasts totally dedicated to their riders.

Dom compares them to Sir Ethilrist’s Black Horse cavalry.

The Tusk Riders are heavy cavalry who move unimpeded through forests

We talk about gaining the alliance of a large number of Tusk Riders by sacrificing an entire unit of militia as sacrifices to the Bloody Tusk.

Jörg points out that they breed like pigs, too, replenishing their numbers within very few years.

Ludo talks about what happens to their captives, whose spirits remain enslaved after being tortured to death. We speculate how much of the details of this are known to their foes, and how much of the in-world lore about the Tusk Riders is factual and how much is hear-say or superstition.

We agree that the Tusk Riders are bad to the bone, and thus an excellent foe or boogeyman to throw at adventurers, whether in person or whether just as rumours.

Publication History

Ludo brings up their exonym “Orcs on Porks”, at least among roleplayers.

Dom reminisces about orcs in RuneQuest and other systems.

Jörg boars with the publication history, beginning with RuneQuest 1st edition which already had stats for most of the creatures mentioned in White Bear and Red Moon/Dragon Pass and Nomad Gods.

In White Bear & Red Moon (WBRM) they already had that alliance requirement of sacrificing a unit of soldiers, and a couple of other traits later realized in their expanded descriptions.

Ludo points out that there were Tusk Riders that could be hired as mercenaries or used as adversaries in Snake Pipe Hollow, one of the early scenarios for RuneQuest.

Dom mentions the Judges Guild RuneQuest scenario Broken Tree Inn, located near Snake Pipe Hollow and thus near the Stinking Forest, which features them too.

The Tusk Riders get a fuller description in 1981’s Borderlands campaign, with a full page on their culture and history, and as antagonists in one of the seven scenarios.

Dom relates his recent experiences encountering Tusk Riders as opponents for a player character of his, in the Borderlands campaign, pointing out the enmity between his Daka Fal shaman and all the Tusk Riders stand for.

Jörg points out that the text passages in the earlier publications often were re-used verbatim in later publications (WBRM; Wyrm’s Footnotes 3 in the Guide to Glorantha, the NPCs of Borderlands in HeroQuest’s Pavis: Gateway to Adventure, RQ3 Elder Secrets in the RQG Bestiary), which on one hand is nice that the newer material contains most of the information the older publications had, but limits the actual amount of text written on the Tusk Riders.

Ludo speculates about why the Ivory Plinth poem gets recycled again and again (Wyrm’s Footnotes #3, Wyrm’s Footprints (the “Best of Wyrm’s Footnotes” by Reaching Moon Megacorp, under an Issaries license, mostly with material that went into the Sourcebook), the Guide to rGlorantha, and the RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha Bestiary). Jörg muses that the poem makes fleeting mention of so many places and events that were never explained that this is the only way to preserve them. Dom points out that the poem was created by Greg Stafford, and that Greg himself was not a stickler for remaining absolutely true to what he produced years ago, unlike some other contemporary brand.

Troll Pak riffs on the half-troll connection and introduces their role in the troll civil war during the Inhuman occupation.

King of Sartar expands on that conflict, and The Smoking Ruins scenario book further expands on this.

Coming into Glorantha with the current RuneQuest rules, already the first scenario in the GM Screen pack features them.

Dom points out that the presence of Tusk Riders cannot be ignored by responsible leaders or problem solvers, as they are certainly going to come and take captives and plunder, if they haven’t already done so and you need to free their victims, or at least release their spirits.

Theory Crafting and Fake History

Ludo leads into this by pointing out that we don’t know the canonical situation, and that the Tusk Riders themselves when talking about their past are known as liars making impossible boasts.

Dom mentions the human hero Aram-ya-Udram, a human hero who boumd a Darkness Spirit to him. After the Dark Night Ermaöda sent the God-Pig Gouger to exact vengeance for improper worship or even blasphemy.

Here’s a work-in-progress picture of Aram by Loic Muzy for the Cults of Glorantha book:

Dom speculates that already Aram heroquested to turn his people into the half-trolls and worshippers of the Darkness demon.

Dom teases a follow-up scenario for Defending Apple Lane while talking about Red-Eye, the divine /demon pig residing in or around Pig Hollow in the Colymar Wilds.

Ludo spoilers Defending Apple Lane (but you’ll have to listen to the podcast to hear this)

Jörg protests that Dom is maligning good old Aram-ya-Udram, who was after all the human representative on the World Council of Friends in the first century after the Dawn, and a civilized man.

Ludo offers a (in his words) half-assed theory about the Aramites, Tusker-riding humans living in the region of what would become the Ivory Plinth, an ancient ziggurat temple in the Stinking Forest (then still known as the Tallseed Forest).

Then some people disrespected the Earth, becoming complacent stopping proper worship of Ernalda, getting punished by sending Gouger to take revenge. Aram tricks Gouger, using his Darkness Demon, slays the God Pig and sets up his tusks at the Ivory Plinth.

Ludo theorizes that Aram’s people lost their agriculture, becoming hunter-gatherers and mercenaries  riding the Tusker boars that could be tamed thanks to Aram’s feat slaying Gouger.

Later, during the EWF, the human Tusk Riders approached some Mad Scientist working in the EWF to make them more powerful

Ludo riffs on the Tusk Rider claim that once upon a time they had 12 kings each ruling their kingdom, and suggests that the experimentators had 12 experimental specimen of Aramite stock who somehow escaped the experimentators, taking bloody revenge (to loan from the Akira anime/manga) and starting the half-troll Tusk Riders we know today.

We digress shortly on the Remakers – Ludo suggests gene-splicing, Joerg advocates classical stitch-up chimeras like Frankenstein’s Monster or Doctor Moreau’s Island.

Ludo points out that according to  one source, the Darkness spirt bound by Aram and used to slay Gouger disappeared into a void of Chaos, and that bringing back that spirit as their God of the Bloody Tusk may have corrupted them.

Dom thinks that that corruption has more of a Chaos feel and points out that there is a know Void of Chaos right on the edge of the Stinking Forest, below Snake Pipe Hollow. Dom points out that we know for a fact that in the EWF there were these experiments which resulted in the Beastmen, but thtat there were other ways the Beastmen came to be, and with the heroquesting going on  in those times everything could be true to some extent, or made to tbe true.

Ludo wants his players to stumble on an old experimental complex of the EWF experimentators, with numbered holding cells destroyed, apparently from within, and gruesome victims of that escape fossilized in some way or written records made by the experimentators.

Jörg points out that the list of Dawn Survival Sites in the Guide (or History of the Heortling Peoples) also mentions a Tusker-riding nobility among the Harandings at Marlothenyi, in northern Esrolia.

Those Harandings feature in the original Lawstaff Quest (first presented in King of Sartar and used as a scenario in the Orlmarth campaign in HeoQuest’s Sartar: Kingdom of Heroes), where their king Harand Boardick pawns a son to his troll ally Jago Zaramzil to gain their support in his attack on Arrowtop Mountain.

They also lived right next to the Entruli of Maniria and Slontos, descendants of the Pig Mother, and possibly the people Harand’s mother came from.

Jeff put up some stuff on the Well of Daliath that indicates that Aram was helping Lalmor of the Vathmai (an Entruli clan or tribe living in or near Esrolia) bring the Lightbringer Ways to the Entruli.

The Entruli king had done some rather unspeakable things which caused his city to sink below the Mournsea, and some other cities to be destroyed. Jörg speculates that this was the transgression against Ernalda which caused Gouger to rampage against those cities, continuing to destroy human habitations as the God Pig moved east into Esrolia and beyond into Dragon Pass. Jörg speculates that Aram’s companions hunting down the God Pig might have been a warband of Haranding nobles who followed the pig all the way to the Stinking Forest, and then settling down there without any gardeners of farmers, making a living as mercenaries, hunters and gatherers.

The timetable is a bit messed up, but that isn’t that unusual in Gloranthan history.

A literal reading of the Dawn Sites documents suggests that Gougers tusks were already in place at the Dawn, which means that Aram slaying the God Pig would have happened in the Silver Age, or even earlier. But then, Ernalda went to sleep some time around the arrival of the Chaos Horde to fool Nontraya and his hordes of the Dead and didn’t really have the means to send an avenging pig or complaining of not receiving the correct worship until after the Dawn.

Jorg boaringly goes on to list the named leaders of the boar riders throughout history.

There was the leader of the center of the Orlanthi contingent at the Battle of Night And Day, Old Swine Dezar, leading 150 Tusker-riding warriors into the battle.

There was the Great Living Hero of the EWF in the Machine Wars, Varnakol the Mangler, a boar rider who had tusks and two named axes, whose enemies preferred death by his axes to being captured by him.

And finally there was Karastrand Half Troll, “leader of the boar-riding trolls of the Rockwood Mountains”, during the Troll Civil War in the Inhuman Occupation. Karastand claimed imperial human ancestry-

Jörg has the wild theory that the son given up by Harand Boardick in the Lawstaff Saga got adopted and reborn as a troll and fathered a lineage of boar-rider trolls in the Rockwood Mountains, and that  that lineage and the (already EWF-modified)  Aramites around the Ivory Plinth crossbred, making that half-troll ancestry true at least for this leader and his siblings, possibly as an adoption ritual similar tto that Pain Centaur spiel that Ironhoof used to adopt the Pure Horse Folk survivors of the Battle of Alavan Argay to found the Grazeland pony breeders.

Ludo wonders how this could be brought into a game (where Jörg assumed that any Sage worth their ink and/or facial hair would happily collect such information).

Making Games More Boaring

Next we start talking about using Tusk Riders in games.

Dom suggests that the Tusk Rider ritual to turn captives into one of their kind is not limited to humans but that it also works on trolls.

Jörg mentions the thread on BRP Central on Tusk Rider adoption. Dom points out the Tusk Rider adoption story-line in the xomputer/mobile game King of Dragon Pass, and using that in your own campaign.

Dom quips that they are sort of the Hells Angels of Gloranha, coming to beat people up, take their stuff, riding hogs.

The BRP Central thread had a suggestion that someone might quest to return the Tusk Riders to their less unpleasant human form, although we wonder who would go for that trouble.

Dom poins out the Sons of Anarchy TV show which is about a criminal biker gang, and how that could be used for some Tusk Rider plots, and that the Tusk Riders should be intelligent and clever opponents.

As they have low charisma, the leaders of a warband will lead by intimidating their followers, and by providing results.

Ludo points out how the Tusk Rider antagonists get decent tactics, acting intelligently. Dom suggests that they wish to harvest the most magical of their opponents, and that they lure them into their kind of territory by abducting dependents.

Dom points out how binding enemies’ spirits creates a magic economy for the Tusk Riders that forees them to capture other people to become powerful, which they need to survive in Tusk Rider gangs, especially as leaders. All that stolen magic makes them strong and unpredictable magical foes.

Dom describes how hit and run tactics may be used to make their opponents cast expensive spells, only to sit those out until they expire, and then hit again. They have the magic of their bound spirits in severed hands or tails to power their spells, and may use their Tusker as an allied spirit, too.

For capturing foes, they may use lassos or similar, then dragging their victims through the forests which cannot be healthy.

Ludo asks about how to stage the hit-and-run using RQG rules (like e.g. the chase rules), or whether to handwave (which is how Dom prefers to run such things, more narratively). Dom points out how the Tusk Riders are vulnerable to missile fire when doing that, as their major tactical flaw.

Ludo describes how he had the characters of his “we all play children” campaign happen on the site of a Tusk Rider massacre, and then catch up with exhausted Tusk Rider survivors of that combat, playing them dumb to match the abilities of the underage characters.

Dom describes how he ran a sequel to Defending Apple Lane where the sister of the leader of the first attack (who lost quite a few minions, and leadership) comes not so much to take vengeance but to harvest those interesting magics of the player heroes, preparing ambushes and traps for luring them into pursuit after capturing some dependents in the hamlet.

Ludo explores where Tusk Riders typically set up their bases.

Dom suggests that a Thane of Apple Lane who successfully dealt with Tusk Riders and possibly Red-eye multiple times may become a status target for ambitious Tusk Rider leaders or wannabes.

Speaking of typical boons earned by player characters Im the official adventures, Jörg asks how Dom would handle a conflict between hippogriff-riding heroes and Tusk Riders. “Into the woods” would be the Tusk Rider reaction to such opponents.

Dom goes on to describe the Stinking Forest as a war zone where Tusk Riders, trolls, elves, dwarfs and giant spiders may slug it out, allowing any playee heroes to experience crossfire situations.

Ludo talks about how there might be secret shrines to the Cult of the Bloody Tusk very close to area deemed safe by the player  heroes, with pilgrimages bringing victims there. Jörg suggests to use the Broken Tower as a possible holy site for Tusk Riders, sparing the GM a lot of prep time.

Ludo talks about somewhat “friendlier” Tusk Rider neighbors that will take ransom payments, or engage in clandestine trading, which Dom brings back to the plot hooks that can be lifted from Sons of Anarchy.

Dom mentions the problems that might arise when a party healer (possibly the NPC follower) gets taken by Tusk Riders. Do you want to face Tusk Riders with powerful healing magic, or the Sleep spell? Tusk Riders are one of the few non-chaotic Gloranthan foes who would have no qualms killing Chalana Arroy healers.

Jörg brings up the possibility of using the Tusk Riders as a playable race. We talk about how to play  characters who are bound to torture people to keep up magically, and how this needs buy-in by the players, and careful off-screen handling of the unpleasantness.

Dom mentions the scenario that a gang of Tusk Riders who may have plagued you the past few seasons offering their services as mercenaries

Dom spiced up his Tusk Rider threat by having them carry newly minted Lunar Tarshite coins, to trigger player character paranoia. Dom expands how an able Lunar commander might send out a special operations team (effectively a player character party managed by the GM) to stir up feuds and banditry in the rebelling province of Sartar, with Tusk Riders a good choice to spread terror and distraction.

As time runs out, Jörg thinks that we have boared people enough, and Ludo hopes we made people loathe / love them as much as we do.

Credits

Cover image by Cory Trego-Erdner.

The intro music is “The Warbird” by Try-Tachion. Other music includes “Cinder and Smoke“, “Skyspeak“, “Stomp“, and “Sjaman’s Dream: Fire“, along with audio from the FreeSound library.

Episode 10 of the Glorantha Initiation Series is with Chris Webb, who played RuneQuest 2nd edition once in the early 1980s, and gave up after saving Gringle’s Pawnshop from baboons. Him and his friends played without cults or magic because it was too weird and obscure.

This was with the British version of RuneQuest, which was a boxed set containing Apple Lane and a few other supplements in addition to the rulebook.

Much later, Chris was brought into a game of RuneQuest Glorantha by his younger brother Jonathan Webb, which you might know as the main author of the excellent Praxian police procedural campaign Sandheart.

During this episode, we discuss the following various things:

And finally, Chris talks about putting Runes on a roof… well it actually happened recently!

Credits

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

In Episode 14, the God Learner podcast returns to its exploration of the Nomad Gods, with David Scott from Chaosium.

News

The “Write Your First Adventure” summer workshop has started, with a RuneQuest course by Nick Brooke.

Pirates of the East Isles is out, with some art and minor spoilers by Ludo.

The Red Deer Saga (incorrectly mentioned as “White Deer”) is now available in print.

Volume 1 of Duckpac was indeed released shortly after our recording, and is now Silver Best Seller!

Dates for Chaosium Con 2023 have been announced. You can read Ludo’s report on this year’s convention.

More current news are available in our newsletter, the Journal of Runic Studies.

Nomad Gods: The Magic Game

David gives a one minute summary of Nomad Gods.

Ludo discusses the availability of the game in print, and we mention the VASSAL virtual tabletop version again.

Trying to talk about Les Dieux Nomades, Jörg is lost in memories, and gets confused about which convention he bought it at. We go into a rabbit hole while trying to find when this game was released — if that sounds boring, you can skip ahead or use the time bookmarks (only supported in good podcast players).

We mention Nick Brooke’s fan translation of the French rules terms on his website, here and here. Nick also created a beautiful printable map with all the features of French map, but with a hex overlay that fits.

David mentions the colourful counters of Les Dieux Nomades, as can be seen on Boardgamegeek.

We talk a bit about the problems when names are translated, failing to recognize the translation, and being out of alphabetic order. Note that Jar-eel the Razoress in French is “Jar-eel la Tranchante”.

Ludo gives a shout-out to the illustrations, before we talk about the rules.

David explains the difference between the counters for Nomad Gods where there is no range factor (for spirits of magician units) but a reflection factor telling whether a counter could attack neighbouring counters in spirit combat using the magic factor or whether it could fight back rather than just soak up damage with the magic factor. But then, there are units with a range factor of zero in Dragon Pass, too, and there are a few spirits that remain on the board and can attack neighbouring hexes with their magic, too, so it is more a case of different terminology than different rules.

David relays what Greg Stafford told him: “It was one of the flaws of the Praxians that they were tied much more to the spirits than they were tied to the deities, the greater gods.

This focus on spirits and animism is the result of the great destruction from the Gods War in Prax. That’s why each major tribe has a shaman counter, and each shaman has a fetch.

RuneQuest emulates the worship of deities as spirits by giving a chance of contacting a god or goddess when reaching out to the spirits.

David points out that Cults of Prax sort of maps Nomad Gods in that a lot of Nomad Gods is in the structure of Cults of Prax.

There are unpublished descriptions by Greg Stafford about how the tribes move their herds, with a shaman at the front looking into the spirit world to look for the best magical grazing, etc.

Jörg suggests that Praxians are more versatile in rune magic through spirit cults, but again that is described as the flaw of the Praxian access to magic.

Heroquesting to spirit cults delivers lesser boons, while the spirits are more likely to be allies than patrons.

The concept of the fetch as the other side portion of the shaman is introduced here, and carries over into the RuneQuest rules (which were first published a year after Nomad Gods).

We find out more about the social position of shamans, but shamans are described as “crazed and rabid people, more than a little mad from their contact with the gods.” David puts that statement into context with Greg Stafford’s later experiences and practices in shamanism, and blames it on older concepts and misconceptions of 19th century anthropologists about shamanism.

David makes clear that a shaman is someone who is in charge of when they have contact with the spirit world and when not, so while there are times when talking on the invisible iPhone is appropriate, this happens at the shaman’s choosing and not at the spirits’ whim. Somebody constantly beset by spirits is not a shaman, or at least not a successful one.

Ludo mentions Mircea Eliade’s “Techniques of Ecstasy” as a good source on shamanism, a book that is not readable (from cover to cover) because of the learned document containing many examples. It’s considered good to dip in for specific items though.

As a source for shamanism and spiritualism, David recommends Sheila Paine’s “Amulets: a world of secret powers, charms and magic.” Any book on symbology would be good.

Shamans work with the spirits, and spirits have their own agenda, and that may be different from mortal expectation.

We talk about the Soul Winds, a devastating weapon of mass destruction that may cost you your tribal shaman, and that requires alliance with one of the Great Spirits (the Wild Hunter, Malia, or Oakfed). David suggests that this is better suited to the boardgame than to the roleplaying game.

We meet the various categories of spirits of Prax. David points out that most of these have appeared and are going to appear in the new edition of Cults of Glorantha.

I talk about the five elements having something of a balance in Les Dieux Nomades, but not in the original game.

We discuss the Lunar spirits in that game. David points out that there was a list of Lunar spirits in Wyrm’s Footnotes #4, page 49. It’s available in PDF from Chaosium, although might as well get the bundle of all 14 original issues.

The original Nomad Gods counter sheets contained a number of “mystery counters” including those of the Lunar spirits Book of Dale, Twinstars (also in the Dragon Pass boardgame) and the Watchdog of Corflu (one of the pieces which the French illustrator for Les Dieux Nomades got terribly wrong).

David goes through the list, and the discussion lands at the Medicine Bundles of Prax, plunder items useless for an individual but powerful on a clan or tribal level. David goes into what Medicine Bundles are, who would have them, and explains the mutability of their appearance as they fade in and out of existence. A Medicine Bundle embodies magical power, but the objects in the bundle are an embodiment of what it does rather than the actual things.

We arrive at Tada’s Grizly Parts, huge treasure-type artifacts that can be converted into magical units that can be summoned from Tada’s High Tumulus. We speculate about their appearance and size. Tada’s cudgel is a giant club, but Greg also said it was Tada’s penis. The description has a number of double entendres.

In Prax, Malia is a spirit of Darkness rather than of Chaos (although the way the Disease units work is similar to Chaos magic). David associates the three runes of Malia with deadly diseases (Death), minor diseases (Darkness) and plague (Chaos).

The Spirits of Earth are the spirits of the Paps, a family of their own, and presented as subcults of Eiritha in Cults of Prax.

The Horn of Plenty get special mention as one of the Seven Great Magics of Prax.

Then there is the collection of the “Other Spirits”, with a number of unaligned special spirits.

The Horned God is the entity that teaches shamanism and chooses shamans. It is a spirit that doesn’t have a cult. (Jörg’s speculation is that it is the Fetch of Glorantha.) All spirit cults are subcults of the Horned God. If the Horned God provides anything in RuneQuest terms, he provides Discorporation.

We talk about the Bad Man, the Chaos enemy of the Horned God, and the many masks of the Bad Man encountered in shamanic initiation.

Hyena is “an odd creature”, a spirit made by Genert so that his body parts would not fall to Chaos.

Ludo gets enthusiastic about the Three Feathered Rivals.

David talks about the structure of spirit cults in RuneQuest, and talks about the concept of Spirit Societies, and how they would work in RuneQuest. A spirit society is a collection of culturally similar spirit cults. In RQG, there usually is a greater spirit and a number of other spirits belonging to that group. Some are grouped by elemental runes, like they were presented in the boardgame.

Spirit societies are led by a charismatic shaman that doesn’t have to belong to the spirit cult.
A spirit society allows you to have a shared rune point pool for the spirits in the society. The Water Spirit Society would be headed by Zola Fel, and under Zola Fel you would have River Horse, Dew Maid, and Frog Woman. Your first rune point goes to the big spirit, and then you need to spend one rune point to each spirit cult whose magic you want to be able to cast.

The spirit societies are mainly pan-tribal, although each tribe that has a special strength in one rune will have a great portion of that elemental spirit society.

The one extra benefit from joining a spirit society is that you can learn the rune spell of Discorporation when you join a spirit society.

David point out that there is no spirit society of the Spirits of Air because these spirits are part of the Orlanth cult, which is why there is no shared rune point pool for these spirits.

Also there are two groups of spirits of Fire, one being the Burners led by Oakfed, the other the Star Gazers led by Pole Star, a spirit who has two magical places in the Wastes – Pole Star Mountain in the north and Star Crystal Mountain further south.

All spirit cults generally give one rune spell each, rather than the list of rune spells a theist cults give. The spirit cult of Pole Star gives Captain Souls (in the Red Book of Magic).

David points out the difference of Kallyr’s Starbrow ability which is different from the spirit cult, or the Pelorian forms of the cult (Dara Happans, Pentans).

You can read more about David’s take on Spirit Societies on BRP Central.

Spirit societies are all very minor, so minor that people looking from the outside wouldn’t even notice them.

The Daka Fal shaman may well also run the local spirit society. A shaman is not just working with one particular thing, but will also be a member of other spirit cults, and possibly in charge of the (tribally appropriate) spirit society.

We are talking about examples of published RuneQuest shamans. Jörg brings up Blueface as one example of a very powerful shaman, but being a very early example David describes him as rather weird, with several heroquest abilities rather than shamanic abilities. A “Hunter-Brother Dog-Shaman-Priest” who should have a greater range of spirits.

David suggests the example from Heroes Magazine 2.04 (the last issue of that Avalon Hill house magazine). On page 15, the Basmoli shaman Leona has a good backstory. Here is a snippet from Leona’s stat block:

© 2022 Chaosium Inc

David likes the details of the spirits given, and their origins, like Hotek, the shaman’s mother, and her grandfather as another of her spirits, her dead daughter who was being groomed to become a shaman when she died, and a grandmother who was a shaman.

The one criticism David has with the article is that shamans aren’t loners but strongly bound into their communities.

Leona is slightly insane and not quite a functional shaman because she has lost control over some of her spirits, a damaged shaman.

Ludo asks about the Wild Hunter (Gagarth) and the White Princess (Inora). The White Princess lives in a castle in the middle of the Dead Place, in the Winter Ruins. (Echoes of Elsa are undeniable…)

The Dead Place on the game board map doesn’t much look like anything, but is shown as heart-shaped on more recent maps.

Creatures of Chaos include Thed, Cwim, the broos, and the Pieces of the Devil. Ludo praises the Gene Day illustration of the broos.

David mentions his Q&A on Cwim on the Well of Daliath. Cwim is designed to be attacked by armies rather than by small parties of adventurers. Heroquesters can kill these monsters, but they do it in a different way. Average adventurers can try, and then run.

David talks about seeing Cwim from afar, and changing your route to avoid it. Cwim is the randomizing element that causes the migratory routes of the clans to change. Cwim usually is in the Wastes as the tribes usually ally to keep Cwim out of the sacred land.

Ludo comments on the effects of Chaotic magic in the board game (automatic elimination of an adjacent unit) as “ouch”, which David said sums it up nicely.

We digress to the various types of Gorp presented in River of Cradles. Gorps are “the gelatinous cube of Glorantha”, and are the spawn of Pocharngo, the Chaos god. Various types include “micro-gorp, glue gorp, exploding gorp, regenerating gorp, zoomers (a lot faster than normal gorp), breeders, paralyzing gorp”

We discuss nasty uses for Gorps: Gorp as garbage disposal? Gorp in a bottle labeled as a potion?

The Devil’s Hand is a huge nasty monster. Jörg shows his age when his comparison with the Dreadful Flying Glove from Yellow Submarine was a bit out of context for Ludo, who was listening to metal and progressive rock when he was young.

We return quickly to the Eternal Battle and what lies inside, and possibly beyond.

You can once again see the counters on Boardgamegeek, or in the VASSAL module. The counter sheets serve as art direction.

The magical scenarios serve as training exercises instituted by Jaldon.

Rather than looking at the text of the prehistory and history of Prax (which admittedly is well known to most players of RuneQuest), Ludo riffs off on the map of the Wastes which is as much (or rather as little) to scale as is the Crater map in White Bear and Red Moon.

Jörg points out that the myth section in the local game of Nomad Gods becomes the world wide foundational myth about the Chaos War. David paints Prax as the final battleground where the last deities perish and descend to Hell to join the Ritual of the Net.

The list of the pieces shows some of the William Church silhouettes at larger scale. David emphasizes the great art pieces by Gene Day which may justify buying the pdf even if the board game doesn’t interest you at all.

David goes into advertising mode, advertising the PDF we’ve been reading for 8.95$.

Jörg vainly wishes for a confrontation between Sor-eel’s Lunar forces and the Praxians, not necessarily at Moonbroth but the march on the Paps and Pavis.

Photo by Chaosium

We talk to another Scott this month for our Initiation Series. This one was recorded back in November 2021, which is why we still mention the very imminent release of the RuneQuest Starter Set.

Scott is a newcomer to Glorantha who couldn’t wish for better guides to navigate Strike Ranks and Sartarite tribes.

Some of the things mentioned in this episode include:

And now, for some super professional links to Scott’s many places:

Our guest for episode 13 is Nikolas Lloyd, the multi-talented host of the Lindybeige YouTube channel.

News

Jörg mentions Eternal Convention at Castle Stahleck in Bacharach, Germany, and the UK Game Expo which both just ended at the time of recording.

On the Jonstown Compendium we had The Lifethief, a scenario by the Beer With Teeth collective, and an overview map of the Jonstown area by Mikael Madsen.

Practical Ancient Warfare

There are more than 600 videos on the Lindybeige channel, many of these dealing with “lots of swords and spears”, and quite a few clarifying questions that arise from playing RuneQuest in Glorantha.

Lloyd started roleplaying at age 12 or so playing the typical dungeon raids and realizing the plot holes like why are there monsters hiding behind doors to jump at exploring adventurers guarding treasure chests. A few years later he came across RuneQuest and appreciated its approaches and how they helped playing in a more believable world.

We forgot to talk to him about his legendary “Prax Warrior” video, too, which you can see here:

(the story behind this video is explained in its description)

The praises of RuneQuest in its second edition are sung. They are still the same great points as in Lloyd’s series of videos on D&D from eleven years ago. Part one is below, but check out part two and part three too:

Lloyd talks about the Dragon Pass board game, and how he never managed to find opponents to play the full game with all the magic, the alliances etc. We also talk briefly about Glorantha: The Gods War, for which Lloyd made an extensive video review:

Ludo talks about the realism of combat systems and melee weapons, and the strike rank approach in RuneQuest. Lloyd describes the “dagger vs. pike” situation, and offers a house rule assigning a different weapon strike rank for fist range fighting.

The reality of disengaging aka running away without getting stabbed in the back, which seems to be a lot easier in real life than in most rpgs.

Ludo brings up the footwork rules in GURPS, and we talk about using terrain, maneuvers, and magic, especially spells like Lightwall that enable a side to regroup without the opponent knowing about it.

Lloyd mentions how keeping track of all the magic that may enter a melee can be a challenge for a GM in RuneQuest.

We talk about the usefulness of shields and parrying missiles, and house-ruling those situations.

Lloyd discusses the importance of the GM’s eye-contact with the players in role-playing and how playing online takes a lot of that unspoken communication away even in a video chat.

We discuss active use of shields in combat, character expertise over player expertise,

On the topic actual experience of fighting in a shield wall, we learn that individual prowess matters a lot less. Lloyd discusses the death-defying attitude in re-enactment battles and suggests that facing the same situation when it is your life on the line may involve a lot more visceral fear. As you might expect, you can learn more about shield walls on Lloyd’s channel:

Lloyd talks about group coordination topping individual melee expertise, the importance of maneuvering and initiative, and how one can make a difference in group combat even without actually stabbing or slashing at the foe just by positioning yourself.

The ideal fight should not be a slogging match where you stab the other guy but to achieve an objective like crossing a bridge or capturing a flag.

The tendency to fight to the bitter end seems to be ingrained in roleplaying combats, and the fear of a certain type of players (and game systems catering to their style) to lose the items that make them effective.

Jörg asks about the practicalities of offering ransom in the middle of a melee. The answer seems to be to let go of your weapons, raise your hands and shout the amount of money that you are worth, but without any guarantee that the opposing side will accept that, even if that is the accepted outcome. In the end, this is up to GM discretion, table consensus, and dramatic effect.

Talking about setting a scenario in a major battle, Lloyd mentions about his work on a book on the Trojan War for D&D 3.5 but the D20 license was discontinued and adapting the project D&D 4th edition. He discusses a couple of approaches, like having the outcome sort of pre-determined.

If the side the player characters fight on is going to lose, the objective of the game is not to win that battle but how the unit of the players performs, whether they distinguish themselves in the battle or what losses they suffer.

There is the possibility of pushing the player characters into the situation that decides the outcome of the battle, but that can often be contrived and needs some setting up.

Lloyd talks about giving the players an objective other than winning the battle, like a detached raid around the battlefield against the train or camp of the foes to recover a maguffin.

We discuss actually playing out the war-game inside a roleplaying session, and Lloyd says that this approach needs a lot of practicing and necessitates a couple of bad games before getting the hang of this.

Lloyd talks about the constants in ancient warfare, with the basic concepts remaining the same like spears, shields, or signalling through shouts, insignia, drums or horns.

The difference made by magic on the battlefield is a lot higher than any technological differences. Also magical development may replace technological development.

Are old people in Glorantha really healthy? What is the availability of high powered healing or restoration magic?

How do people allocate their magical resources? Ludo introduces spreadsheets for administration of available magics.

Reputation as a spring-board to drama.

Skill proliferation vs. nifty new skills, on the example of a “read battle” skill (which sounds like a good interpretation of how to use RQG’s Battle skill).

Are different weapon type skills necessary? Lloyd suggests a general melee skill independent of the weapon type.

What is a “broad sword”?

Bronze weapons, and limitations real world bronze has.

The importance of tin in the Bronze Age, and using its control and supply chain as plot hooks.

Ludo mentions Lloyd’s video series on slings, the first one of which is here:

Contriving situations where groups of five characters can make the difference, again and again and again…

Lloyd points out that skipping ahead to avoid tedious routines of standing watch etc. so that the bad guys don’t catch up with the players is giving out unintended information that no, the bad guys aren’t going to show up now.

He talks about doing flashbacks to establish still unknown relationships, and how “you can’t die in a flashback” may spoil the suspense for some players who prioritize survival.

Ludo suggests to have players roll the doomed assault of NPC fighters and experiencing their deaths in between playing their less combatant main characters.

There are two main types of action scenes: fights and chases, and most role-playing games dedicate entire chapters on combat but hardly any space on chases. And even if you have rules for chases, those might be about catching and fighting the opponents and not overtaking them in a race.

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Credits

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