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.
Red Book of Magic Reference Sheet
Remember a couple weeks ago when we mentioned that Austin Conrad had made an index of the Red Book of Magic’s spells which, as I mentioned in our last episode of the podcast, was itself already an index of the spells of the upcoming Cults Book? Well guess what: Chaosium adopted Austin’s index of the index and made a prettier index of the index!
The RuneQuest Rune Spell Reference is now an official free PDF, available for download from Chaosium. You can get it from the Red Book of Magic’s store page (scroll to the bottom), or directly from here.
Starter Set Unboxing
While we eagerly wait for the RuneQuest Starter Set to slowly make its way to Chaosium’s various warehouses, Chaosium president and aspiring ASMR video-maker Rick Meints soothes our impatience with this nice little unboxing video!
When I mentioned that my OCD was triggered by Rick sometimes putting contents to the left with the back cover up, and sometimes with the front cover up (guess which one is wrong!), Rick replied that he’s part of the Chaosium, not the Orderium… I guess that’s a valid point 😆
Anyway, get ready to throw a lot of money at Chaosium this summer, and if you are going to buy the RuneQuest Starter Set from your Local Friendly Gaming Store, make sure that they’re part of the Bits & Mortar program so that you get the PDFs!
Sartar Homeland Boxed Set Previews
We are getting a whole bunch of sneak peeks at the upcoming Sartar Homeland Boxed Set! Let’s start with some gorgeous art from Ossi Hiekkala and Anna Orlova. We had seen this first piece before (that’s Raveena, a mercenary with quite a long resume), but what follows is new!
Here we have the Inkarne (the current Feathered Horse Queen) and Argrath White Bull. Keen eyed people (or those with pet peeves!) might notice that the Grazelander monarch is flipped horizontally in that first picture (to go with her soon-to-be lover… unless she likes to switch her weapons around based on her mood). Also note Argrath’s famed Ormsword, and the Stafford/Sartar Rune on his shoulder.
And how about some map of Boldhome? We’ve seen these before but we get a closer look now and of course I can’t pass a good map!
Informal Production Update
Some stray Facebook comment from Jason Durall gives us an updated look at Chaosium’s production pipeline:
The Gamemaster’s Guide is in development and will probably be available early next year. We’ve got the Weapons & Equipment Guide going into layout soon, the gigantic Cults of Glorantha right after that, and then the Sartar boxed set to get through the pipeline before the GM book, along with some smaller things to accompany the Starter Set. The name is not set in stone, as it has gone back and forth between Gamemaster’s Guide, Campaign Guide, and Gamemaster’s Sourcebook, for various reasons.
RuneQuest on Fantasy Grounds
It’s still unclear how official this is but it looks official:
You can follow @MadBeardMan for more updates on that Fantasy Ground system support, there have been other similar screenshots these past few weeks. This is great news for those who will keep playing online indefinitely even after (we hope) most people resume face-to-face gaming.
Shannon Applecline, famous RPG historian and expert on Gloranthan elves, continues his Aldryami mythology posts on the Gloranthafans Facebook group. This time it’s about elf undead, with the story of how Nontraya (who is better known as Vivamort) took refuge in red elves forests after being chased off by the humans. There, he created many types of Aldryami undead (which Shannon describes), and later went on to invade more elf lands before moving on to more hellish accommodations… but all these corrupted swamps and dead woods are dotting the landscape, waiting for unexpecting adventurers to stumble into them!
Cradle Aftermath Continues
Michel O’Brien continues his history of the Sun Dome County in Prax, bringing us up to 1623. I sadly haven’t kept up with it yet so I can’t give you a good summary or a bunch of highlights, but I’ll try to do that in next week’s newsletter (unless one of you fine readers want to send us submissions… we are the God Learners, so making people do the hard work is kind of our thing!).
The Modern Lunar Empire
Jeff continues to express recent Gloranthan history lectures in terms of Earth time-frames. In this case, here are facts to remember about the Lunar Empire:
1. Until recently, they have enjoyed peace in the Lunar Heartlands since about the end of WW1. That is a long period of peace, longer than the peace of the Five Good Emperors of Rome.
2. Many of the cities of the Lunar Heartlands are pretty new, being refounded in the “late 19th and early 20th century”.
3. A lot of the cultural variation in the Heartlands described in Glorious Reascent of Yelm is largely gone.
The Lunars view the time from the late 1960s to now as their new golden age. This is the heights of Lunar splendor. Physical and magical arts have blossomed. The fields almost grow by themselves. The Lunars don’t look backwards to the past for answers — they look forward to an ever greater future.
At least they did until a few years ago. Cracks have opened in that confident edifice. Cracks that open ever wider. And recently twin military disasters have struck the empire, shaking its resolve and confidence.
Lunar Heartlands Peasantry
And since Jeff mentioned the Glorious Reascent of Yelm, he went on to talk more about how the Dara Happan society survives in the modern Lunar Empire. The split between the urban people living in the cities along the Oslir, and the many peasants who grow rice, barley, and (for the past couple centuries) maize, is particularly interesting:
There are about 5.4 million people in the Lunar Heartlands and about 80% of them are rural peasants. Although many peasants have embraced the Lunar Way (in particular the Seven Mothers), they still retain much of their traditional peasant culture. They are “semi-free” at best, bound to their professions and working land that belongs to others (usually temples or the Yelmic/Lunar nobility). Many are “property” of these groups. They live in villages overseen by officials appointed by their rulers. Villages are highly collective; there are strong pressures to conform and little room to deviate from custom (except through the Lunar Way).
Think Egyptian fellah, Russian serfs, or Japanese heimin.
A few details are given about the Pelorian cults: Lodril and Oria are common peasant cults that feature a lot more debauchery than the urban Dara Happan norms. Lunar cults such as the Seven Mothers offer an alternative path that presents more spiritual development and social mobility, so almost everyone is at least a lay member, and a quarter is initiated.
So what are all the Lunarized people like then?
At the most basic, they are initiates into a Lunar cult or its associates – including obvious things as the Red Goddess, the Seven Mothers, Hon-eel, Yara Aranis, and the Crimson Bat, but also in the Lunar Empire such cults as Yelm, Annilla, and Gorgorma (but those are generally not Lunar cults outside of the Lunar Empire). It also includes non Lunar Empire cults as the Red Mask secret society in Prax. It often includes Nysalor but not always.
Many people in the Lunar Empire are Lunars, but not everyone. Except that just about everyone in the Heartlands offers at least a little worship to the Red Goddess and the Red Emperor. Most Lunars live in the Lunar Heartlands, which is the center of the religion, but there are many Lunars outside of the Lunar Empire. Some even oppose the Lunar Empire. In short, Lunar is not an ethno-religious category like Orlanthi or Malkioni — anyone can be a Lunar.
This last part is especially interesting: I interpret it as the difference between the Lunar Way and the Lunar Empire. A lot of people might believe in the well known message of inclusivity, and even maybe the path towards illumination, but be staunch opponents to the Empire’s ruthless expansionism, its use of weapons of mass destruction, and its increasingly corrupted leadership.
There is also some info about Dara-Happan cities: in comparison with the drunken and sexual debauchery of the countryside, the city people “view themselves as the most perfect human society possible, living in accordance to divine laws and capable of great spiritual development”. The Yelm cult is in charge, which means that all the people in positions of power strive for purity and virtue, with a strongly patriarchal bias permeating through city life, from fashion to acceptable public behaviour, and to what you do in the bedroom. But the Lunar way offers alternatives:
…within the Lunar cults, women enjoy equal rights to men. As the Yelmic leadership IS Lunar, this means that effectively the Lunar Way has greatly moderated traditional Dara Happan patriarchy. The traditional cults such as Yelm, Dendara, Polaris, etc, which have thoroughly accepted the Red Goddess as part of the celestial hierarchy and acknowledge her place within that pantheon.
Still, Dara Happa is less multicultural than Dragon Pass or the Holy Country.
And last, in case you still had any doubts, Jeff wanted to make it clear that everything people say about Glorantha is true: it’s (mostly) flat, it’s (mostly) square, and it’s 8000 kilometres on each side. You can trust us, we’re the God Learners, we measured. This also includes the distance to the Sky Dome and the stars, the Red Moon, and so on. Things look familiar to us Earthers, but they are far from it upon closer inspection… for example:
Interestingly, our own terrestrial moon is about 3500 km in diameter (a little less than 100 times wider than the Red Moon) but is about 384,000 km away from Earth (or more than 100 times further away than the Red Moon), and thus the Red Moon usually looks about the same apparent size as our moon (however, it looks smaller from Pamaltela).
Of course, everybody is free to make their Glorantha vary, but Jeff wants to warn these people that future Chaosium material (such as, maybe, the most epic adventures of the Dragon Pass Campaign book?) will invalidate any Glorantha that features more, let’s say, “realistic” elements.
Here are the news for Chaosium’s community content program for Glorantha games. As always, links on this website include an affiliate code that helps us a little bit with hosting fees!
LEGION Games Mega-Bundle!
LEGION Games, the people behind, well, LEGION, the Rubble Redux series, and the QAD series, are offering a bundle with all their titles in it! While you download it, you can listen to our interview with LEGION Games’ Neil Gibson…
The Sky Dome tilts and turns, Ernalda grows and withers, the Red Moon waxes and wanes, and Austin Conrad keeps delivering issues of the Monster of Month series… since time has lost its meaning in our pandemic world, that’s how I actually know what month we are now: it’s Volume Two, Death Lord of Zorak Zoran. Which means it’s around summer. And maybe a Monday? Who knows.
Anyway, Grungnak Fearless is a monstrous Rune Master of everybody’s favourite berserker (come on, you know that Zorak Zoran is much more fun than Storm Bull!), and this issue dedicated to her contains the kind of extra material we have come to love and expect from Austin Conrad, such as special magic items, cult write-ups, and secondary NPCs.
Cups of Clearwine
After the Dregs of Clearwine, which detailed a slum neighbourhood of the titular Colymar tribe capital, the folks at Beer With Teeth have now released Cups of Clearwine, a similar supplement for RuneQuest that focuses on a more typical part of the city. Many diverse NPCs are presented, with accompanying adventure hooks! Given the Colymar focus of the official Chaosium adventure books, this one is a no brainer!
Holiday Dorastor: Spider Woods
Do you want to spend your holidays in Dorastor? Of course you want to! Simon Phipp knows all the most festive places, since he knows all the Secrets of the place. The newly released Spider Woods is the second expansion book to Secrets of Dorastor, after the Temple of Heads.
This sourcebook details the titular forest at the edge of Dorastor, with enough arachnid NPCs and monsters to make it clear that this is, indeed, the Spider Woods. A handful of scenarios, special items, and new spells round up this pretty hefty book.
Reviews and Reports
Skull Dixon’s RuneQuest Reviews
Discord regular Skull Dixon has been writing a series of reviews-slash-play-reports on the RuneQuest Gamemaster Pack adventures, and the last one is out! This is of course about the Dragon of the Thunder Hills, the third scenario in the book.
Skull Dixon gives an exhaustive overview of the adventure (which is useful if you’re planning on running it and want a summary of the whole storyline), along with some recommendations about what he changed in his game. Some of these, like when to introduce some key elements as foreshadowing in previous sessions, are very useful!
The author of the popular RPG-nostalgia blog GROGNARDIA recalls their coming to terms with the ducks of Glorantha:
But it took me a long time to accept this. I used to be so hung up on a very narrow understanding of seriousness that I was unable to recognize the need for a little weirdness and levity. Ironically, it was Steve Gerber, creator of Howard the Duck, who summed it up quite well in a 1977 interview, in which he explained the origins of the character. According to Gerber, the whole point of the character and the comic in which he appeared is that life’s most serious moments and most incredibly dumb moments are often distinguishable only by a momentary point of view.
Is that going to convince Joerg to play a duck?
Meanwhile, on Earth
Shaman Snake Stick
If you want a cool stick for your shaman, how about a snake stick?
Thank you for reading
That’s it for this week! Please contact us with any feedback, question, or news item we’ve missed!