Journal of Runic Studies #4


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.

Tower Inventory

We here at the God Learners have only recently moved into our new home. It’s a nice tower that belonged to a Malkioni school of sorcery for the most part of the Second Age, then probably a hideout for a bunch of bandits in the early Third Age until the surrounding lands were colonized by some Heortlings and some Lhankor Mhy sages renovated it and used it as a library temple.

Photo by Hannah Wright on Unsplash

Well, it’s ours now, and we’re pretty happy with it, it’s got a nice spacious level for our laboratory, another for the library, a few other buildings for our servants and guests, and so on. But it’s a mess in here. There’s a whole bunch of junk from the previous occupants, and we started the process of clearing it, sorting it, and archiving it. As we proceed, we’ll share the most interesting findings with you… we hope you’ll find them equally interesting.

Chaosium News

The White Bull Campaign Returns

The so-called Chaosium house campaign, aka the “White Bull” campaign, is finally returning to YouTube! If I remember correctly, we left the group just after their return from Kallyr’s Lightbringers Heroquest…

Progress on the Fantasy Ground RuneQuest Integration

What looks like official VTT support for RuneQuest is advancing at a good pace, if we judge from these recent screenshots from the main developer on the project:

Screenshots by @MadBeardMan

However, this is all apparently just “around 10% complete“!

Screenshots by @MadBeardMan

And look at this poor ghoul’s fumble! Oh noes!

Screenshot by @MadBeardMan

Anyway, the developer is posting new screenshots on a regular basis (too many to post here!) so check them out!

RuneQuest Art?

This painting by Silvana Massa was spotted on Twitter: apparently a piece commissioned for RuneQuest… what book could it be for?

Art by Silvana Mass © 2021 Chaosium Inc.

Jonstown Compendium

Comparing Standard and Premium Colour Printing

Jonstown Compendium embassador and prolific Gloranthan author Nick Brooke has posted some comparison pictures of the differences between DriveThruRPG’s “Standard Colour” and “Premium Colour” options. This is especially important since the prices for “Premium Colour” have just increased significantly, to the point that some authors stopped offering it as an option altogether.

The cheap proof-print of Glamour looked absolutely fine, so I’ve set up standard colour editions of all my books, which are about 10% cheaper than the previous versions. These are produced on a cheaper printer, and you will notice the difference: the print is flatter and fuzzier, without the sharp edges and rich, deep colours we are used to in premium print. The paper is identical to the premium editions, it’s just the inkjets that are cheaper.

In the picture below, the standard colour is on the left, and the premium colour is on the right. Note the deeper reds on the Premium Colour but, just as interesting, the greens seem to be roughly similar.

Photo by Nick Brooke

Nick concludes elsewhere that “the quality overall is fine for a ‘cheaply printed’ version“. These “Standard Colour” printings are roughly 10% cheaper to produce than the pre-increase “Premium Colour” printings.

Monster of the Month Announcement

Last week we were talking about the release of Grungnak Fearless, issue 2.6 of Monster of the Month series. Austin Conrard gave a quick update for the halfway point of the year:

I’m really proud of the quality of these Rune Master issues of MOTM, but they take a lot of energy to produce. They’re a big piece of why you haven’t yet seen a volume 2 of Treasures of Glorantha! After a lot of thought, I’ve chosen to scale back the next few issues of MOTM, hopefully so I can create other Glorantha stuff.

While I’ll probably end the year with another long-ish issue (like The Quacken, last year), at the moment I’m not sure I’ll continue MOTM into 2022.

While these are sad news, we probably have enough monsters and NPCs to keep our players busy for a few years. Also, it’ll be exciting to see Austin tackle some other things — besides a new volume of Treasures of Glorantha, he has been teasing a potential Esrolia campaign on the BRP Central forums.

Alakoring’s Legacy

As a follow up to Heort’s Legacy, Edan and Alister Jones (a father/son team-up, as I understand) have now released Alakoring’s Legacy.

Just like its predecessor, this is a new questionnaire to be used as an alternative or complement to Sartar: Kingdom of Heroes’ original clan questionnaire. This is therefore mainly for HeroQ… err… QuestWorlds, but these things tend to be mostly system agnostic and therefore could also be used by anybody making their own clan in any system.

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.

Argentus in Glamour, Argentus in Sartar

Depending on how one views these kinds of things, the Red Emperor’s latest Mask, Argentus, is either a lazy hedonistic slob who delegates everything to the Seven Tharkalists and other lesser advisors, or a wise ruler who knows when to step back and let things go. This made him popular with a fair amount of his people, but there’s a growing discontent regarding the rise of revolutionary movements like the White Moon.

Interestingly enough, Argentus apparently spent a lot of his magic to turn a True Dragon away from Glamour (I assume this is the Dragonrise’s dragon). Or maybe he just claims that he did…

Most Sartarites wouldn’t know much about what happens in Glamour, so this would not impact many Dragon Pass focused games, but Jeff reminds us that it takes only a week and a half to go from Boldhome to Furthest, and then another two weeks and a half to get to Glamour. Some gossip might travel that way… which Sartarite or Kethalean spies would be listening to!

But the average Sartarite only knows that the Red Emperor is some kind of immortal wizard-king who never stays dead very long. Probably some Chaotic thing — Sartarites “totally do not buy the whole Mask thing“.

Community Descriptions

This is just wonderful: Jeff shared what I assume are clan write-ups for the upcoming Sartar Homeland Boxed Set. We’ve got the large and wealthy Ernaldori clan, and the much more modest but warlike Varmandi clan. There is also an allegedly incomplete write-up (and potentially not included in the final text) for the Hiording clan.

Cartography by Matt Ryan © 2021 Chaosium Inc.

These write-ups feature a good amount of numbers (population total, militia size, number of thanes and priests, and so on), a list of the main personalities of the clan, some vague idea of where all the clan’s households are located, detailed economic figures, magical features and more!

I’m particularly interested in this type of number crunching so here are my takeaways on it:

  • Households come up at around 14 adults per household on average. That’s probably 20 people in total on average. Jeff mentioned in a comment that Boldhome residential buildings have between 15 and 40 people.
  • There are 70 households in Clearwine Fort. If I line this up with the map in the Gamemaster Adventures booklet, I think that a “household” would actually be 2 or 3 visible buildings on that map. Of course, it’s possible that these numbers hadn’t been crunched yet, so the map might be more figurative than representative, but in case you’re treating it as an actual “bird’s view” of the city, there you go!
  • For the “households” on the countryside, each of these might also be several buildings, such as a small clusters of farms, or a farm with a few lined-in buildings. We’ll know more when the Sartar Homeland Boxed Set is published, as the term “household” will be formally defined there.
  • Households are roughly the same size between the city and the countryside. I frankly didn’t know which one to expect being bigger, but I expected a difference… oh well!
  • The split between adults and children has changed, as far as I can tell. In the Gamemaster Adventures booklet (page 16) we are told that “a typical clan of 1000 people has about 450 adults and 550 children“. This is just above 50% of children, and this ratio is consistent with a variety of previous publications, including the HeroQuest ones. But I think that the average age for adulthood initiation has finally been brought down (which is good for better verisimilitude with Earth’s Bronze Age). It sounds like, going forward, adulthood happens around 13 years old. This lowers the ratio of children to something closer to 30%.

Do you want to see something else?

Art by Loic Muzy © 2021 Chaosium Inc.

Jeff also shared the write-up of a Boldhome guild. Given how underwritten guilds have been so far in Gloranthan publications, this is very welcome… This sample guild is Boldhome’s Bronze Workers guild, centered around the cult of Gustbran, so in addition to a look at Sartarite guilds, we also get a look at a what a minor god’s cult looks like!

And since we’re talking about bronze working, how about taking a look at Copper Town? Located next to the copper mines of the Barastaros Hills, it is home to about 2000 people, none of which had a better idea for a name besides “Copper Town”…

Art by Loic Muzy © 2021 Chaosium Inc.

Ore is brought from the mines and smelted outside the town in kilns and furnaces, and poured into molds. The copper bars are then transported by mule to Early Rise and then to Furthest, or shipped downriver to the Lunar Heartlands. Copper slag heaps from the last three centuries litter the landscape around Copper Town. The city is “owned” by the King of Tarsh and governed by his deputies.

Note that in these Lunar parts, Asrelia is the patron of mining, interestingly enough.

Taxonomy of Glorantha, by the God Learners

Apparently, we… did this? Yes, we did. That’s us. That’s how we figured animals are organized.

Photos by Jeff Richard

I don’t remember what the Cthuloid drawings are for (the Second Age was a wild time), but I definitely remember figuring out that horses are birds. Yep. That made sense at the time.

Behind the Art Scene

While we’re looking at rough sketches, take a look at some of Jeff’s sketches for various illustrations of Gloranthan books. For instance, this sketch vs final of Jar-Eel and Beat-Pot:

Scribbles by Jeff Richard © 2021 Chaosium Inc.
© 2021 Chaosium Inc.

Drinking and Loathing in the Holy Country

Jeff tells us that the wine in the Holy Country is mostly red and not watered down. It’s consumed mostly during religious feasts and celebrations. For everyday drinking, wheat beer is very popular (for instance, einkorn or emmer beer), along with young wines and fruit wines. Sages and other specialists can produce distilled wine, for the distinguished connoisseurs.

Note that violence is less common in drinking halls compared to Sartar. It sounds like Belintar is a bit more civilized than Heort… it might also help that incense, spiced food, and other intoxicants (coming in through Nochet’s very busy port, possibly from the Teshnos colony) help smooth things down. There’s less incentive to fight when you’re dressed in silk.

Drinking in the Holy Country goes often with music and dancing. The Jolly Fat Man is a local minor deity:

One of the sons of Ernalda, the Jolly Fat Man is a beloved Bacchus/Silenus figure, and at many feasts someone gets the honour of being the designated JFM to preside over the festivities.

Athletic contests are also very popular, especially as a “mundane” version of the Tournament of the Masters of Luck and Death:

The cult of the Strong Man is popular, and many cities have areas where muscled men work out and practice, often watched and celebrated by noble women.

If you want to derail your gamemaster’s campaign and go in the show-business, this sounds like a great idea:

As an aside, a Colymar adventurer in one of our campaigns with an 18 STR and 17 CHA joined the cult of the Strong Man in Nochet and made his fortune performing for the pleasure of aristocratic women. He concluded it was a much better life than being one of the bodyguards of Queen Leika.

Of course, if I was the gamemaster, this new derailed campaign would suddenly morph into a mix of “Freaks” and “Carnivale”, but hey, that’s just me.

Drinking and Loathing in the Lunar Heartlands

Comparatively to the Holy Country, drinking in the Lunar Heartlands is mostly for the Lodrilli peasantry. They do it a lot. Their stuck-up Yelmite leaders put “too much important on self-control and purity“, so they either drink lighter wine, or, you know, just pass out in private without the neighbours knowing. Public drunkenness is a lower-class thing.

Common peasant drinks includes maize beer, barley beer, and fermented rice drinks.

Orlanthi Sports

Okay we talked about drinking beer, but what is beer good for if you can’t drink it while watching some stupid sporting event? Well we have a few hints from Jeff regarding this (most of which will feature in the upcoming Sartar Homeland Boxed Set): foot and chariot races, throwing and hurling and shooting competitions, swimming and jumping and so on. Of course, fighting (with and/or without weapons) is bound to be one of the most popular activities, including the ancient form of mixed-martial-arts known as pankration.

Here’s an example of a local sporting event:

There is an athletic competition in Two Hour Town, where a biennial competition is held to celebrate Orlanth’s wooing of Ernalda. One of the events is to run from Two Hour Town to Sartar’s Palace (culminating in running up the Thousand Steps) about 20 km away. While wearing a full kit of bronze armor – helmet, cuirass, greaves, and vambraces. In early Earth Season, when the temperature is going to be in the mid-20s.


The Sartarites do have game of “common ball” – the teams play it nearly as violently as a battle. Highly teamwork oriented, the game is played between two teams of usually 12 to 14 players each, with one ball. The rules of the game allow using hands. The teams try to throw the ball over the heads of the other team. There is line between the teams and another white line behind each team. Teams charge the ball often until one of the team is forced behind the line at their end.

Sun County expert and Chaosium vice-president MOB shared some of the hoplites’ own sports:

Long ago, the Sun Domers of Prax raised horses and entertained themselves with such games as polo or racing. Today, the people the Sun County no longer ride, and their passion is now a sophisticated martial sport called Shield Push.

Many people joined in with other suggestions: yodeling pageants, duck golf, belching and farting contests, eating competitions, greasy pig chases, and more.

What’s it all for? Well these are good opportunities to impress people with your skills, be they a prospective mentor, love interest, or chieftain with some promotions to hand out. This is also where rivalries are born or increased, and drama can strike!

Eat at Geo’s

Here’s a nice meal from Geo’s Inn at Duck Point. Maybe that’s for Claudia Loroff’s years-in-the-making Gloranthan Cookbook? Or maybe that’s just what they eat in Germany on the week-end, who knows.

Photo by Jeff Richard, cuisine by Claudia Loroff

Boldhome Pockets

Chaosium cartographer Matt Ryan shared his creative process to map the dwarven-built “pockets” of Boldhome, which were carved directly into the mountainside.

So my thinking was this: the people asked the dwarves to build them homes. The dwarves said sure, see you in a year (or however long, the point is it wasn’t a long meeting). The dwarves observed the people to see what they needed. They saw a short-lived species who ate constantly, revered their dead, honored their gods, kept pets, and bred prolifically. A herd creature that gathers in large groups. They wanted to give them heat and cooling and running water – advances the people didn’t have – and figured they might as well throw in forges and workshops because everybody uses forges and workshops, right? I figured it would be like a bunch of rabbits asking Frank Lloyd Wright to design their warren. Then I took a bunch of pictures from an old architectural textbook that was floating around the house, cropped them and repositioned them without much thought, letting the coffee-spirits guide me, and then threw labels on it.

This is of course a very early work-in-progress:

WIP by Matt Ryan © 2021 Chaosium Inc.

The Cradle Aftermath Continues

Michael O’Brien continues the history of Sun County (in Prax). It started in 1621 with the Giant Cradle came through Pavis, and we’re currently around 1624 if I’m not mistaken.

© 2021 Chaosium Inc.

I really recommend you read it (especially since it’s in on BRP Central and not behind some privacy wall like Facebook) because it contains a lot of great stuff:

  • A look at some recent politics between Pavis, Sun County, the Lunars, the Praxian tribes, etc.
  • Several heroquests, including a couple really big epic ones.
  • A good example of incorporating material from classic RuneQuest books such as NPCs from Runemasters, magical objects from Plunder, and scenario bits from Pavis and The Big Rubble.
  • The origin story of one of Glorantha’s most infamous figures: Melo Yelo the Yelmalion baboon!
  • …and just quite a few cool adventure ideas!

RuneQuest Thursday: Beastlords

The D-Infinity network continues their “RuneQuest Thursdays” (there are quite a few to check out!). It’s not actually every Thursday, but it’s always on a Thursday, so I guess the title is accurate… anyway, this week’s article is on “Beastlords”, a cabal of sorcerers who specialize in shapeshifting and other animalistic magic.

Elsewhere on Arachne Solara’s Web

Elder Scrolls: An Oral History

If you’ve played any of the Elder Scrolls games and wondered about some similarities with the world of Glorantha, you can check out this oral history Morrowind, courtesy of Polygon. In particular, note how the game’s lead designer Ken Rolston is also well known in roleplaying game circles for contributions to D&D, WFRP, and, of course, RuneQuest — in particular his role as editor during the first “RuneQuest Renaissance” under Avalon Hill. About Morrowind, he says:

I would also say that not video games, but games like RuneQuest Glorantha were a shared language for most of the writers: Kirkbride, Kuhlmann, and Todd to some extent.

Glorantha Wins the Totally Serious and Official “Best Setting” Frankenstein RPG Poll

The title basically sums it up:

And in case you don’t know about Frankenstein’s RPG, it’s a podcast in which guests talk about their favourite games and, collectively, try to put together a “perfect game”, if that’s even possible. Give it a listen!

Thank you for reading

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

Edit: a previous version of the text implied that wine was watered down in Sartar but that was I think a misreading of Jeff’s comments on Facebook. It has now been removed.

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