Journal of Runic Studies #57

2022-07-18

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.

Another busy week and, therefore, not too many annotations on Jeff’s posts. I’m also trying to find some free time to continue writing my grand “Goonies in Glorantha” campaign for the Jonstown Compendium, and the more I write, the more I realize I have more to write…

You might notice that some of Jeff’s posts from the week might be missing — this is because they haven’t been archived yet to the Well of Daliath (there’s a variable and understandable delay of a few days). I’m not going to include posts that are on Facebook but not on the Well here unless I copy/paste the entire text (so you can see what I’m talking about), but then it would create this weird thing where I can abridge archived posts, but not not-yet-archived ones. So there.

God Learner Sorcery

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

Pookie Reviews Ludovic’s Books

The ever prolific reviewer from R’lyeh, Pookie, has reviewed both my Jonstown Compendium books!

His review for Bog Struggles reads:

Bog Struggles: An Adventure for RuneQuest Glorantha is a useful and easy addition for any campaign where there is a river or area of wetland nearby, providing a delightfully strange and horrifying encounter with some wonderfully illustrated, oh so adorable, Newtlings.

His review for A Short Detour reads:

A Short Detour: An Adventure for RuneQuest Glorantha confronts the Player Characters with a moral dilemma and excellent opportunities for roleplaying supported with some fantastic NPCs.

Thanks for the review, Pookie! Everybody else, get my adventures if you haven’t already. A Short Detour is now a Silver Seller and is currently on sale, and Bog Struggles is a Copper Seller. Thanks to everybody who checked them out, and to the couple people who reached out with constructive feedback!

Chaosium News

Here are this week’s Chaosium news!

The Tome

Possibly inspired by the Journal of Runic Studies (although probably not), Chaosium is launching their own weekly newsletter! You can sign-up for The Tome here! There’s been only one issue so far, with only minimal marketing content, but I’m looking forward to see if there’s any more to it in time…

Editing QuestWorlds

The QuestWorlds rulebook is currently in the editing phase! Ian Cooper gives an update on it over on the Chaosium blog.

If you’re unfamiliar with QuestWorlds, this is the new name for the HeroQuest system, which itself was the new name for the HeroWars system. You could consider HeroWars (the Gloranthan roleplaying game published in 2000) as version 1.0, and HeroQuest (published in 2003 and 2009) as versions 1.5 and 2.0 respectively. In fact, the official HeroQuest 2nd edition was a generic ruleset, and was given an official Gloranthan supplement only in 2015.

The new QuestWorlds rulebook could be considered HeroQuest 2.5: the mechanics are pretty close, but a lot of streamlining has gone into it, making it feel much more modern. You know, the kind of stuff that also happened in Call of Cthulhu 7th edition and which I think RuneQuest so desperately needs. The QuestWorlds rulebook will be complemented with a second book that presents custom settings to play in.

Chaosium Board Games on Sale

© 2022 Chaosium Inc.

The delighful Gloranthan game Khan of Khans is on sale, along with a few other board games from Chaosium. Khan of Khans can be summarized as a “Praxian cattle raiding push your luck game”: it’s very simple, and it’s pretty quick. It’s a great way to introduce Glorantha to unsuspecting people (including children), and it won two Gold Ennies!

Ennies 2022 Nominations

Speaking of Ennies, the 2022 nominations are up! As always, I only know a small fraction of the titles in the list, and I’ll spend the next few weeks checking out all the other ones… Neither RuneQuest nor Glorantha feature in the list, but Chaosium got some nominations through their Call of Cthulhu line.

Frankly I think the RuneQuest Starter Set could have been nominated for best cover, and maybe best cartography (I have too many reservations about the rest of the box to imagine it could have qualified in any other categories, even though I think it’s one of the best starter sets out there).

The Well of Daliath Got Renovated

Chaosium’s Gloranthan resource site got some cosmetic upgrade and looks noticeably better than before! This is a good opportunity to check it out and discover the many interesting archived documents it contains… once again, this Timeline of Dragon Pass in the Third Age is among my most used resources!

Jonstown Compendium

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

Children of Hykim

© 2022 Brian Duguid & Chaosium Inc.

It’s finally out! Everything you wanted to know about the Hsunchen, the “totem animal people of Glorantha”. Almost 160 pages of good stuff:

Twenty-one Hsunchen tribes living in the western and central parts of the continent of Genertela are described across the space of 158 pages, alongside extensive information regarding their culture, myth, technology, magic and more.

The book explains how to create a Hsunchen adventurer, gives tips on using them as adventurers or as non-player characters, ideas for high-level campaigns, and even information on Hsunchen Heroquesting!

A Brazen Visage

© 2022 Paul Baker & Chaosium Inc.

Paul Baker has released this “short adventure” (even though it’s almost 50 pages) set in the Arfritha Vale of Sartar. For those who have it, it contains material that expands Paul’s Red Deer Saga.

Stormspearia Books on Sale

Simon Phipp reports that Secrets of Dorastor, Book of Doom, and Holyday Dorastor: Seven Hills have been “tantalisingly close to new medal statuses”, so there’s a sale going on! It’s a special sale handled by Simon directly however, so get the details here.

Another Jonstown Compendium Platinum Seller

© 2022 Martin Helsdon & Chaosium Inc.

Armies and Enemies of Dragon Pass, one of the inaugural offerings on the Compendium, has hit Platinum Seller status, joining Six Seasons in Sartar in that lofty category. Congratulations to Martin Helsdon!

Jeff’s Notes

Jeff Richard, the current mastermind on everything Gloranthan at Chaosium, is often posting notes and thoughts on the RuneQuest Facebook group. Here’s our curated list from the past week. A partial archive of these sources is compiled on the Well of Daliath.

A few notes on Lunar Army organization

Jeff presents the Lunar file of 25 men, consisting of three (!) half-files of six men with a file leader each, an officer plus three attendants.

A Cluster of Storm Gods

Guest segment by Joerg

Art by Katrin Dirim © 2022 Chaosium Inc.

Jeff gives another preview of the prosopaedia, and some details on Eurmal.

Eurmal? Eurmal is a deeper old thing. Surpassed Ratslaff as the deity of Disorder, and surpassed Tylenea as the deity of Illusion. The Trickster appears early, small and comical, but was involved in so many world-changing events that some philosophers think the Trickster is somehow tied to the Gods War itself.

In Fronela, Eurmal the Firebringer aka Friend of Men takes on an almost Promethean role. In one of Greg’s unfinished novels the Dawn Age Brithini and Seshnegi associated the Pole Star with Eumal the Lightbringer. This rather unusual positive image of Eurmal may have encouraged our Slontan God Learner colleagues to start the Trickster academy in their lands.

The fools!

The Lightbringers Pantheon

Art by Katrin Dirim © 2022 Chaosium Inc.

And here’s another similar preview, this time with the Lightbringers. There’s a bunch of names that I don’t know in there… but I love how Time is shown as an offspring of Arachne Solara and Wakboth. That’s one way to see it! Jeff also adds:

Sharp-eyed viewers might note a few apparent contradictions with previous genealogies but I assure these are knowing and accepted by cult members.

Lords of Terror

Art by Katrin Dirim © 2022 Chaosium Inc.

And since we were talking about Wakboth, here’s the genealogy of the “Lords of Terror”! I really love Katrin’s designs, here, she totally outdid her already usual excellent self with these pieces.

RQ Campaign book Sneak Peek

© 2022 Chaosium Inc.

Jeff gives a rough outline of the early phases of the Great Argrath Campaign. It’s interesting to see that the “high level view” of the events, wars, and notable changes to the world are not just in Dragon Pass. Maybe the campaign book will be focused on Dragon Pass but still have some hints and scenario seeds for adventuring elsewhere…

The changes to cults (including new ones!), magical techniques, and heroquesting are probably the most interesting to me. More Eurmal clown societies? Yes please!

Lunar Settlers

Here are a few more notes on Lunar colonization practices, such as when the Empire sends farmers to the Praxian Grantlands. Plus: the difference between a Talastar farmer, a Carmanian farmer, a Redland farmer, and more!

One bit particularly jumped at me towards the end:

In Dragon Pass there were some rebels who were sent to other areas in the Lunar Empire as settlers. Members of the Maboder, Culbrea, Sambari, and Kheldon tribes, as well as from Far Point and the Bush Ranges, were forcibly relocated to settle in Talastar, Vanch, and the Doblian satrapy. The total numbers were likely not great – perhaps no more than a thousand in total.

My players have been causing trouble in the Far Point, and have been asking for some travel in the next part of our campaign… maybe getting sent to one of those far-away lands by the Lunar occupiers would totally work? (we’re currently playing in 1617) Plus, we would get to visit places that haven’t been covered much by published material!

There’s also a bit more on the topic in this other Facebook thread about the Borderlands campaign:

Let’s start by remembering how few people [were in Raus’ lands]. In the “Grantlands” (and by that we mean the Zola Fel valley between Sun County and the Rosgali Sea), had 10k people in total at its height. 4k of those are river folk associated with Corflu, plus maybe another 2k farmers at the river mouth. So let’s say there were 4k Grantland settlers in total, maybe half of them in Raus’ domains.

The nomads want the rich grasslands of the river valley. Left to the nomads alone, the likely fate is for those settlers to become the newest oasis people in Prax. But the nomads accept the leadership of a Sartarite, and Argrath (or his senior lieutenants) is certainly open to a deal where the settlements acknowledge his rule and come under the protection of the White Bull. Some raiding will of course take place, but low-level, like what happens in the Guardian Hills.

Yelmalio’s Sons

Or, rather, lack thereof:

Yelmalio founded no dynasties and is rarely claimed as the father of other deities or spirits. He is the god of Light, the bringer of Victory, and the upholder of justice. He was born when Yelm was murdered, a blindingly bright glare of magnificence like light from the sun. The light took the form of a new god and stepped into the world.

Unlike his uncle Dayzatar, Yelmalio is willing to get his hands dirty in this world. But I do not know of any child he created.

And:

Yelmalio is the Light. Since he is a part of Yelm (Yelm’s light made manifest) if you want to you can say that the children of Yelm are children of Yelmalio.

In Dragon Pass, the Yelmalio cult at the Sun Dome Temple are dedicated to the Light God. They might also worship the plough god Barntar (which they consider the son of Orlanth and Ernalda). Yelmalio competes with Orlanth over Ernalda – she is the great Earth Goddess, and that competition symbolises the competition between Air and Fire/Sky over the Earth. Yelmalio’s cultists certainly can procreate with Ernalda’s priestesses!

You might think about this way – Yelmalio’s Light blesses others to procreate and to live. 

Sorcerers and Familiars

It sounds like RuneQuest 3rd edition had something about sorcerers needing a “familiar”, as in: some magical companion animal. Although it might not be uncommon in Glorantha, it sounds like it’s not really mandatory — and for those who want them, a familiar can be modeled in RuneQuest Glorantha with an awakened animal and/or a bound spirit.

Malkioni sorcerers do not generally use familiars (in fact, there is no Create Familiar spell in the RQG core rules). They bind spirits, dominate spirits, elementals, and animals, and generally do as they will (within whatever limits set by tradition and by their sect).

But more interestingly, Jeff illustrates how diverse sorcerers might be with some numbers:

If we assume about 3% of the adult population in Malkioni lands belong to the zzaburi caste (which is probably high), that would mean that there are some 60,000 members of that caste in Seshnela, spread out through a total population of 2.88 million people. So there is a LOT of room for variation in what they do. Some might be attached the household of a talar ruler, others be responsible for the spiritual and magical care of a village, or work directly for the Rokari School. Still others might work for whoever pays them.

There’s more in this follow-up comment, including this clarification about Malkionism:

This is something that a lot of people don’t seem to get about Malkionism – it is humanist. It places mortal beings (let’s be more accurate, it places humans) at the center of the universe. Gods, spirits, animals, nature, plants, and everything else – we mortals have a right to overcome them and either place them in our service or remove them. Now it is perfectly acceptable for that to be done through an bargain (every year we exchange gifts with the elves of Tarinwood), or for a god to agree to aid us because it is an ancestor of ours, but we mortals do not need to submit to the senile demands of the gods to gain magic – we can simply take it through out intellect and will.

Caste Rightness

In a spin-off BRP Central thread of the previous one on sorcerers, Jeff shared a sneak peek at the Invisible God cult write-up, including some hint at mechanics for “Caste Rightness”:

Each caste has duties and restrictions which must be maintained to remain a member of the caste.  This is represented by the RIGHTNESS characteristic for Malkioni initiates. Initiates start with a RIGHTNESS of one. RIGHTNESS may have a score greater than one, representing the initiate’s reserve of righteousness. If a character’s RIGHTNESS is less than zero, that character may no longer use any caste magic or special abilities and risks being thrown out of their caste and exiled from Malkioni society.

Read the whole thing here, plus more about “piety” here.

Why Did Pavis Come To This Place?

If you’re like me and you’re confused about the history of Pavis, Jeff has a bullet-point summary of, well, not the whole thing, but the whole origin story at least. It’s still confusing but hey, it’s something. Although the obvious question that follows is probably even trickier: does this convoluted backstory even matter in a game?

Rune Magic Designer’s Notes

I complained in last week’s Journal that Jeff too often explains game design decisions as Gloranthan fact, as if Glorantha existed for real and Chaosium was just documenting it… so I’m happy to report some occurrence of an “actual” behind the scenes look at the design thought process that went into RuneQuest, namely Rune Magic:

In the original draft rules, you got access to ALL cult Rune spells at initiation – the only restriction was your total number of Rune points. Although this played fine and modelled Greg’s stories well, it had two problems:

1. Major problem – most players didn’t know their spells! If you start with three or four spells, the players (not the characters) tend to learn their spells quickly and then can build up from that. Too many spells at the get-go results somewhat paradoxically in a block in play as the player spends time looking up their options and reading about them.

2. How to handle subcults and associate cults. These tend to be localised and differ from temple to temple so it makes no sense for them all to be available upon joining a cult.

So we changed it so you got one Rune spell each time you spent a point of POW or by doing a favour to the temple or by offering something to the temple. That can be any of the special spells known to the temple, a subcult spell, or an associated cult recognised at the temple. That system works well.

But if your goal is to keep players from using the most interesting spells the cult has to offer, well that is NOT THE POINT. Not at all. My advice – let them have their fun instead of trying to block it.

Sounds good to me!

Miscellaneous Notes

Here’s what else Jeff posted about last week:

  • Some thoughts on stone masonry, and its dwarven origins.
  • Fronela, a strange place that recently emerged from the Syndic’s Ban. This is where you get your “classic sword and sorcery”, including Sog City, “Greg’s answer to Lankhmar”.
  • Notes on heroes and what they represent.
  • Some population numbers for the “civilized” part of Prax.
  • A comparison of Safelster with the Aztec city-states of Lake Texcoco in medieval Central America (among other possible inspirations).

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.

Keith Nellist’s Board Games

Guest segment by Joerg

Keith Nellist regularly posts drawings on Facebook. Recently he has started to put out covers that he drew for the various board game adaptations to Glorantha, some of which he has shared on various online media, others works in progress or rather works indeterminately delayed.

© 2022 Keith Nellist & Chaosium Inc.

Careless Tork Costs Lives appeared in the “raider’s digest” in 2000. It is a scenario for Dragon Pass, for three players, set during the Tarsh Civil War.

The Raiders Digest was a fan project from the GloranthaBoard mailing list (archived here, with many other mailing lists and forums on the topic of Glorantha, RuneQuest, HeroQuest and other Chaosium games). Keith also produced a number of historical Gloranthan games based on the mechanics of Britannia. The games Peloria, Kralorela and Fronela, which were published in the online PDF fanzine Rule One, might give you an idea about the kind of work that goes into these projects.

© 2022 Keith Nellist & Chaosium Inc.

The Composite History of Dragon Pass is an unfinished project, but still received the cover above. There are a lot more such covers, some spoof, some tied to projects.

A nice puzzle hides in this image:

© 2022 Keith Nellist & Chaosium Inc.

Note from Ludo: I’ve got no idea what I’m looking at… does anybody besides Joerg?

There is a lot more similar old project covers on Keith’s Facebook page.

Humakti Questing, Beer With Teeth Style

Guest segment by Joerg

Repeat podcast guest Diana Probst, aka Berra from Beer With Teeth, gave this after-action report of a Humakti quest gone weird back in 2019.

Some of Richard’s Broos

Richard Whitecraft has many broos… so watch out! (more pictures at the link)

Darkness Spirit Miniature

This scene is from Chris Went, and I love it!

The Great Library of Nochet

Michael Blum has made this awesome floorplan for the Great Library of Nochet! Shaped like the Truth Rune, of course…

Thank you for reading

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

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