Journal of Runic Studies 79


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.

I’ve been sick for the last few days so you get a minimal newsletter this week. Thankfully, it started after I recorded the December episode of the podcast. I’m hoping it will be over soon so I can get on with the editing!

Chaosium News

Here are this week’s Chaosium news!

This Was a Down Year for Glorantha

Chaosium posted a 2022 wrap-up and it’s been a bit sad for Glorantha gamers. The following is Chaosium’s mosaic of all 2022 releases:

© 2022, Chaosium Inc.

The first thing to note is that RuneQuest’s Weapons & Equipment was actually released in December 2021 in PDF. The same goes for Call of Cthulhu’s Keeper Tips, Cults of Cthulhu, and A Time To Harvest (which is curiously missing from the mosaic… probably an oversight). The physical books, however, were released this year and, fun fact, because of the Canadian warehouse debacle, I have only just received my print copies of these books this week, pretty much a year after my PDF purchase. Even if you account for the books going to the printer after the “crowdsourced proof-reading” in late January, that should give you an idea of how fucked the printing and shipping industry is right now.

So… there was only one RuneQuest book out this year (the other two Glorantha-related books are great, don’t get me wrong, but they’re for a niche market and don’t contain gaming material). And I know that some people will consider Weapons & Equipment to have been released in 2021, making it zero new books this year in their mind. Meanwhile, books that have been teased for the past couple years are still in the pipeline. Four-year-old references to the Gamemaster’s Guide printed in the rulebook are not fulfilled. There has been no announcements on VTT support for RuneQuest, despite an original intention to have that ready for the Starter Set. And of course there’s the heroquesting rules.

The first thing that comes to me is “over-stretched”. There was a lot going on in 2022: a Call of Cthulhu anniversary, a new IP with Rivers of London, restarting the Cthulhu Mythos fiction line. Plus things not visible in the above mosaic: investments in social media, the Chaosium YouTube channel, conventions (including organizing ChaosiumCon!), and the rise in popularity of Call of Cthulhu, (edit, added december 20th) the publishing of other games like Upwind and Wurm, which were quickly reverted… (end edit) Then there’s the ongoing stuff: another IP with Lords of the Middle Sea, the next edition of Pendragon, and who knows what else (Mythic Earth?). I assume this is why we’ve seen Chaosium hire and promote several people these past two years: to have enough people to work on all this stuff. But hey that’s only my uneducated guess, I’m not “in the know” or anything. I’m just writing random shit on my own blog. That’s what blogs are for.

© 2022, Chaosium Inc.

Anyway I’m not holding my breath for much in 2023. I predict that we will only see the Prosopaedia and some accessories like spell cards plus, maybe, one of the cults books or the Gamemaster Guide (that’s a big “maybe“). In fact, I think that’s probably the sort of bandwidth Chaosium can afford yearly at the moment: three or four Call of Cthulhu books, one or two books for the other IPs (RuneQuest, 7th Sea, Pendragon, Rivers of London), and a collection of miscellaneous stuff like accessories, memorabilia, reprints, or quickstart adventures for new IPs.

© 2022, Nick Brooke & Chaosium Inc.

But you know what’s been great? The Jonstown Compendium! If you want gaming material, it’s all there! While we wait for official products, passionate and talented people are sharing their take on Glorantha and RuneQuest, and it’s just as valuable and worthy of your dollars as Chaosium’s take. It’s the Gloranthan community that’s keeping bronze age fantasy gaming alive, and that’s awesome to see. Is it the 1990s all over again? 1

1 Don’t answer that, I wasn’t around for that so I have no idea. Random shit, my blog, and all that, remember?

A New Hero Episode 11

I haven’t caught up to it yet, but the PCs are now apparently fighting the big bad evil NPC… and that messes up with their mind!

Statement About AI Art

Given Chaosium’s previous fumble with tech-bro stuff, I was pretty happy to see this statement come out of their social media department. It’s brief and to the point, in that it addresses the main issue with AI art: it’s often trained on a lot of artists’ work without their consent, allowing people to create imitations of those works without the original artists ever seeing a dollar or even a credit.

By the way, when looking at any machine-learning technology, keep this in mind: the dataset used to train the AI will almost always be problematic. This is how you have face recognition AI that can’t detect black people’s faces. This will likely keep being a problem for the foreseeable future, and will make the world a little worse, one bit at a time. But hey, I’m French, so I tend to be pessimistic about these things… (although we don’t call it “pessimistic” in France, we call it “realistic”)

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 is Available in Print

© 2022 Brian Duguid & Chaosium Inc.

Yes, it’s here! With the amazing new cover! If you want to know more about the Hsunchen, you can listen to us talking to the author, Brian Duguid, in a recent episode of the podcast.

A Weather Eye Open

© 2022 Drew Baker & Chaosium Inc.

Drew Baker released this sequel to his Highways and Byways, which contained travel information for all of Dragon Pass and Prax’s routes. The new book, A Weather Eye Open, deals with the “much-underestimated potential for using weather in your RuneQuest gameplay”. It has tables for generating your campaign’s weather, and some pre-generated ones for a couple of locations if you’re in a hurry.

Pamaltela Campaign Map

© 2022 Dario Corallo & Chaosium Inc.

Last week Dario Corallo released a Dorastor campaign map… this is now followed up by the more exotic Pamaltela campaign map. Dario has a word of warning:

This map is 18 year old…
It was made for Unspoken Word people. Times are good for a new generation of players to see (and maybe use) it.

So the map may not be consistent with the Argan Argar Atlas, since it predates it. No problem! This gives you more options!

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.

The Bad Side of Sartar

Last week Jeff talked about one of the Lunar Empire’s atrocities. In the spirit equality, he’s now also talking about the bad stuff in the Kingdom of Sartar’s history.

[…] at the end of the day they are Orlanthi.

That means constantly dealing with challenges to your authority and to the established status quo. That means dealing with demands for vengeance everytime someone is harmed. Cattle raiding is a sport. Your ruling cult demands its members display heroic arete and virtus, which means your leadership class is constantly insisting on displays of honor – which causes feuds, death, and upheaval.

So if I get this right, the Lunar Empire commits atrocities but everyday life for normal citizens in the Heartlands or most Provinces is pretty quiet and safe. Meanwhile, the Kingdom of Sartar does not commit atrocities but everyday life is violent and unstable… mmmh. I’ll add that Sartar and his heirs have been up to some shady stuff, too, like stealing secrets from the dwarfs.

Worshipping a turbulent God of Heroes with a strong destroyer aspect carries with it some social implications.

And a thief too. Orlanth stole the Sandals of Darkness from the trolls, and that’s why he has Darkwalk as a Rune spell.

But it is important to remember that the Orlanthi are not “primitives” – any more than the ancient Greeks, Vedic Indians, or Silk Road kingdoms were “primitives”. In terms of art, craft, literature, etc., they are very much the equal of the Lunar Heartlands.

Machine City and God Forgot

Here’s a note about sorcery, how it’s not always spells, and what happened with it in God Forgot:

In the Second Age, the God Learners tried to understand the world through observation, analysis, and reason. One group of God Learners tried to duplicate the result of magic through material devices and machines. They settled in the area called God Forgot (which was part of the Middle Sea Empire) and founded the so called Machine City. They built war machines (including a giant harpoon firing crossbow now in Sun County), armoured self-propelled vehicles, and developed techniques of mass assembly of parts and even of magic weapons. This is all “sorcery” – or at least the product of the sorcerous “scientific” approach. Ultimately, they constructed their own “god machine”. But the gods found this intolerable and the Empire of the Wyrms Friends and the Old Way Traditionalists worked together to destroy the Machine City.

The ruins of this city are still around, so you can visit them! It sounds basically like the remnants of a Gloranthan steampunk fad from the Second Age. The name of the local god trying to rebuild the machine(s) might even be too much on the nose:

Leonardo is a local of God Forgot who has rediscovered some of this. Likely a genius in his own right, he’s built an Ornithopter, and various other devices. He’s likely already come up with the plans for countless others. If he could get enough financing and support, who knows what he could build – or even worse, what devices within the Machine Ruins he could restore to working order!

Runic Personality Traits

Jeff gives a bit of a backstory on the RuneQuest Runic personality traits. You won’t be surprised to learn that they come from Pendragon, but have been merged into the Rune stats to prevent having too many stats.

At some point we realized that with Man versus Beast, we could throw a polarity of social mores and instinct – civilization versus nature.

And so we have Man and Beast. Works well for most of the Elder Races – at least those with the Man Rune (e.g, trolls, ducks, tusk riders, beast people, etc.). With elves we use the Plant Rune, instead of Beast, as they are vegetables not animals.

Note that a human initiate of Aldrya with the plant Rune- like a human initiate of Kyger Litor – isn’t a human anymore.

If you want to know more about Runic personality traits, Passions, and the history behind them, listen to the excellent David Scott on our episode on this very topic!

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.

Jonstown Jottings in R’lyeh

© 2022 Pookie

I haven’t checked back on Pookie’s blog in a litte while (sorry Pookie!) but I want to remind everybody that his blog, Reviews From R’lyeh, has a treasure trove of RPG product reviews.

Note that this is the “review after having read it” sort of reviews, which I find useful for knowing what’s in a book and whether I should bother buying it or not. It’s different from the “review after playing it” sort of reviews, which I tend to reach for when I’m about to play that purchased book.

Anyway, as a Gloranthan adept, Pookie reviewed most of the material on the Jonstown Compendium under the label “Jonstown Jottings“. The last few reviews include:

Feel free to explore Pookie’s website! There’s, like, a 98% chance that whatever you want to know about in the RPG world, Pookie has read it and posted about it.

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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