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.
Happy Sacred Time everybody! And yes, I know, late December doesn’t map, in the meteorological or celestial sense, to Sacred Time, but I’m going with the cultural correspondence here. And I’m not the only one. So happy Sacred Time indeed! May your harvest rolls bring you fortune.
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!
Desire for Knowledge
This new adventure from Niall Sullivan takes place in Jonstown, so it’s ideal for those of you who just finished the Starter Set!
The player characters are contacted by a sage in the Jonstown Library, who offers them payment to recover a dangerous scroll. The scroll is hidden in a townhouse formerly owned by an official of the Lunar Empire. It is also haunted by ghosts and spirits, and caution is warranted.
The Way: Paths of Enlightenment
How do you work towards enlightenment in Kralorela and Teshnos? Paul Baker has some answers for you. Expect martial arts discipline and Kralorelan monks.
Secrets of Dorastor: Personalities Tactics
Simon Phipp and Stormspearia continue their coverage of Dorastor with more than a hundred of pages on the major NPCs of the area and their tactics — by which I suppose they’re NPCs you’re going to definitely fight.
This is of course meant to be a companion piece to Secrets of Dorastor.
Temple Hill: The Acropolis
This is a new entry in Dario Corallo’s VTT offering: a VTT map of a “temple hill” with several locations and some encounter suggestions.
Big Rubble Campaign Map
Still from Dario Corallo, this is another entry in the “campaign map” series, this time covering the Big Rubble. Unlike the classic 1983 map from the Big Rubble boxed set, this one is in colour.
The Jaldonkillers Might Come Back
Shawn Carpenter, one half of Troupe Games, has recently announced on Mastodon that Peggy and himself are back at work on their Questworld-powered “Jaldonkillers Saga”.
You might remember that “Valley of Plenty” was one of the early offerings of the Jonstown Compendium, and pretty much the only book using Questworld instead of RuneQuest as its game system. We even interviewed Shawn and Peggy on the podcast at the time! But “Valley of Plenty” was later pulled from sales, and the sequel cancelled.
Thankfully, it sounds like Shawn and Peggy had a change of heart and are coming back to Glorantha, with what sounds like a remastered and expanded version of the first book, in addition to its sequel:
Work is proceeding apace on the Valley of Plenty 2e, a beginner’s Glorantha campaign setting for use with Chaosium’s soon-to-be released QuestWorlds rules. The new book will be larger than the first (which was a respectable size) and will contain more adventures, story-seeds, and activities in addition to expanded setting information so you can linger over the Wildlings childhood if you wish.
The 2nd book of the Jaldonkiller Saga will be released concurrently with Valley of Plenty.
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.
Top Five Elder Races
Jeff gives his top 5 elder races, with just a short paragraph for each. Not much to say except… well here’s my top 5 elder races! It’s hard to make a list though. I’m 100% convinced that if you asked me again tomorrow, I would give you a different list. But right now, these ones are on my mind:
5. Dragonewts and Mostali (tied): they’re weird and hard to understand, so they are great tools for the gamemaster! They let you bring unusual themes to your fantasy game, like steampunk and science-fiction and cosmic enlightenment and weird dreams.
4. Baboons: they’re funny, they’re dangerous, they’re creepy, they’re annoying: baboons just make any Gloranthan game better! I need to add more baboons to my game…
3. Uz: the trolls are cool because they have such a well developed culture and mythology in Glorantha. In particular, I love the Gorakkiki side of their society, with trollkin riding giant beetles and Rune Lords fighting on giant praying mantis back. I also love Cragspider, the scheming semi-goddess who has a pet True Dragon and a direct line to the God Time.
2. Voralans (aka “Black Elves”): these fungi elves bridge the world of Plant and Darkness. They’re way more spread out and connected than anyone thinks, they have an incredibly underrated diversity, they know weird-ass fungal sorcery, and nobody knows what they’re up to. They’re awesome because we only know a tiny fraction of what they’re about.
1. Tusk Riders: as I said in our episode on the topic, these are my favourite villains of Glorantha. They’re mean, they dangerous, they’re vicious, but they also have quite a lot of under-studied history and magic. Who knows what secrets you might uncover if you took the risk to go snoop around the Ivory Plinth?
What’s your ranking?
The Origin of Belintar
Belintar was the God-King of the Holy Country, a man who one day just literally swam ashore, said hi, and unified all the lands around the Choralintor Bay. He built a highly magical kingdom, became semi-immortal, and was eventually too cool for his own good and got terminated by Jar-eel and the Lunar Empire. But where did he actually come from?
Greg and I both agreed never to publish a definitive answer as to the origin of Belintar. If the Only Old One couldn’t learn his origins, your player characters sure as heck won’t!
That being said there are plenty of popular theories about Belintar. Here’s three that you can hear throughout the Holy Country and Dragon Pass, all of which have some kernels of truth (and also falsehood):
The theories are: (1) he’s the last of the God Learners, (2) he is a powerful Heroquester from the Second Age, (3) he’s a god that fell from the Celestial River when the Boat Planet disappeared with the Closing of the Seas, and (4) he’s the Red Emperor’s twin. With each theory Jeff gives a small argument for it.
Theories one and two are somewhat the same (some heroquesting expert that got lost in the God Time during the Second Age and took a few centuries to get out) and I don’t really find them compelling. By now someone would have found traces of someone matching Belintar’s description in old Second Age documents… I don’t believe that (1) we lost so many records that we wouldn’t be able to correlate this or that (2) he was a nobody who somehow became super powerful by getting lost in the God Time for a long time. That just feels a bit lame to me… but I could see it work if I were to send my players into some old Middle Sea Empire ruins to find old documents, and they start uncovering some lost truths about Belintar… mmmh.
The fourth theory falls completely flat with me — I’m not into the whole “cosmic resonance” that some Gloranthaphiles seem to be into. You say “cosmic resonance” and I say “plot devices and ex-machina”.
So it’s theory number three for me: a god that somehow fell down, escaped, got kicked out, or otherwise left the Gods World up there and ended up down here.
Nobody knows for certain what Belintar’s origin was, but as I said there are kernels of truth in all of these. What is definitively not true is that he was a time traveler from the future or from another world.
Here’s a note on the Loper, a strange creature you can find on page 150 of the Glorantha Bestiary. Its main feat is the ability to teleport at will. I’m sure more than one sorcerer tried to study this creature closely in order to replicate this.
Jeff doesn’t give out any information that can’t be gleaned from the Bestiary, but I do appreciate it when people call out stuff from the main books like this: it’s easy to miss or forget some of these things, unless you’re a brainy weirdo like Austin Conrad who reads these books front to back and remembers them…
Moon deities in Glorantha are a giant mess. There were several of them before the Gods War, many died, other were forgotten, and now there’s the giant mythical mish-mash that is the Red Goddess. Jeff gives the simplified version of this Gloranthan lunar business:
In the God Time, Glorantha had a moon or moons, sometimes described as blue, red, or even purple. Most give a celestial origin for this Lunar Goddess, calling her the daughter of Aether or Yelm; others give her an Underworld origin, calling her the daughter of Primal Darkness and the Primal Waters. Still others make her an impossible pairing of Celestial and Underworld powers.
During the Gods War, the Lunar Goddess was cast down from heaven and shattered. Some say it was by Orlanth, others blame Mostal, and still other’s blame Yelm’s vengeful kin. The moon fell to earth in many pieces, the largest being the Blue Moon Plateau in Peloria.
This text is from the Glorantha Sourcebook, with a few very small edits, such as the rather ominous addition of “or moons” in the first sentence. So did Glorantha have several lunar deities who died and fell to the ground in multiple shapes and locations? Or did Glorantha have only one lunar body that was multi-faceted enough for the Dara Happans and other early cultures to find multiple aspects to worship?
To make things more complicated, these different aspects were then taken back by the Lunars into their mythology, as different “phases” of the Red Goddess. So for example, the moon goddess known as a daughter of Yelm is often known under the name Verithurusa (or Verithurus if you look back into Dara Happan documents). In Lunar mythology, she’s associated with the Full Half Moon. But then again there’s also another moon goddess named Zaytenara that was also the daughter of Yelm (which was known as Zaytenaras by the Dara Happans). That’s the White Moon, and is associated with the Full Moon.
Like I said, it’s a giant mess, and best left to the Lunar sages to debate. But I’m sure that if you look closely enough into it, you’ll figure out how the Seven Mothers helped Sedenya piece herself together in the Zero Wane. The recipe (shards of dead moon goddesses, sugar, spice, everything nice, Chaos!) is bound to bring you some really precious insights if you want to bring down the Empire, or, say, revolutionize it…
Jeff here goes with the simplest option of the singular lunar goddess being rebuilt by the Seven Mothers:
In the Third Age of Time, seven individuals came together to bring about the rebirth of the Lunar Goddess. They were occult conspirators whom desperation and ambition had brought together. They sought out parts of a deity which they believed would be able to help them, gathering pieces of the long-forgotten Lunar Goddess, who had been dismembered and scattered during the Gods War. The result was the birth of the Red Goddess.
Personally I prefer the multiple-moons option, because that makes the Red Goddess into a Frankenstein-monster-god, instead of a resurrected goddess, even if Jeff does add this:
Note that the Red Goddess is far more and far greater than her broken parts.
The Red Moon
Remember that the Red Moon hangs stationary in the sky above Glamour in the middle of Genertela. So there’s a good chance that your Dragon Pass or Prax adventurers can see this ominous orb out there in the sky when there’s no mountain or cloud blocking the view:
Remember the Red Moon does not rise or set, nor does it move with the Sky Dome. It remains motionless in the sky, cycling between Red and Back every week.
This is one of the main features of Glorantha but I didn’t realize it at first when I discovered the setting. This was one of my “oh really?” moments.
The Guide is definitive about the Red Moon. See page 648. We went over a LOT of variations while writing this up. That is a big part of the reasoning for the Guide – you can go to it for a lot of these questions. There is more on the Red Moon in the Lunar Mythology book, but it is built off the Guide.
Jeff also gives out a few details about relative celestial body sizes and solar eclipses (or lack thereof).
Don’t Forget the Sea Gods
Jeff reminds us that the Sea Gods are super powerful… in the right places. Dragon Pass and Prax being landlocked, these water gods don’t have much presence there. Even the rain and river gods tend to be minor, because people can get their precipitation and plant growing from Orlanth and Ernalda. But out there on the coasts and in the oceans, the water gods reign supreme over a whole different world that we might not often explore in our games.
But we often forget that more than half the world is covered by waters. And those waters go deep – the Homeward Ocean has at its center the great whirlpool formed by Magasta that goes to the Underworld and deeper.
Within the Deeps are deities of great power that are rarely worshiped (or even known) by humans. Greatest is Magasta, the Lord of the Waters. There is Wachaza, his son, a terrible and cruel god of Death. There is Triolina, the Source of Life. There is Daliath, Guardian of Secret Wisdom, and Nelat, the God of Purification. There are great spirits that animate the waters – ruled by a deity popularly called King Undine. There are the gods of the various seas, who are the master of the currents and the waves.
These deities are mainly worshiped by the Triolini, and possess secrets unknown to the humans of the Third Age. There are the Waertagi, who have returned to the seas, seeking vengeance upon the land humans that banished them with the Closing.
And within the Deep is Chaos as well. The endless hunger of Gloomshark, the End of All Things. The great white shark with dead eyes that consumes all. With the triumph of Chaos, even death may die.
Jeff couldn’t resist throwing a Cthulhu reference there at the end…
Some of my players have expressed some interest in doing a circumnavigation of Glorantha, like Harrek and Argrath did (and possibly doing with with them!) so I’ve been thinking about this a bit. I’d love to send those adventurers to places where their skills and magic are half-useless!
Jeff talks about Arkat… I’m not ready to go there yet so I’ll slowly back away. But there’s some good stuff for modern Arkati factions:
So if you want to imagine modern Arkat cults, here’s what they might have – access to what Arkat taught them (sorcery spells, knowledge of the Hero Plane, etc.), secret Illumination techniques (but this is known only to a few cults), and some spirits defeated by or allied to Arkat. Any Rune magic would come from some lesser hero – a grandchild or great grandchild of Arkat or the descendant of some other companion or friend. But the real magic of Arkat is lost to all.
And some more. Check it out!
Here’s a collection of Jeff’s thoughts on how to think about Gloranthan communities. Note in particular how he recommends including the human factor into the equation: organization charts and cult membership spreadsheets do tell a picture of who’s powerful and who’s not, but that picture can be heavily distorted by the particular personalities, followings, and histories of this or that cult leader, tribal king, or temple priest.
The Lightbringers’ Quest
A small note about Harmast’s Lightbringers’ Quest, and the actual invocation of Orlanth, in case you don’t have King of Sartar or the Book of Heortling Mythology (which both contain a form of this text).
More generally speaking, Jeff reminds us that the Lightbringers’ Quest isn’t a “resurrection quest”. It’s a quest to fix the cosmos when it is threatened by something you can identify with the Devil:
In the end, Orlanth and the Lightbringers bring back to the cosmos what everyone, gods and mortals alike, needs – the Cosmic Compromise which enables the defeat of the Devil. The result is necessary but unwanted – Time. The cosmos survives because of that and the Grand Order is restored.
That’s the trick to understanding the Lightbringers Quest. It is not some paltry resurrection quest – although that is a part of it. The purpose of Harmast’s Lightbringers Quest was not to resurrect Arkat, but to make possible the defeat of Gbaji (an incarnation of the Devil).
You don’t worship Jar-eel for the Rune Magic. You worship her for the cool t-shirts and access to her newsletter.
The community roundup is our highlight of interesting things being mentioned in the Glorantha-related Facebook groups, sub-Reddits, and other similar online places.
How to Become an Elf
Rune stats in RuneQuest are a funny thing, especially the Form Runes. Humans are on the gradient between the Man Rune and the Beast Rune, but gain even 1% in some other Form Rune and you’re supposedly not human anymore. A bit of the Spirit Rune and you’re partly a discorporate spirit… whatever that means. And a bit of the Plant Rune and you’re, well, partly a plant. Or maybe entirely a plant. Hard to say — the dichotomy between the Plant and Man Runes that you find in Aldryami stat blocks relates to their personality, their nature, and their alignment with cosmic forces, not their biological composition. They’re 100% plants on that regard…
So what does it mean when a non-elf acquires the Plant Rune through initiation into the Aldrya cult? Well they might become 100% plants too. David Scott shared the non-elf initiation path for Aldrya (from the upcoming Cults books) and it’s pretty savage:
- A non-elven candidate first must prove themselves to the Council of Elders with an average POW & CHA roll x5.
- Then must succeed skill test on 5 set skills.
- Then candidate must perform an unspeakable deed to their species, which is always criminal in every human sense (this is a secret kept from non-initiates).
- Then sacrifice 1 point of POW to Aldrya.
- Now the elves take the candidate, strip them, and carry them to a holy tree.
- With copper stakes, they nail the candidate to the tree, one spike per limb.
- With a holy knife, they first cut out thigh and upper arm bones and replace them with wooden sticks.
- Then they gut the candidate and rip out most of their inner organs.
- Plants, seeds, and soil are inserted in the hollow cavities.
- A hole is drilled into the forehead through the skull, and a dried root is stuck in the brain.
- Genitals are amputated, with seeds planted in their place.
- A sacred copper axe is then used to chop a slit in the tree, which opens and swallows the mutilated corpse.
- The wood folds around the mess and the metamorphosis begins.
- At the end of some number of days, which varies with the amount of damage the body sustained, the person will awaken, enclosed in a nut-like shell.
- This hangs on the holy tree.
- After breaking out of the shell, the new elf is welcomed by the cult.
As David says, “much easier to stay a lay member”. No shit. Plus, do you want to get changelings? Because that’s how you get fucking changelings.
Brian Duguid pointed out that this initiation is similar to some of the shamanic initiation rites described by Mircea Eliade in “Shamanism” (a book that David Scott mentioned several times as a very good, if outdated in places, resource on the topic). Brian gave me in particular this passage about the Unmatjera (an Australian aboriginal tribe):
“When he was made into a medicine man, a very old doctor came to him one day and threw some of his atnongara stones at him [small crystalline stones produced from the doctor’s own body] with a spear-thrower. Some hit him on the chest, others went right through his head, from ear to ear, killing him. The old man then cut out all of his insides, intestines, liver, heart, lungs – everything in fact, and left him lying all night long on the ground. In the morning the old man came and looked at him and placed some more atnongara stones inside his body and in his arms and legs, and covered over his face with leaves. Then he sang over him until his body was all swollen up. When this was so he provided him with a complete set of new inside parts, placed a lot more atnongara stones in him, and patted him on the head, which caused him to jump up alive”.
Brian mentions that other shamanic traditions also include replacing bones with “spirit bones” and organs with plant equivalents.
More on the Man Rune here.
Elsewhere on Arachne Solara’s Web
Not everything is about Glorantha, although most things are! Here are loosely relevant things that we found on the interwebs.
Victrix Releases Ancient Horse Archers
If you’re looking for miniatures for Gloranthan gaming, you could do a lot worse than Victrix, who has a wide variety of ancient world factions (Romans, Celts, Persians, all kinds of Greeks, etc).
They just released “Ancient Horse Archers“, including Scythians and Parthians (although Victrix says they also work OK as Sarmatians). In Glorantha you can use them for, well, whatever: Sartarite thanes, Pol-Joni, Pentans? I don’t know. Feel free to argue ad-nauseam about real-world correspondences. They’re just antiquity-looking horsemen, OK? You can probably make good use of them!
Nearly 170 New Nazca Lines Discovered
Over the past couple years, archeologists have discovered a lot of new geoglyphs in Peru, where the so-called “Nazca Lines” are. There was a “lounging cat” from 200-100 BCE, and now there’s, like, new birds and snakes and whatnot, probably made between 100 BCE and 300 CE.
This brings the total number of Nazca Line geoplyphs to almost 360.
Thank you for reading
That’s it for this week! Please contact us with any feedback, question, or news item we’ve missed!