Journal of Runic Studies 88


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.

The newsletter comes one day later than usual because we just had a 3-day week-end here in British Columbia. I mostly spent it eating way too much good food with family and friends…

In other news, the God Learners are also now on Mastodon! Find us on the RPG-focused instance

Chaosium News

Here are this week’s Chaosium news!

Errata Out of the Suitcase

© 2023 Chaosium Inc.

Yay, it’s another “Out of the Suitcase” article! This one deals with how Chaosium published and distributed errata for their games over time:

How Chaosium handled corrections and errata wasn’t something I had thought that much about until recently, when Brian Holland showed me some photos of his recently acquired vintage RuneQuest rulebook. One photo was of the inside front cover and Brian wanted to confirm if it was the second edition from around 1980, which I verified as correct. Being me, I also told him that four of the eight printings of that book had the errata like in his copy, as opposed to being on a separate sheet of paper tucked into the RQ2 boxed set or not having errata at all. 

Later that day I started grabbing various boxed sets and books off of the shelf to see how they handled errata. 

As always, Rick shares a lot of fun facts about Chaosium history and all the effort required to design and print books in the 1970s and 1980s. “Cut and paste” meant a whole different thing back then…

Bonus point: a reference to the most famously painful typo in RuneQuest history! Check it out!

Greg Stafford’s D&D Copy

Photo from a long gone eBay auction

This is a pretty famous story so I’m sure most of you have already heard about it… but if you didn’t, MOB has you covered:

Q: Did Greg Stafford own the first-ever copy of D&D sold, bought directly from Gary Gygax himself?

A: TL/DR – Yes. 

Go read the anecdote, it’s a wonderful little story… however I think the wording is a bit misleading, since it makes it sound like Greg Stafford bought his copy of D&D directly from Gary Gygax. This is not the case: a friend of Greg bought the copy from Gary, and then shipped it to Greg.

Details, details, I know, but it would have been just a little bit more marvellous if it had been the case.

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!

Teaser for Treasures of Glorantha Volume 2

© 2023 Akhelas & Chaosium Inc.

The first volume of Treasures of Glorantha has reached Gold Best Seller status so the main author and editor of the book, Austin Conrad, has a teaser for a possible second volume:

The theme for Treasures of Glorantha Volume Two is Relics from the Second Age. My focus is to present items from the tumultuous Second Age of Glorantha’s history, which have survived until the modern Third Age. Naturally they could be used for a campaign set in the Second Age, but that’s not my main goal.

Read the rest for some notes of what Austin is currently working on, including many already-usable little blurbs for cool magic items!

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 Life of Arkat

A short version of Arkat’s life:

By all accounts Arkat was born on the isle of Brithos in 375 ST. In 400 he accompanied a Brithini expedition to Arolanit attempting to liberate that land from Gbaji. In 410 he was appointed the supreme warlord of Seshnela and led an army against Tanisor. In 418, Arkat was killed by Palangio the Iron Vrok.

There are multiple versions of Arkat’s birth (that he was the son of Humakt, the son of a normal barbarian dude, etc), but one thing we know is that he grew up among the elves of Brithos. He was also part of the warrior caste (Brithos is pretty much ground zero for the caste-based Malkioni society) so I guess he wasn’t spending all his time in the forest?

Now, Brithos is hard to find on a map: it disappeared entirely from the mundane world. It was the residence of Zzabur, the Sorcerer Supreme, and the guy who made a giant magic ritual that resulted in many cataclysms including the Closing of the Oceans. Who knows where his island went, but we can only assume sending it “somewhere cool out there” was part of the goal. Fucking up the world to go into space? Yeah, Zzabur is the Gloranthan equivalent of Jeff Bezos or Elon Musk. Only at least Zzabur was actually competent at his job… Oh well.

© 2023 Chaosium Inc.

Pardon me the inelegant Argan Argar Atlas index page capture, here, but this is one of the only maps on which I could show you Old Trade in context… because even though Brithos disappeared, it left a little something behind. The island of Old Trade, in the Neliomi Sea, is the last physical remnant of Brithos. You can go there to trade weird ass ancient stuff and powerful magic thingies. Watch out: you can’t find this island unless someone leads you there, so you need to find an Old Trade merchant (possibly in a coastal port city in Fronela or Ralios) to go there. Brithos was probably where Old Trade is now, in the Neliomi Sea, west of Genertela, but it was certainly many times bigger.

Anyway, Arkat went to Arolanit (on the continental coast, facing Brithos) and started fighting Nysalor (aka Gbaji) and his armies. You can spot Arolanit at the top of the below map. Jeff also mentions Tanisor, which is a kingdom in western Ralios that you can spot just east of the big Tanier river that goes all the way down.

© 2023 Chaosium Inc.

Tanisor was, at the time, led by the “Vampire Kings” and their “Vampire Legion”. This is pretty ironic given that Nysalor was a big Sun guy (he was ruling the “Bright Empire” after all!) I guess it goes to show he was more into Chaos than into the Sun. Curse you, Gbaji the Deceiver!

Arkat had to try a few times before winning against Tanisor. What helped was getting cozy with the Seshnelan king and speed-running the Man-of-All training of the local Hrestoli Malkioni. That’s when he became a Seshnelan Warlord, with the explicit mission to go destroy those nasty vampiric neighbours. He kept going, initiated into to the Orlanth cult (he may have only been an initiate of the Invisible God cult until then), met a bunch of trolls and other non-humans (remember, it’s about the friends you make on the way), and eventually was killed by this Palangio guy, who was one of Nysalor’s lieutenants. Arkat’s body was dismembered and his soul cast down into some deep hell.

But that’s not all! Most of Arkat’s cool stuff happens after he gets resurrected by Harmast’s Lightbringers heroquest:

In 422, Arkat returned from the Underworld with his Lightbringer companions. In 426, Arkat broke his cult vows and joined the cult of Humakt. In 432, Arkat and his Western Army landed in the Shadowlands.

This is not your typical heroquest: Harmast took two years to complete it. This was the first time the Lightbringers Quest was re-enacted in Time, as far as I can tell, and Harmast is credited as the first real heroquester in Orlanthi culture.

The Lightbringers Quest is often misunderstood as a quest to bring back someone from the dead — the original myth did bring back Yelm from the Underworld after all. But that’s not really it: the goal is always to “fix the cosmos”. Or at least it should be… one reason Kallyr’s heroquest in 1625 fails is probably because she did it for the wrong reasons.

So Harmast wasn’t really aiming to resurrect Arkat. It’s even doubtful that Harmast even knew much about Arkat, if at all. I think that Harmast considered the world to be broken after the failure of the first empires, the rise of Nysalor, and, you know, the rampant spread of Chaos everywhere. Somehow, the cosmos answered Harmast by giving him Arkat. Arachne Solara moves in mysterious ways, but doesn’t have much imagination either. I’d love to see a Lightbringers heroquest end with something else than someone coming back from the dead…

A whole bunch of stuff happens after that, but you can summarize it by saying that Arkat continues to level up, with some severe multi-classing thrown in the mix. He quits his previous cults, joins the cult of Humakt, grows his army with bands of Orlanthi and Uz, joins the cult of Kyger Lytor and becomes a troll, and ends up a Zorak Zorani. An increasing path of bad-assery, basically.

In 448 he took the name Kingtroll and joined the cults of Kyger Litor and Zorak Zoran. In 450 atop the Tower of Dreams, amid the City of Miracles, he dismembered Gbaji. No longer a troll, he returned to Ralios where he settled. In 500 (or 525 depending on the story), Arkat retired to Statham Well, always a difficult place to find, and his constellation appeared in the Sky.

So that’s it: Arkat wins against Nysalor/Gbaji, and then goes for a well-earned retirement in Ralios until his apotheosis. The whole thing is shady though: it’s unclear what happened inside the Tower of Dreams in Dorastor. Some people say Nysalor planned it all and actually wanted to get torn apart to spread his gift of Illumination to everybody. The Red Goddess later made use of that, but that’s another story. There’s a whole bunch of other debates about what followed but that is, again, another story.

I haven’t found any information on Statham Well (except a brief reference in RQ3’s Troll Gods) so I guess it is indeed difficult to find nowadays! But back then I figure that everybody knew where it was: a kingdom spontaneously formed around him, and for 50 years Arkat was a sort of philosopher farmer, I think. He had a lot of teachings to share, having pushed the Malkioni, Humakti, and Uz ways of life farther than anybody. He had also developed many new heroquesting techniques for exploring and manipulating the mythical landscape, so he started sharing that around too.

There’s a nice symmetry in Arkat’s life between the 50 years of his anti-Gbaji crusade and the 50 years of his retirement, so I’m going to ignore the 525 date and only go by the 500 one.

There are a few more paragraph in the note, so check it out.

Miscellaneous Notes

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.

Glorantha Book Club on Discord

This is a guest segment by David Castle, lightly edited by Ludovic

Photo by Chaosium © 2023 Chaosium Inc.

A new Glorantha Book Club is starting up soon on the Glorantha Discord server (invite link).

We will be reading and discussing the Guide to Glorantha over the course of a year. All discussion will be via text messages, so you can join in when you want, and as much as you want. The Guide has been divided up into 50 chunks, and we will be discussing one chunk every week. People new to Glorantha are very welcome: we will be discovering the world together as we read. Seasoned Lankhor Mhy sages are equally welcome for the wisdom they will undoubtedly bring to the discussion.

If your copy of the Guide is looming over you unread, this is the opportunity to finally read it in a structured way with a friendly group of fellow fans. And if you don’t yet own a copy of the Guide, there is still time to buy it and start reading before we begin (editor’s note: you can also buy the PDF version here, it’s a lot easier to use as research material, it’s a lot cheaper, and it doesn’t take up precious shelf space!)

We start over the week beginning Sunday 12th March when we will be discussing pages 6-17, which includes the Foreword, World of Glorantha, and Introduction.

For any questions, please contact DavidCastle#8589 on Discord.

Charms and Amulets for RuneQuest

Skulldixon (whom we interviewed) has a some advice for including cool charms and amulets into your RuneQuest games:

So over the last two days, I came up with the following general idea of how Protective charms and Amulets could be introduced into Runequest without replacing any of the mechanics or items already found within the game. Enjoy and please let me know what you think of these rules. 

Roman gold amulet pendant, 2nd century CE, © 2023 John Hopkins University

The rules aren’t exactly explained in a “rules” way — it’s more a bunch of vague ideas floating in Skulldixon’s… errr… skull. But it’s a nice basis to add a little bit of “everyday folk magic” to RuneQuest, so to speak. One of the many things I don’t like too much about RuneQuest as a conduit to gaming in Glorantha is that it makes everything seem very formulaic, with spirit magic and Rune magic clearly defined with spell lists and precise mechanics. Skulldixon’s idea of charms and amulets brings a bit of slightly more freeform magic to the setting, although it’s low-key.

As far as I understand, these charms and amulets have magic points stored in them that you can spend to offset ability rolls, like the Luck mechanic in Call of Cthulhu but tied to a specific ability. It seems very subtle, though, since Skulldixon recommends limiting charms and amulets to 5 MP or less. I think that means you get at best a 5% bonus to a roll? I suppose that it’s not uncommon to carry multiple trinkets for multiple usages.

Compared to more powerful enchanted items, made of durable material and imbued with POW, the idea for charms and amulets seems to be that they’re easy to make (using clay, wood, and other quick & cheap materials), easy to enchant (using Magic Points), and closer to mundane items.

Anyway, check out the article… What do you think?

GoblinCaveTV Looks at the RuneQuest Starter Set

Previously mentioned GoblinCaveTV has done an “unboxing and mini-review” of the RuneQuest Starter Set on their video channels. You can catch it on YouTube here:

As is often the case with the RuneQuest Starter Set, the reviewer, Karsh the Goblin, praises the amount of material included in the box, the SoloQuest, the variety between the three adventures, and the amount and variety of pre-generated characters. Karsh also shares a few good points about flaws or annoyances.

Reviewing the RPG Writer Workshop Adventures

© 2022 Chaosium Inc.

Previously mentioned Austin Conrad has some comments about the recent bundle of RuneQuest adventures that came out of last year’s RPG Writer Workshop. My title says “Reviewing” but it’s not quite accurate:

As a reminder, this is a “First Impressions” article, which is somewhere in between a review and a “here’s what I liked!” listicle. I haven’t had a chance to take these adventures to the table, so I don’t feel super comfortable claiming this is a full review.

There are still some extensive comments on each of the four scenarios, and the conclusion is pretty positive:

Again, well done, all of you. Lovely batch of adventures, and literally EVERYONE who likes RuneQuest should go out and pick up the bundle. It’s an easy win for everyone involved. Four sessions (or more) of gameplay for six bucks? That’s a no-brainer, especially at the quality which these creators have put on the table.

Check out Austin’s full article here, or grab the bundle from DriveThruRPG!

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.

Jakaleel Voodoo Doll

Creative Commons picture

Do you want to introduce voodoo magic into your Gloranthan adventures? No problem! Because it looks like Romans used them to cast spells on people.

For example, the above photo shows a voodoo doll found in Egypt and dating to the 4th century CE. It was placed in a clay pot with a scroll containing a “binding spell” for woman whom the spell-caster was infatuated with… yeah, incels and other creepy dudes aren’t a new thing.

Anyway, you can use this as reference and/or inspiration for some Lunar sorcery, possibly coming from the Jakaleel cult. She’s the “witch” character of the Seven Mothers cult, and practices “black magic”, whatever that is. I’m sure it includes voodoo dolls because, well, it’s cooler if it does, right?

More here.

The Colossus of Constantine

Roman Emperor Constantine the Great ruled in the early 300s CE and wasn’t just a megalomaniac based on his chosen moniker, but also based on the fact that he commissioned the building of a giant status of himself.

Creative Commons photo

This “Colossus of Constantine” was placed in one of Rome’s basilicas, and is believed to have been about 12 meters high. Nowadays, we only have pieces of it, including the head which is 2.5 meters tall.

Creative Commons photo

But now, the Factum Foundation has recreated the statue for an exhibition that is running for just another week in Milan (no idea where the statue will go after that). The statue looks absolutely stunning:

Check out the Factum Foundation website for plenty of photos and information about the construction process. I find that this is great to understand the scale of what a Great Temple might look like in Glorantha.

Roman Sex Toy Found in Northumberland

This unmistakably shaped wooden object was found at the archaeological dig of Vindolanda, a Roman fort located near Hadrian’s Wall in northern England.

Phallic objects were pretty common in the Roman culture but they were most often used as decoration, as good luck charms, or as religious artifacts. This one was found in a ditch with discarded shoes.

When [experts] analysed it they found both ends were noticeably smoother, indicating repeated use over time.

Ahem… they are not discarding other theories, such as the possibility that it was a pestle for grinding ingredients but come on, people. Yeah, it was used for grinding all right! Plus, it’s possible it was used for both cooking and, err, cocking. Each end has its own use.

In a Gloranthan game, you could imagine this kind of object to be a noble’s wedding gift from the local Uleria temple, for instance. Maybe the player characters need to get it blessed. Alternatively, maybe a local king or queen got theirs stolen and it’s up to the party to recover it? Send me your ideas!

More here.

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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