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.
God Learner Sorcery
Here is what us God Learners were up to this week.
Episode 23: Arkat the Minmaxer
Our new episode is all about the legendary figure of Arkat, with Bud (from Bud’s RPG Review) as our guest! Together we talk nonsense about Arkat’s life, accomplishments, war against Nysalor, and legacy. Of course we give plenty of ideas for using Arkati lore in a RuneQuest Glorantha game. Plus: conspiracy theories!
Note: Joerg went a bit crazy with the show notes… he had some corrections to make, and of course a bit of pedantry to indulge in! We might have to do another episode on Arkat to get it out of system…
Runic Rants: Spreadsheet for the People
I wrote a thing about the value of spreadsheets! Yes, spreadsheets! If you know me, you might not be surprised…
It might sound very nerdy, but I think a lot of questions get answered by making a spreadsheet for your Glorantha setting. The first spreadsheet I made keeps track of the population in terms of cult memberships, villages and farms, spirit societies, and so on. […]
This exercise really helped me realize a few things. For instance, you very easily “run out” of initiates for any given cult once you’ve allocated 2/3rds of your adults to Orlanth and Ernalda.
You might have already read it when I posted it on the RuneQuest Facebook group. If not, read all about it here!
ChaosiumCon 2023: Podcasting 101 Panel
As I mentioned in my Chaosium Con report, I was in a panel on podcasting alongside much more clever and experienced people like the great Seth Skorkowsky, Michael Diamond, and Arthur Rothfuss. The panel was moderated by the equally great Emily Mills.
Well you can listen to panel now on the Old Ways podcast, or watch us over here on YouTube:
Seth is of course the host of his titular and super-popular YouTube channel (along with being a fiction and RPG writer, and co-host of the Modern Mythos podcast), Arthur and Emily are part of Under the Library, and Michael is part of the Old Ways Podcast. And I’m the useless guy on the left.
Here are this week’s Chaosium news!
Combat in RuneQuest
James Coquillat interviews Jeff Richard to get tips and advice for running RuneQuest combat, especially for newcomers to the game. The usual suspects are here: use augments, cast spirit magic buffs, do a volley of missile weapons before heading out into melee, etc.
By now you should be aware of my… conflicted feelings about RuneQuest as a game system, especially its combat. But I guess the good thing with this interview is that, in case you weren’t aware of it before, it should be clear that Chaosium considers the RuneQuest rules as entirely optional. It’s a rather substractive game system: an incredibly crunchy set of rules that you’re supposed to juggle and prune as needed to adjudicate situations. Most other game systems I’ve played (and like) tend to be, on the other hand, modular or additive, that is: you get some core minimal rules, and you add some improvised rules and rulings based on what feels right, or based on explicitly optional/extra rules.
Side note: there are a couple of art overlays during the interview, and I’m not sure if I’ve already seen them all in published material? Especially the one around 3:50? Has anybody seen that one elsewhere?
What Attendees Said About ChaosiumCon
Once again about my ChaosiumCon report, I linked at the end of it a bunch of other reports. But there are a few more! Chaosium has been keeping tabs on them and provided this short compilation of blog posts about their recent gaming convention. Of course my own report is on there. Feel free to check out others if you want more FOMO in your life!
Cover RuneQuest Maps Now Available for Download
Until now, the maps found in the inside covers of the RuneQuest Glorantha rulebook were conspicuously absent from the digital version. David Scott heard from the fans on Discord and fixed it! Yay!
Go to the Chaosium website, click on the “user” icon to login and access your account, go into the “Orders” tab, and find your order for the RuneQuest rulebook… this might require a bit of patience if you have as many orders as me. But once you’ve located it, you can click on the download icon and find the two new files!
David isn’t just helpful with digital downloads (he’s known to have fixed a lot of small issues with the RuneQuest PDFs), he’s also a great podcast guest! Check out our episodes on the RuneQuest Passion mechanics, or on Nomad Gods for more goodness from David!
Six Ages 2 Demo on Steam
If you’re eagerly awaiting the release of Six Ages 2: Lights Going Out, a demo is available on Steam right now! I haven’t checked it out yet so, err, that’s all I have.
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!
The Jonstown Compendium has been a bit quiet lately so instead of just skipping this segment this week, why not do a bit of shameless advertising for my stuff?
“A Short Detour” is an adventure in three acts that you can easily “sprinkle” on top of your ongoing campaign. It presents a tough moral choice to your players, and potentially introduces a cool villain! Plus, you get a whole deep dive on what exactly is Chaos, and rules for giving a Chaotic taint to your players! Errr I mean to your players’ characters!
“Bog Struggles” is another easily inserted adventure in which the adventurers need to save a Newtling village from possible destruction. Spirit World horror meets cute amphibian people!
Both are Silver Best Sellers, and “A Short Detour” is actually getting into “possible Gold Best Seller” territory at this point. If you have already bought these adventures, a hearty “thank you” goes to you! If you haven’t, please consider making them your next Jonstown Compendium purchase! We don’t have a Patreon or anything like that for this podcast and this newsletter, so that’s how you can show your appreciation!
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.
Rule of Thumb for Gloranthan Demographics
I think I mentioned it already in the past, but the “new” rule of thumb for Gloranthan demographics is for about 2/3rds of adults and 1/3rd of children. Jeff confirmed this recently on BRP Central:
I used to assume as a short-hand that half the population of any given human Gloranthan community were adults, the other half uninitiated children. I’ve refined that somewhat, and now assume that about 60-66% of any given human Gloranthan community are adults, the rest uninitiated children.
Now the reason for that comes down to lower children mortality, longer lifespan, and also that in most Gloranthan communities adulthood initiation takes place at around 14-17 years old. This ends up with the adult being initiated into a RuneQuest, although the full process might take several years.
For people making spreadsheets like me, this is good stuff! I did spot this change of statistics between the HeroQuest Red Cow books, the RuneQuest Gamemaster Adventures book, and the several clan statistics that Jeff kindly shared during the past couple years as a sneak peek into the Sartar Homeland book (see here and here, among others). I’ve been using this ~60-something% of adults in my world-building for the past couple years.
There are a couple other things to consider, which may or may not be “canon” but make sense to me:
- Different clans and tribes might have different percentages of adults/children based on how they survived the Great Winter (aka the Windstop) and the Lunar occupation. If you used a 50% stat, congrats, you can add a sub-plot of many children having died during the Great Winter, and how that affects the community. Or, you know, just hand-wave it. The extra 10% of kids were grounded.
- Becoming an adult is only one step in someone’s life. Children get initiated into adulthood between 14 and 17 years old, but then they undergo 2 years (sometimes 3) of apprenticeship with a cult. Maybe they stay in their village to work at the local Orlanth temple, maybe live in the city in the bigger Orlanth temple, or maybe they move away to Jonstown to be a junior scribe at the Lhankor Mhy temple. Either way, in my Glorantha, these young adults learn the cult’s skills and spirit magic during that time, and then they become initiate of the cult. So not all adults are initiated into a cult yet IMHO.
As another aside, I figure most initiates only make the single POW sacrifice and don’t continue going much deeper into the cult mysteries. They are likely concerned about other things like work, relaxation, sex, family, more work, avoiding work, feeding the chickens, etc.
It’s tricky to imagine why the average Gloranthan would not continue sacrificing points of POW to gain more magic, but not everybody is driven by a power-hungry min-maxing player. NPCs have a life to live after all, and sacrificing a point of POW takes a full week of prayer and meditation. Orlanthi farmers may not have the luxury of taking a week off, and may not get many opportunities to get a POW increase roll afterwards.
But in my opinion, a single Rune Point feels too low. Orlanthi farmers are also generally part of the tribal militia. Going on raids, fighting off trolls, and dealing with random monsters are all fairly common occurrences. This brings opportunities to raise one’s POW, and puts at least a bit of pressure to get some useful magic. After all, people worship gods because they provide useful spells, right? That’s often what we’re told.
So I figure most Orlanthi have between 1 and 4 Rune Points, depending on their age. They might be able to go meditate and sacrifice their POW once every couple years at best, probably shortly after winter started, or at just before spring. YGWV and all that, obviously.
Average Sartarite Clan
Speaking of cult demographics, here is an “average Sartarite clan” according to Jeff:
There are 157 clans in Sartar (not including the Telmori and Pol-Joni), with an average population of about 900 people per clan. About 600 are adults, and about 300 are children. The average Sartarite clan claims about 55 square kilometers of territory.
About 40 adults belong to the clan aristocracy of priests and thanes (and their immediate family), about 400 are full free members of the clan, about 100 are semi-free tenants and other adult dependents, and about 60 are unfree.
In times of war, the average Sartarite clan can muster about 200 warriors: 20 martial priests and thanes, and 180 militia.
Again, this is great data for world-building. Jeff even provides some rough cult membership for this average clan, showing how you have less than a dozen initiates of most Lightbringers’ cults. That’s the kind of stuff I put in my spreadsheets. Yes, I keep talking about spreadsheets this week… not my fault! It just happens!
Of course, these numbers assume that these cults are all spread out evenly among the clans, which is not the case. Yelmalio cultists tend to congregate into a handful of clans that are dominated by the cult. At least half of all Chalana Arroy, Issaries, and Lhankor Mhy cultists are in cities, where they make up a disproportionate percentage of the population.
There’s another set of cult membership figures for a Yelmalio-centric clan if you want to compare. That’s useful if you’re playing near Alda-chur for instance…
Surprisingly enough, I didn’t expect this from the upcoming Mythology book:
There are cult demographics for each homeland in the Mythology Book. Available soon!
Crown Tests and Chief Tests
The Orlanthi “Crown Test” is mentioned in passing in the RuneQuest Glorantha rulebook, as part of “Vasana’s Saga”. On BRP Central, Jeff shares a bit more about the requirements to become tribal king, along with some information on the “Chief Tests” and the similar requirements to become clan chieftain:
Keep in mind what a clan is – its an extended kinship group normally with a thousand or so people. The chieftain is the leader/protector of the clan. The title literally means “most important” or “big man.” The violent ethic of the Orlanthi lifestyle makes the chieftain a de facto warrior. He must also be just, to balance the many needs of his people; and strong, to represent them to the outside world. There is no gender requirement, but even if female, the chieftain is referred to as a “he”. He has the responsibility of being spokesperson and decision-maker for all members, especially in times of emergency. His success as community leader depends upon the support of the council and the folk, both of whom have separate methods of removing him from office, should the need arise. The clan chieftain serves as the speaker to the clan’s magical guardian or “wyter” and the recipient of the immense benefits and power that the community spirit may give.
Because of the importance of the Orlanth cult among the Orlanthi, the clan leader needs to have been an initiate of Orlanth for at least a year. Orlanth, not Orlanth Rex (they might be a lay member of Orlanth Rex as well or even a temporary initiate, but that is a tribal matter).
If there is more than one candidate among the kin, then they have to prove their skills against each other in the Chief Tests.
[…] A chief is not a mini-king and the Chief Tests are not the Crown Test.
So the “Chief Test” are basically proof that the candidate meets the requirements of being a candidate – remember that the assembled members of the community ultimately choose who among the candidate will lead them.
The “Crown Test” is a ritual duel, display of magic, or feat of adventure (like a raid or quest). The more impressive the Crown Test is, the more obvious it is that the gods support that person to be tribal leader.
A clan is an extended kinship group, not a political district. So imagine the average clan in Sartar with about 600 adults. About 40 adults belong to the clan aristocracy of priests and thanes (and their immediate family), about 400 are full free members of the clan, about 100 are semi-free tenants and other adult dependents, and about 60 are unfree.
The chief is almost always going to come out of that group of 40, and most likely there are no more five or six potential candidates. Everyone in the clan likely knows who the potential candidates are. If there is more than one actual candidate, the 400 full free members decide who that is. But usually this is just decided by acclamation – everyone knew that Baranthos was going to become chief after his uncle died – his immediate family (who had led the tribe for nearly two decades) agreed that he was the family leader, the Clearwine Earth temple (led by members of his immediate family) supported him, and he even had ties to the Sartar Dynasty. There really was no other real candidate.
Now among the Varmandi a few years back the choice was less clear-cut. After so much suffering from war and rebellion, the clan assembly was dominated by the women of the Ernalda cult and a wealthy (and peaceful) farmer was chosen instead of a Wind Lord (who had the backing of the Orlanth cult leaders). That happens, but it is relatively uncommon.
The community roundup is our highlight of interesting things being mentioned in the Glorantha-related Facebook groups, sub-Reddits, and other similar online places.
Unprofessional Unboxing of the RuneQuest Prosopaedia
Friend of the show Scott aka OrcusDorkus has a YouTube channel in which he does “unprofessional unboxings” (his words, not mine!) of various RPG products… well, his FOMO about ChaosiumCon was too great so I sent him a copy of Rivers of London and of the Prosopaedia while I was there. I’m happy to see that he received it in due time, and in good shape… this is your chance to get a good look at it until it’s available for general purchase!
Unprofessional Unboxing of Borderlands
Scott does another unboxing of a RuneQuest product in the same week! But here he goes back in time to 1982 with the classic boxed set of Borderlands! If you have the POD reprint, you might not know how it looked like in its original box, so check it out… boxed sets are super cool but sadly they don’t seem to be a viable form factor at the moment.
Exploring Glorantha’s First Age
This week, JM and Evan serendipitously talk about… Arkat! Just like us! Well, they talk about the First Age in general, but the synchronicity makes me smile. This was recorded before ChaosiumCon so Evan talks a bit about what he was planning to do there at the beginning.
Thank you for reading
That’s it for this week! Please contact us with any feedback, question, or news item we’ve missed!