This episode starts with Jörg pronouncing our guest’s name wrongly! We welcome James Coquillat of Chaosium to talk about RuneQuest actual play and gamemastering.

James is both on the digital content team and on the editorial team for Call of Cthulhu. You can find James at the following online places:

Show Notes

James tells us about his gaming and professional career. AD&D 2nd edition, Call of Cthulhu, screenwriting turning into video game production, and finally changing over into tabletop RPG production. Living in Melbourne brought him into contact with Michael O’Brien aka “MOB” (Chaosium’s vice president), Mark Morrison (Chaosium community embassador and part of the awesome Campaign Coins), and other notables from the Down Under roleplaying community. From there to Chaosium was not a big step.

James’s first work for Chaosium was helping with the translation of Khan of Khans. And while that is a Gloranthan game, it took some diving into the Chaosium back catalogue to familiarize himself with RuneQuest and Glorantha.

RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha was the first experience of both the game system and the world through play.

Ludo asks how much Gloranthan knowledge James had accumulated when he had the courage to present both the system and the setting publicly.

James explains that, to the folks at Chaosium (many of whom have been involved since before there were the Tales of the Reaching Moon in the early nineties), he fits into the demographic of young new players and GMs that they want to target with the new edition of RuneQuest. This is one reason why he was chosen to run the game between himself and his colleague David Naylor, who is a player in the RuneQuest stream along with Bridgett Jeffries, who we interviewed recently.

Jörg asks about how much James profits from the interviews with Jeff Richard (Chaosium’s vice president, creative director, and Glorantha lead designer). James confesses to have led the discussion towards upcoming features in his game every now and then.

Asked about his stumbling blocks with RuneQuest and Glorantha, James describes how coming from the typical Tolkienesque fantasy in most fantasy roleplaying games made the encounter with Glorantha something of a new territory. It was weird to encounter these tropes from the early days of the hobby. The beastmen were strange, not just the ducks but also creatures like scorpionmen or anthropomorphized animals. Chaos was a concept that was different from previous experiences.

To understand the big opponents of the Sartarites, James used the advice to think of the Lunars like the Roman Empire, and of the Praxian beast riders like the Mongol hordes invading Europe. Ludo commiserates that long-time Gloranthaphiles tend to use historical parallels that you may never have heard about before, like e.g. Thracians.

Another stumbling block for James was the multitude of gods that would pop up in the gaming material and the lore.

When asked whether James got to play RuneQuest Glorantha before running it, he explains that he was the GM for his local group.

As a long time Call of Cthulhu player and contributor James was familiar with the Basic Roleplaying system that was based on the original RuneQuest. Features specific to RuneQuest, like the different success levels or Strike Ranks, were alien and needed to get used to.

David Naylor gets another shout-out as being a great GM’s assistant (looking up rules on the fly when needed), and also for running the technical side of the streams.

Ludo asks where to get advice as a new GM if you don’t happen to be able to call Chaosium old-timers like Jeff or MOB. James suggests to start really small, isolating the initial setting enough so that the lore of the greater world is not yet required.

Jörg asks what material James used when he started GMing RuneQuest (for his friends). James started with the core rule books, but things came together when he got his hand on the Starter Set material (before it was published, as James and Dave designed the solo adventure in Book 3 of the Starter Set).

James describes how Dave and he had submitted a scenario for RuneQuest to Chaosium, which had gone through editorial feedback (and which was pending publication) before getting tasked with creating the Starter Set’s solo-adventure. Part of James and Dave’s approach was to make sure that the solo-adventure would work online as well.

James points out that the designers being relatively new to Glorantha was considered an advantage for creating the first contact for many players with both the rules and the setting.

Jörg asks about the ceremonies in the Starter Set’s SoloQuest which do require quite a bit of familiarity with the background, but those resulted from James and Dave rather than direct demands by the editors.

James talks about the feedback he got from his playtesters in his gaming group, including one player whose SoloQuest run ended in the protagonist dying in the decisive combat against Vostor after a long iteration of combat rolls, leading to another mechanic inserted to bring such a gridlock to a narratively pleasing end. That player ended up playing Vostor in the Starter Set scenarios!

James talks about his two previous GMing experiences. The first one was about a village facing the demands of both a Lunar tax collector and a Praxian warband, each demanding half the year’s production (which obviously could not be satisfied for both). The other one was more experimental, riffing on the Apocalypse Now upriver journey into hostile territory. Jörg remembers MOB’s scenario “Hut of Darkness” from Tales of the Reaching Moon which uses the same inspiration.

Ludo shifts the topic to the evolution of the shelves behind James in his videos. James talks about his growing collection, and shares how he moved three times during his work on the Chaosium YouTube channel. One time he dismantled and re-populated the shelf at a new home between a Sunday Call of Cthulhu recording and a Tuesday RuneQuest recording.

Ludo talks about his appreciation of the A New Hero stream and feels empowered by seeing James struggle with some of the crunch of the system while James still keeps the game flow. James talks about dealing with the crunch, again by keeping it focused, with deeper dives delayed while applying the principles of Maximum Game Fun and Your Glorantha Will Vary to the current game.

The New Hero stream doesn’t use published scenarios but uses original adventures. James explains that each of the streams has a focus on one specific product in the game line, and that would be the core rules book after having played the Starter Set scenarios on the previous stream.

The first theme would be the clan rivalry, and feedback from Jeff Richard suggested Greenstone as a suitable starting point for that kind of setting. Greenstone has one of the most important Earth temples in Sartar, which gave a logical backdrop for the characters’ backstory. The proximity of the Upland Marsh and its undead led to a follow-up on that theme, and so on.

Ludo asks about the sources used to research the region. James lists his sources, which included the Guide to Glorantha, the RuneQuest Glorantha Bestiary, the RuneQuest wiki, and the fan-maintained (and often not quite correct) Glorantha wiki for a general overview and for an idea what specifics to look up, and then using his access to the previously published material on the setting.

Ludo points out that the Bestiary is a lot more than just a catalogue of monsters: it also contains a significant amount of world-building, worth a read-through rather than just skimming for single monster stats.

As the only grognard in the podcast, Jörg cannot help but reminisce his experience playing in a Freeform set in the Greenstone region around the time the current tribes were formed, and how the rivals of the resident Orleving clan were the first presentation of clan life in Sartar in the RuneQuest 3rd edition Genertela box, still available in the free collection called “HeroQuest Voices“. These are in-world instructions to young adults in the various cultures and regions of Glorantha. They are excellent as player-facing hand-outs to get an idea about the setting. The individual content is available for download at the bottom of this page.

When asked for advice to get started, James first points to the online version of the Starter Set SoloQuest.

James’ next tip is that the new GM should select the pre-generated characters in the Starter Set that they feel comfortable with, and offer that selection to the players as the group composition will be influential on the style of the game.

James suggests to take the Strike Rank system not so much as a fixed turn order but just as an aid to determine who goes first after all the actions have been announced.

James then suggests that, to get a feel for the style of the setting, look at the real-world inspirations for cults, like ascetic monks for Humakt or fertility goddess and rites for Ernalda. Also look at the religions and try to make sense of interactions and parallels. Just asking whether it is coincidence that there are seven Lightbringers and Seven Mothers can lead to insights, for instance, and comparing it to the Roman re-interpretations of Greek mythology in their own pantheon.

Ludo asks about the Session Zero and determining the style and orientation of the campaign. James talks about setting the mood of the game (like leaving silly jokes at the door for a game of the Alien RPG), along with extra demands when running a game on a public stream. For the New Hero stream, they initially kept it small and focused, while for the Starter Set stream they would just jump in to get the general experience.

Jörg asks about the players derailing the original ideas for the session, and James tells about a whole subplot that was avoided by the players involving a fight against zombies inside a horse stable with horses trapped, and then centaurs coming to the rescue. That did not happen, and neither did the players return to a village on the edge of the Marsh to get more information on the undead, leaving a whole set of small subplots unplayed.

Ludo asks about personal favourite and least favourite aspects of the setting. James starts with confessing his love for the ducks of Glorantha, a concept that initially seemed alien, 1970ish, but resonating with his love for Duck Tales and an early tabletop roleplaying experience with a DIY game called Duckromancer (not the commercially available game by the same name, but a game where you play ducks and have skills like Duckplomacy and other puns galore). He also likes the Mostali, thanks to exposure to an enthusiastic fan at a convention. Stuff James enjoyed less were the big spanning political story arches as those are hard to make a connection with for new players unfamiliar with these struggles.

Ludo talks about how GMs coming from Call of Cthulhu are used to deal with rather ordinary people being tossed into stuff way beyond their pay grades, and how they (might) return from their adventure still as normal folk rather than big heroes. Switching to stories where the player characters are expected to be or become recognized heroes means a change in narrative style. James mentions how his academic background as a screenwriter ingrained all the narratological story-telling tropes, which mean that the hero emerges from a community, and at the end of the hero’s journey returns to that community.

We close the interview with our usual silly questions, like the favourite steed (bolo lizard), favourite culture (Orlanthi over Lunar or Praxian, with Sartar on the Praxian border possibly the ideal mixture), favourite cult (Humakt for the swords and asceticism, Urox the Storm Bull for the bad-ass boisterous guys), trollkin or ducks (ducks, of course), scorpionmen or undead (undead), favourite undead villain (Delecti over Brangbane), most interesting character homeland (Lunar Tarsh), and favourite runes (Death, Water, Truth, Fire).


The intro music is “The Warbird” by Try-Tachion. Other music includes “Cinder and Smoke” and “Skyspeak“, along with audio from the FreeSound library.

Edge of Empire and map of the “known world” © 2022 Runesmith Publications & Chaosium Inc., Argan Argar Atlas map © 2022 Chaosium Inc.

Our guest for this episode is Harald Smith, aka Jajagappa.

You can also find Harald on the Facebook RuneQuest group and Jonstown Compendium Creators Circle group.


Jajagappa is the dog-headed psychopomp of Saird, known for his net. Harald grew fond of this deity when diving into Saird, the region north of Dragon Pass.

Harald started in the early eighties, in time for the classic RQ2 campaigns, and followed through the RQ3 era until he sort of dropped out in the late nineties. He resumed his activity around the time the Guide to Glorantha was in preparation, and has been one of the more active posters on the forums since.

When he returned, Harald played a few games by forum.

Harald speaks about different pace in that kind of game, how to apply GM techniques, and the technology that a platform like rpg-geek offers. Some of Harald’s game are still on rpg-geek.

RuneQuest Glorantha games:

HeroQuest Glorantha games:

Main Topic

© 2022 Runesmith Publications & Chaosium Inc.

Edge of Empire is a supplement for playing RuneQuest in the Kingdom of Imther.

Harald describes Imther as the smallest of the Lunar Provincial kingdoms, and its position.

Imther has been part of the Lunar sphere for centuries and doesn’t have the sense of being occupied by foreign troops that was so characteristic for Lunar occupied Sartar and Pavis.

The mountains of Imther are also home to a colony of dwarfs which used to trade metal with the King of Imther, but that lineage has died out, and for the trade to resume there needs to be a new king who gains tthe trust of the Mostali.

Another main topic is the interaction with the Lunar Empire.

When the Empire still was young, a hero from Imther by the name of Jannisor nearly conquered the empire, but got betrayed on the bridgte to the Red Moon in Glamour.

This was followed by the campaigning of the Conquering Daughter who esstablished the provincial Kingdoms, and who built the branch of the magical road reaching to Hilltown in Imther. She turned the barbarian lands of Sylila into a Heartland satrapy.

North of Imther is the forbidden land of Tork, a land where Jannisor bound the maddened and chaotically tainted followers of the Mad Sultan, survivors of the First Battle of Chaos, and how violating its fluctuating border may release them.

South lie the provincial kingdoms of Holay and Saird with the Provincial administration, an area where Dara Happan and Orlanthi culture have merged over the centuries. Northwest lies Vanch, another sort-of Orlanthi kingdom whose people are adept at “borrowing” things and customs permanently.

Harald’s version of Imther wouldn’t be complete without the local variants of known cults whose cult write-ups are part of this book.

Most prominent is Khelmal, a local take on Yelmalio with a few peculiarities, and local myths. Then there is Nealda, a local name for the Earth Goddess with local myths in addition to known Ernalda myths.

An important role falls to the trickster gods of Imther, the most important of whom is Orlantio, a variant of Orlanth. There are compelling reasons to keep a trickster in your clan.

Then there is the Imtherian pride in their cheeses, shared by the author. Some of the first published texts on Imther (in Codex Vol.3) was about the cheese.

There are many flavour pieces in the book that help get a sense for the region. There are examples of Imtherian sayings and similar commonly used phrases and references to local myths. There is also the “Lunar Survey” which offers an in-game view on Imther through the perspective of the Lunar empire.

We ask Harald about the history of his work on Imther. He originally picked an area of Glorantha that was underdeveloped to do his own thing. Then he pitched the idea of an Imther sourcebook to Chaosium/Avalon Hill but the timing wasn’t right. Harald shared and developed his work through the Glorantha Digest and the gaming conventions of the time.

This eventually led to two issues of the short-lived fanzine New Lolon Gospel (more here). Harald and Joerg even briefly discuss the different covers of various international printings of the fanzine.

Harald also mentions working with Greg Stafford and Jeff Richard, and having some of his creations canonized.

Ludo asks how the Orlanthi of Imther ended up herding goats and making goat cheese.

Ludo follows with how Edge of Empire has a cool clan creation section with many possible foundational myths for your adventurers’ community. This came from the HeroQuest material, which had something similar.

Harald discusses how he portrays dwarfs in his game. Edge of Empire includes several example conversations to be had with dwarfs, and this showcases Harald’s very particular choice of speech patterns for this obscure Elder Race.

Edge of Empire contains many tools for procedural play. Joerg praises the book as being the closest to Griffin Mountain on the Jonstown Compendium, with Griffin Mountain being the gold standard for sandbox exploration games. Harald says that he wanted to provide the necessary tools for people to design their own campaign in Imther. More “proper” scenarios might follow in further sourcebooks.

Joerg says we should talk about Harald’s cartography work. Ludo says that he is mostly interested in Harald’s amazingly complex map of Nochet. Lots of little buildings and, we learn, other maps about underground waterways (because he had an Esrolian game that required knowing about this!)

You can see the map of Nochet here. Harald talks about the various maps he’s done over the years, some of which are visible on BRP Central.

We go into our usual “wildcard questions”, with a few digressions on Borderlands or the evolution of Glorantha’s canon over the years.

Harald teases a few different campaign books he’s considering writing to expand on his Imther sourcebook. Harald also recommends looking at Peter Hart’s Hydra book for resources on playing in the Lunar provinces.

Some of the art in Edge of Imther is done by Harald’s daughter Rebecca Smith. Check out her portfolio. She takes commissions including characters (B&W or colour) and cover designs!

Harald will be at Chaosium Con 2023, and will even be running a panel on Exploring Glorantha beyond Dragon Pass and Prax.


The intro music is “The Warbird” by Try-Tachion. Other music includes “Cinder and Smoke” and “Skyspeak“, along with audio from the FreeSound library.

In this episode Joerg is still taking a break, but Ludovic is here to welcome Evan Franke and JM DeFoggi (not to be confused with JM DeMatteis!)

Exploring Glorantha

Evan and JM are probably best known to listeners and readers of the God Learners as the hosts of Exploring Glorantha, the YouTube series that presents Glorantha in an accessible manner to the general public. But they are also part of Iconic Production, which does a lot more stuff! It started as a 13th Age actual play, but they now cover many other games.

Ludovic mentions that subscribing to Iconic Production’s Patreon gives you access to the Exploring Glorantha show notes, which are quite useful as a Gloranthan index when you need to look something up.


For the main topic, we discuss JM’s bronze age fantasy game Jackals (available from Osprey Publishing), its worldbuilding, campaign framework, system, and what we can learn and apply to Glorantha gaming!

During the discusion, we talk about:

Where to Find Evan and JM


The intro music is “The Warbird” by Try-Tachion. Other music includes “Cinder and Smoke” and “Skyspeak“, along with audio from the FreeSound library.

Drew Baker is back on the show to accompany Ludovic on the last leg of Biturian Varosh’s travels. Sadly Joerg could not make it this time, and stayed behind in Pavis to rest.


Drew introduces himself and talks a bit about the upcoming book 4 of Duckpac, the last in the series about playing Duck characters in RuneQuest Glorantha. The three first books are available here:

Appropriately for the topic at hand, Drew also wrote “Highways & Byways“, a book on travelling across Dragon Pass. All the other books by Drew can be found here.

Ludovic mentions that the Glorantha Initiation Series has reached the end of its “first season”, so to speak, but that other interviews with newcomers to Glorantha will be scheduled soon.

Drew mentions New Pavis: City on the Edge of Forever, by Ian Thomson and friends, which is a reprint of some of the materials from Ian’s old “Pavis & Big Rubble Companions“, which are hard to find these days.

Main Topic

As this is part 5 in our series on Biturian Varosh, Drew and Ludovic tell the story so far.

You don’t need to be an old grognard from the 1970s to get Cults of Prax: it’s available in Print-on-Demand and PDF from Chaosium.

Kyger Litor

Ludovic tries to bring up the fandom in-joke about Kyger Lytor having had more write-ups than any other cult somehow… (RuneQuest 1st and 2nd editions, Cults of Prax, Trollpak, and then in RQ3’s Gods of Glorantha, Trollpak, and Troll Gods, and I might still be missing some other ones)

Where is this Trolltown that Biturian goes to? It’s not on the Argan Argar Atlas or the Guide to Glorantha, so we speculate a bit (including the fact that it might be just about too small to show up on those maps). We also take a quick tour of the region, which has been developed with new landmarks since Cults of Prax was written.

We take a closer look at the troll population in this settlement, and how trollkin are treated.

Speaking Old Pavic to reduce the Bargain skill… it depends on the language rules in play.

How is Bladesharp called in practice in Glorantha? Biturian probably uses God Learner shorthand or Tradetalk terms. Ludovic mentions Austin Conrad’s head-canon about Tradetalk terminology and its use in non commercial contexts.

We looking at the items that Biturian trades with the trolls… and conclude that the trolls are French. Not the Morokanth, which Drew pictured as French because of the RuneQuest 3 Gloranthan Bestiary cover for some reason:

Drew has a theory involving framing trolls for Orlanthi rebel activities.

Next we look at dragon teeth and figure out what size those might be, depending on what kind of teeth they are.

What’s up with animal tails? Ludovic has a “completely bonkers conspiracy theory”. Drew has a much more reasonable one.

The Kyger Lytor priestess is on a heroquest, of course… is everybody heroquesting in this story?

Which ancestor do you get when you trade the Summon Ancestor spell? Drew and Ludovic exchange opinions.

A bunch of trollkin get trampled, which is both awesome and sad.

Zorak Zoran

We revisit the question of whose ancestor spirit shows up when you cast a spell you got from someone else. Ludovic also assumes that Biturian got lucky by not getting a malign ancestor or a weak one.

Biturian is packing good healing magic for RQ2 rules… but healing a severed arm is a lot more accessible in RQG.

Drew thinks about the poor Chalana Arroy (from the last episode) who went on a heroquest with Biturian’s spells inside a Truestone… assuming that things didn’t go very well since she had to cast all these spells for Biturian to get them back by now.

Drew does some forensics on the combat between Biturian’s camp and the trolls, making fun of Biturian’s motivations in the process.

Drew has a problem with Rurik, who is (of course!) heroquesting. Ludovic makes up a stratagem to get more out of Rurik.

What has made the Zorak Zorani to attack the camp? What is Rurik doing around here? Ludovic and Drew have theories.

We look at Biturian’s use of the Lock spell and, again, have a quick thought for the poor Chalana Arroy adventurer.

The Zorak Zorani blood vengeance is mentioned, along with the tricky prospect of having to explain to berserker trolls that Biturian didn’t technically kill any troll.


We reach the Redwood Forest, which was unnamed back in Cults of Prax, but is featured in the Argan Argar Atlas maps.

Drew spots an error in the dates, which is also present in the Cults Compendium. Ludovic mentions some typos in the new PDF version of Cults of Prax, possibly from OCR gone wrong.

Ludovic talks about the bow seeds and how cool it is that Aldryami grow their tools. We actually have an episode on the Aldryami and everything else that’s cool about them.

Drew goes over the increasing foreshadowing of Morak’s true nature by way of the Aldrya cult’s limitation for lay members, which indicates that Morak is most likely a Beastfolk.

It is implied that Biturian and Norayeep eloped, possibly back at the Pairing Stones.

The Beastfolk can be found outside of Beast Valley in elf forests so it makes sense they would be Aldrya lay members at the very least.

Drew has another cynical theory about Biturian’s motivations here, as Morak is taken by the local Minotaurs.


We chat about the travel logistics of Biturian, and his wedding costs.

Drew puts on his “Joerg hat” to mention the “Biturian is on a heroquest” theory, but Ludovic doesn’t buy it… although he is intrigued by the “inception” aspect of a heroquest inside a heroquest.

We take a look at Vareena Coweye, the Bison Rider chieftain’s wife, her role in the wedding, and what magics she could be casting.

Drew goes back to the wedding costs in detail, because, of course, he has crunched the numbers for you! We compare these costs to Biturian’s gifts to the Bison Rider chieftain’s wedding (which we talked about back when the podcast was named “Wind Words”). Ludovic theorizes that the Bison Rider tribe paid for the whole of Biturian and Norayeep’s wedding in return.

Drew thinks that the elves will scam the Bison Riders with their deal on freed elves vs bison tails.


Drew tells us what became of Biturian in the RQG timeline, and quotes Greg from the letters found in the Stafford House Campaign.

Art by Kristi Jones

We are back into Gloranthan anthropology (more or less) for this episode, with our guest Brian Duguid, author of Children of Hykim. By virtue of having literally written a book on the subject, Brian is an expert in the Hsunchen, the stone age people who are each associated with a tribal totem animal.

This topic might be rather unfamiliar to newcomers to Glorantha, since the Hsunchen are only mentioned briefly in the core RuneQuest books — mostly in the entry for the Telmori Wolfbrothers in the Glorantha Bestiary.

Joerg wasn’t available for writing these show notes so they are a lot shorter and less detailed than usual.

In this interview, we talk about:

  • Brian’s path from playing RuneQuest in his youth, going through a deep-freeze, and coming back to Glorantha in the post HeroQuest / Guide to Glorantha era… and the massive amount of materials that this brought upon fans.
  • Who the Hsunchen are, and what the average RuneQuest adventurer might know about them.
  • What does a “stone age culture” looks like.
  • Who is this Hykim, and what do Hsunchen myths look like.
  • Hsunchen magic and the problem with RuneQuest’s Transform Self spells.
  • Bringing Hsunchen NPCs into your adventures set in Dragon Pass, and sending your PCs out into Hsunchen lands.
  • Portraying Hsunchen NPCs.
  • Playing Hsunchen adventurers, and the themes and locations of a Hsunchen campaign.

To learn more about the Hsunchen, the main two sources are:

  • The Guide to Glorantha (especially Volume 1): it’s pricey but it’s a giant pile of awesome information, and a great source of ideas for any gamemaster. The PDF version is a lot more affordable, and the one I personally use almost all the time by virtue of being searchable.
  • The Children of Hykim (of course): it’s non-canonical (for whatever that’s worth to you), but not only does it give detailed information on many Hsunchen tribes, it also provides rules for creating and playing Hsunchen characters.

For this episode we welcome two guests: Katrin Dirim and Claudia Loroff.

The Guests

Claudia is part of Jeff’s house campaigns with notable characters like Gina Gravedancer in the White Bull campaign, Yanioth, and the snake-dancer mystic in the HeroQuest Glorantha examples. Claudia is also the author of an upcoming Gloranthan cookbook. It is about 95% done, and is a travel guide accompanying Yanioth and Sorala, from Boldhome via New Pavis to Wintertop.

The difficulty level is kept rather low. There are recipes for starting your own yeast or sourdough, although you can buy finished starters. The travelogue also takes down their experience, like pub crawls, feasting with Argrath, etc. Kitchen hardware includes a fire-pit, a big cauldron (preferable out of enchanted iron), and the usual cutlery.

Katrin is the sole illustrator of the upcoming Prosoaedia, with two pieces in the Starter Set. Katrin is also prominent in the Jonstown Compendium, as in History of Malkionism, Six Paths, some pieces in Corn Dolls, and a major contribution of map-like illustrations for the travelogue narrative and numerous smaller pieces in Martin Helsdon’s upcoming book on ships and sailing around southern Genertela. That book will also feature quite a number of illustrations by Mark Smylie. See links at the bottom of these show notes.

Ludo talks about the Aztec-like style of representations of deities for the Prosopaedia and the pantheon maps.

Main Topic: Ernaldan Adventuresses

Today’s topic is about Ernalda, the Queen of the Gods.

Claudia as the professional Ernalda player does a short presentation of the Earth goddesses.

We learn about the in-house brainstorming sessions between Jeff Richard, Claudia and Neil Robinson about how to make the Cult of Ernalda playable for adventuring. The Cult has been around for a long time – she only finds mention as associate cult in Cults of Prax, but her cult was the first to be published for the third edition of RuneQuest, in booklet 5 (the short introduction to Glorantha) of the deluxe boxed set. This was presented in the same long cult format that was used by both Cults of Prax and Cults of Terror (and in the other RQ2 products with cult descriptions).

Ernalda and the accompanying Dendara would remain the only full cult write up for a few years, followed by Kyger Litor in the Trollpak reprint and the expanded other Troll Gods (and Kyker Litor again) in that box, and the three major Elder Races cults in Elder Secrets: Mostal, Aldrya, and Kyger Litor (yet again). The RQ3 Renaissance brought us updated  cults of Yelmalio, the Lightbringers from Cults of Prax, Zola Fel, Cacodemon and the Cults of Terror reprint Lords of Terror.

Claudia advocated a course for playing Ernalda cultists that she dubs as “Blood, Sex and Rock’n Roll”. Ernalda is about sacrifices of animals, with the meat being used for feasts giving back to the communities, and her rites also include quite a bit of sex as a healthy community requires a steady supply of children.

Ernalda is at the heart of the Orlanthi communities. Claudia points out that initiates and even more so God Talkers and Priestesses of Ernalda are welcome in any Orlanthi community.

Claudia stresses the importance of the Charisma spell and how her characters tend to solve a lot of problems using the skills Sing and Dance for ritual support of other players or in worship. For conflicts, there are war songs, battle cries, and war dances, possibly intoxicated on drugs or ritual drinks.

In the new treatment, Ernalda becomes an active deity rather than the damsel in distress.

We go through the other Earth goddesses:

  • Babeester Gor is the always angry death-wielding daughter of Ernalda. Fairly easy to play, but possibly a bit one-dimensional.
  • Maran Gor , the Earth Shaker goddess, who still remains a challenge for an interesting character concept.
  • Ty Kora Tek, which lets you play a necromancer in Glorantha. Ty Kora Tek is the twin sister of Asrelia, only mentioned as an associate cult in the core rules. She is the caretaker of the souls of the dead, an Underworld goddess who welcomes the dead as they let go of their mundane lives and rest in her halls waiting to be reborn. This makes her an important part of the cycle of life. Ty Kora Tek provides a good afterlife for the dead, as long as their descendants commemorate them with sacrifices and rites. Her role starts with the proper burials of the dead, putting their ghosts  to rest, etc.

Claudia points out one problem with all the Earth pantheon cults – all the cool spells are usually rune magic. While you need to be careful about spending your rune points, the spells tend to be kick-ass – Claudia riffs off about Earth elementals, Command Ghost, and others.

Ludo addresses the gender (or sex) limitations of many of these Earth goddesses, at least at the top ranks in the hierarchy.

Katrin re-tells the Making of the Storm Tribe and how Ernalda manages and manipulates all those disorganized and selfish Storm deities, giving them a common foe to unite against. At the end of these events, Orlanth asks his wife how the foe knew about where the meeting was to take place, and Ernalda tells him not to worry about that. Which Orlanth wisely does.

Ludo asks about the relationship between Ernalda and Dendara, and Katrin points out that Dendara (who is mainly the wife of Yelm) is mainly the goddess of wives, whereas Ernalda is the Queen of the Gods and the representation of the Earth without which nothing works.

Ludo points towards Esrolia as the center of her cult’s power, but Claudia stresses her importance already in the more male-cult dominated Sartar. In Nochet, she is the absolute ruler, and can dictate what to do, while in Dragon Pass she has to be a bit more roundabout, reminding kings as well as ordinary people that her blessings come with a cost (sacrifice and worship), and that she can become a bit ugly if neglected.

Ludo asks about the importance to have those female avenger cults like Babeester Gor or Maran when Ernalda has all those husband protector cults she can throw into the breach. Claudia reminds us about the scarcity of worshippers of these cults in Sartar. Esrolia may see a slightly higher proportion, or at least significantly higher absolute numbers because of its much larger population.

Maran Gor has her special temple in the Wintertop area, the Shaker’s Temple. Maran is the goddess of the wrathful earth and of earthquakes, with her worship mainly as propitiation to keep her from destroying or disrupting everything. Babeester is the Earth avenger, which is a rather narrow field.

Babeester Gor is also the lost daughter, standing for a lot of things that Ernalda doesn’t do or encompass. Babeester is angry most of the time, something that Ernalda rarely is.

Katrin gives an example how to make worshippers of Babeester Gor less boring or stereotypical, by stressing the investigative aspect of chasing down offenders. Her hot pursuit of such criminals makes her a possible choice for playing a detective. Ludo talks about “Sherlock Holmes with an axe”.

Ludo compares Babeester Gor’s birth to parents losing their temper, and only to regret the outburst five minutes later.

Claudia emphasizes that roleplaying opportunities can be made where others don’t see them. She talks about planning a role-playing session around a funeral feast with mysterious deaths, in the style of Agatha Christie.

Jörg sums up some of the ideas as having Babeester Gor as a James Bond-like provocateur with a license to kill where husband cults may balk at the prospect.

Ludo asks about how to attract more female players to Glorantha, and whether the cult of Ernalda is the vehicle to do that.

Claudia talks about the male and female archetypes available in RuneQuest and Glorantha. She mentions the considerable initial hurdle to overcome when entering the setting, and how having some of these gender limitations may help a player new to Glorantha to identify with the character.

Once you have made your entry into the setting, you can play around with breaking the expectations of archetypes and requirements.

Claudia tells how almost dying in childbirth gave her a different perspective on motherhood and parenthood in the setting.

Katrin agrees that while some aspects of Bronze Age life and how Glorantha works may appear stark and disturbing, dealing with those can make the experience of the setting richer.

Claudia recounts how she played in the Esrolian campaign around (future) queen Samastina, and how the party made sure that the character got pregnant from an important political marriage, and how Claudia’s Ernaldan priestess helped make sure that she became very pregnant, actually resulting in twins being born. There also were processions where the pregnant queen would emphasize her pregnant belly to the onlookers with gold dust, etc.

On a less exalted level, having a big feast in the village when asking for the blessings of the gods, slaughtering the sacrificial animals and making good dishes out of the meat.

With Ty Kora Tek, it is surprising how many ghosts you can control or lay to rest, gaining quite a bit of oomph out of that.

It is OK to be relegated to a support role in battle situations when you lead the social interactions, which can take up more of the game than actual combat.

Ludo brings up the political game, with intrigue, creating a social as well as an information or even spy network, with lots of minions and followers.

Claudia points out that you will find an Ernaldan shrine or better in even the tiniest village, which allows players of Ernalda cultists to have some sway or, at least, contacts anywhere they go.

Jörg points out that Ernalda is the wedding planner of basically everyone, and the networks of exogamous marriages will give you a female kinswoman in every other tribe.

Claudia emphasizes the role of Ernalda as the wise woman, allowing a player to inject her ideas as divine wisdom into the community.

Katrin talks about that little Ernaldan babooshka you will find in every village without whom everything would cease to function.

Ludo laments that RuneQuest combat can hog a lot of game time, making it hard to keep non-combat type characters engaged in such segments.

Claudia suggests being creative about skills and their application, like challenging Jar-eel using her dance skill, hindering her enough to be able to attain a heroquest station objective despite her opposition. This is well beyond the normal scope of the skill, but in the situation (in a magically different environment) it gave her character a handle on the situation. (But then, that is more of a Questworlds mindset of how to use interestingly named skills.)

The rules system is a guidance, not something set in stone.

Claudia also advocates to leave the healing to characters other than the Earth worshippers. We also learn about why Yanioth has a beast rune of 75%.

Katrin points out that there are better things to do than “I hit ‘em with my sword” for three hours. In one of her games, a Chalana Arroy cultist had their snake familiar entangle a combatant’s legs to take them out without actual bloodshed.

Claudia enthuses about Command Swine when facing Tusk Riders.

Jörg points out that all those monstrous swine were ultimately sent against the people of the region as punishment for neglecting the goddess, showing the ugly side of the cult.

Claudia admits that her earth worshippers tend to have some skill with axe and shield, but that is often more fun to stand back and use your skills in a more creative way. Rather than swinging a sharp implement for hours, she prefers supporting the fighters, cheer-leading them or raising the onlookers as a support force to overwhelm the opposition.

Ludo compares the role of Ernalda as a support character with multi-player video games. Claudia points out that while that may be the case in combat situations, the Ernalda player will often take the spotlight in social interaction, possibly having been the matchmaker for a local, being the first to get access to dirty secrets etc., likely side-lining the combat types.

“There is always another way”: Ludo asks about situations where an Ernaldan character would have spoiled a perfectly fine opportunity to have a battle.

Claudia recalls one game that had been very battle-heavy, to the extent that the entire party decided it was too dangerous, leaving the challenge unanswered. That made for a very short game as the GM had prepared mainly for that conflict.

Other GMs including Jeff experience again and again how a game unfolds very differently from what they prepared, often because of group dynamics, so that may actually be “the other way”.

Sometimes this can come about from real world influences. Katrin reminiscences about a case where a player had to leave abroad for two (weekly) sessions, returning to come into the chaotic aftermath of an attack on their community, gracing the other players and their characters with a scathing “I leave you alone for two weeks, and that’s what happens!”

Heroquesting for and with Ernalda and female archetypes: Claudia gives us a small peek into the playtesting of the new heroquesting rules, using Greg Stafford’s old maps of the hero plane (quite likely something like the “spiral map” that is shown in Arcane Lore) which had aspects of the earth pantheon. Meeting Aldryami, stone trees, doing “not very kids-appropriate” adult interaction, playing with the archetypes and the runes and passions. In the end, runes, passions and rune spells are the major elements that you use in the hero plane rather than mundane skills or average spirit magics.

Carrying children into battle? Putting the peace into a battle scene? Or rather putting Darwinism into action, survival of the fittest? Claudia retorts that Ernalda likes (watching) a fight, then marrying the victor.  “Marrying for a year and a day is fine, it’s enough.”

Ernalda has very weird children? “They are all beautiful”. Then Katrin mentions how difficult it was in the catalogue of the gods to fit all of Ernalda’s children into the diagram.

Ludo asks how pregnancies and having kids works out inside the game. Claudia reports how some aspects of real life arrangements getting the grandmother to look after the children crept into the game once, still being easier in game than it would be in real life.

“All the interesting magic is rune magic”. Does Ernalda have a big advantage in that regard? Claudia advocates to go for the throat, dropping the rune spells for good effect, and enjoying failure when it happens as those moments can be the most memorable (and the most fun, at least in hindsight).

Claudia’s favourite spells for earth worshippers:

  • Earth Elemental
  • Command Ghost (slay first, interrogate later)
  • Inviolable
  • Charisma

How does use of Charisma work out in the game? Ludo points out that the skill boost is likely minimal, but Claudia answers that you don’t need to roll skills, and just play to the story.

Katrin reminds that RuneQuest is not a game of slow attrition, but of few periods of high tension and glossed over dull everyday life.

Claudia also confesses that the GM may award the players regaining the rune points as a reward.

Jörg asks how to make getting back the rune points fun in the game, and Katrin’s suggestion of sacrifice and rites gets appropriated by Claudia’s “a roll in the field”, which leads to the question how much of a veil you drop onto the resulting sex and drugs and rock’n roll. Unsurprisingly, it depends on the people you play with.

In conclusion, Claudia talks about her two images of Ernalda – one is the voluptuous, broad-hipped fertility goddess, the other are the Minoan snake-dancers. Katrin confirms that those curves are a necessary feature when she is drawing Earth characters.

And with that, we conclude our episode.


While quite a few of the projects mentioned above still need to get published, here is a list of works already that feature Katrin’s stunning art prominently:

  • The History of Malkionism by Nick Brooke, illuminated by Katrin Dirim, with extensive bonus material on the art direction
  • The Six Paths, a sourcebook on gender among the Heortlings, by Edan Jones, art by Katrin Dirim

You can see Claudia play her Ty Kora Tek necromancer, Gina Gravedancer, in the White Bull actual play series.


The intro music is “The Warbird” by Try-Tachion. Other music includes “Cinder and Smoke” and “Skyspeak“, along with audio from the FreeSound library.

Our guest for this episode is Dom Twist of the Beer With Teeth writers’ (and gamers’) collective, known for his contributions both in a couple of Chaosium publications (Pegasus Plateau‘s Crimson Petals, and Weapon and Equipment Guide) and for various Jonstown Compendium publications by Beer With Teeth (including Dregs of Clearwine, Cups of Clearwine, Stone and Bone, and Rocks Fall).

Dom is another returnee to the podcast, debuting in episode 4: Writing Adventures in Glorantha.

This episode was recorded in early August 2022.


More up to date updates are available from Ludo’s weekly Journal of Runic Studies newsletter.

The Weapons & Equipment Guide made its debut in hardcover at GenCon after a previous PDF release late in 2021. Dom points out that this is going to be the last publication with a PDF release before the printed product. Ludo refers to a statement of Rick Meins reported (and commented) in issue 59 of the Journal of Runic Studies.

Ludo reports on the dates for the next Chaosium Con, which will happen April 13 to 16, again in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Dom talks about his plans to go to Continuum 2023 (first time it changed to annual turnover) and Dragoncon.

Children of Hykim by Brian Duguid is out on Jonstown Compendium.

We discuss the rune point cost of turning into a totemic beast.

Dom is enthusiastic about the quantity and quality of the Jonstown Compendium and the RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha releases.

The first volume of Duckpac was out at the time of recording, but by now there are already three of the announced four volumes available.

Chaosium interview with Jeff Richard on game balance.

Main Topic (“It is boaring”)

Ludo presents Dom as the person referred to us as an expert on these guys.

We assume that listeners have at least the RuneQuest rulebook and Bestiary, but Ludo does a 20 seconds presentation of the Tusk Riders

Public Knowledge

What would the average Gloranthan know about the Tusk Riders?

Jörg points out the chance of the adventurers parents having participated in the Boar Hunt of 1606, and Ludo mentions the one of 1622 that adventurers could have participated in themselves.

Dom states that in the eyes of the average Gloranthan of the region, the Tusk Riders are evil: they raid, not just for food and loot, they also want to capture and torture people for their magic.

Dom explains that each Tusk Rider is paired with one of these giant Tusker boars, pretty clever beasts totally dedicated to their riders.

Dom compares them to Sir Ethilrist’s Black Horse cavalry.

The Tusk Riders are heavy cavalry who move unimpeded through forests

We talk about gaining the alliance of a large number of Tusk Riders by sacrificing an entire unit of militia as sacrifices to the Bloody Tusk.

Jörg points out that they breed like pigs, too, replenishing their numbers within very few years.

Ludo talks about what happens to their captives, whose spirits remain enslaved after being tortured to death. We speculate how much of the details of this are known to their foes, and how much of the in-world lore about the Tusk Riders is factual and how much is hear-say or superstition.

We agree that the Tusk Riders are bad to the bone, and thus an excellent foe or boogeyman to throw at adventurers, whether in person or whether just as rumours.

Publication History

Ludo brings up their exonym “Orcs on Porks”, at least among roleplayers.

Dom reminisces about orcs in RuneQuest and other systems.

Jörg boars with the publication history, beginning with RuneQuest 1st edition which already had stats for most of the creatures mentioned in White Bear and Red Moon/Dragon Pass and Nomad Gods.

In White Bear & Red Moon (WBRM) they already had that alliance requirement of sacrificing a unit of soldiers, and a couple of other traits later realized in their expanded descriptions.

Ludo points out that there were Tusk Riders that could be hired as mercenaries or used as adversaries in Snake Pipe Hollow, one of the early scenarios for RuneQuest.

Dom mentions the Judges Guild RuneQuest scenario Broken Tree Inn, located near Snake Pipe Hollow and thus near the Stinking Forest, which features them too.

The Tusk Riders get a fuller description in 1981’s Borderlands campaign, with a full page on their culture and history, and as antagonists in one of the seven scenarios.

Dom relates his recent experiences encountering Tusk Riders as opponents for a player character of his, in the Borderlands campaign, pointing out the enmity between his Daka Fal shaman and all the Tusk Riders stand for.

Jörg points out that the text passages in the earlier publications often were re-used verbatim in later publications (WBRM; Wyrm’s Footnotes 3 in the Guide to Glorantha, the NPCs of Borderlands in HeroQuest’s Pavis: Gateway to Adventure, RQ3 Elder Secrets in the RQG Bestiary), which on one hand is nice that the newer material contains most of the information the older publications had, but limits the actual amount of text written on the Tusk Riders.

Ludo speculates about why the Ivory Plinth poem gets recycled again and again (Wyrm’s Footnotes #3, Wyrm’s Footprints (the “Best of Wyrm’s Footnotes” by Reaching Moon Megacorp, under an Issaries license, mostly with material that went into the Sourcebook), the Guide to rGlorantha, and the RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha Bestiary). Jörg muses that the poem makes fleeting mention of so many places and events that were never explained that this is the only way to preserve them. Dom points out that the poem was created by Greg Stafford, and that Greg himself was not a stickler for remaining absolutely true to what he produced years ago, unlike some other contemporary brand.

Troll Pak riffs on the half-troll connection and introduces their role in the troll civil war during the Inhuman occupation.

King of Sartar expands on that conflict, and The Smoking Ruins scenario book further expands on this.

Coming into Glorantha with the current RuneQuest rules, already the first scenario in the GM Screen pack features them.

Dom points out that the presence of Tusk Riders cannot be ignored by responsible leaders or problem solvers, as they are certainly going to come and take captives and plunder, if they haven’t already done so and you need to free their victims, or at least release their spirits.

Theory Crafting and Fake History

Ludo leads into this by pointing out that we don’t know the canonical situation, and that the Tusk Riders themselves when talking about their past are known as liars making impossible boasts.

Dom mentions the human hero Aram-ya-Udram, a human hero who boumd a Darkness Spirit to him. After the Dark Night Ermaöda sent the God-Pig Gouger to exact vengeance for improper worship or even blasphemy.

Here’s a work-in-progress picture of Aram by Loic Muzy for the Cults of Glorantha book:

Dom speculates that already Aram heroquested to turn his people into the half-trolls and worshippers of the Darkness demon.

Dom teases a follow-up scenario for Defending Apple Lane while talking about Red-Eye, the divine /demon pig residing in or around Pig Hollow in the Colymar Wilds.

Ludo spoilers Defending Apple Lane (but you’ll have to listen to the podcast to hear this)

Jörg protests that Dom is maligning good old Aram-ya-Udram, who was after all the human representative on the World Council of Friends in the first century after the Dawn, and a civilized man.

Ludo offers a (in his words) half-assed theory about the Aramites, Tusker-riding humans living in the region of what would become the Ivory Plinth, an ancient ziggurat temple in the Stinking Forest (then still known as the Tallseed Forest).

Then some people disrespected the Earth, becoming complacent stopping proper worship of Ernalda, getting punished by sending Gouger to take revenge. Aram tricks Gouger, using his Darkness Demon, slays the God Pig and sets up his tusks at the Ivory Plinth.

Ludo theorizes that Aram’s people lost their agriculture, becoming hunter-gatherers and mercenaries  riding the Tusker boars that could be tamed thanks to Aram’s feat slaying Gouger.

Later, during the EWF, the human Tusk Riders approached some Mad Scientist working in the EWF to make them more powerful

Ludo riffs on the Tusk Rider claim that once upon a time they had 12 kings each ruling their kingdom, and suggests that the experimentators had 12 experimental specimen of Aramite stock who somehow escaped the experimentators, taking bloody revenge (to loan from the Akira anime/manga) and starting the half-troll Tusk Riders we know today.

We digress shortly on the Remakers – Ludo suggests gene-splicing, Joerg advocates classical stitch-up chimeras like Frankenstein’s Monster or Doctor Moreau’s Island.

Ludo points out that according to  one source, the Darkness spirt bound by Aram and used to slay Gouger disappeared into a void of Chaos, and that bringing back that spirit as their God of the Bloody Tusk may have corrupted them.

Dom thinks that that corruption has more of a Chaos feel and points out that there is a know Void of Chaos right on the edge of the Stinking Forest, below Snake Pipe Hollow. Dom points out that we know for a fact that in the EWF there were these experiments which resulted in the Beastmen, but thtat there were other ways the Beastmen came to be, and with the heroquesting going on  in those times everything could be true to some extent, or made to tbe true.

Ludo wants his players to stumble on an old experimental complex of the EWF experimentators, with numbered holding cells destroyed, apparently from within, and gruesome victims of that escape fossilized in some way or written records made by the experimentators.

Jörg points out that the list of Dawn Survival Sites in the Guide (or History of the Heortling Peoples) also mentions a Tusker-riding nobility among the Harandings at Marlothenyi, in northern Esrolia.

Those Harandings feature in the original Lawstaff Quest (first presented in King of Sartar and used as a scenario in the Orlmarth campaign in HeoQuest’s Sartar: Kingdom of Heroes), where their king Harand Boardick pawns a son to his troll ally Jago Zaramzil to gain their support in his attack on Arrowtop Mountain.

They also lived right next to the Entruli of Maniria and Slontos, descendants of the Pig Mother, and possibly the people Harand’s mother came from.

Jeff put up some stuff on the Well of Daliath that indicates that Aram was helping Lalmor of the Vathmai (an Entruli clan or tribe living in or near Esrolia) bring the Lightbringer Ways to the Entruli.

The Entruli king had done some rather unspeakable things which caused his city to sink below the Mournsea, and some other cities to be destroyed. Jörg speculates that this was the transgression against Ernalda which caused Gouger to rampage against those cities, continuing to destroy human habitations as the God Pig moved east into Esrolia and beyond into Dragon Pass. Jörg speculates that Aram’s companions hunting down the God Pig might have been a warband of Haranding nobles who followed the pig all the way to the Stinking Forest, and then settling down there without any gardeners of farmers, making a living as mercenaries, hunters and gatherers.

The timetable is a bit messed up, but that isn’t that unusual in Gloranthan history.

A literal reading of the Dawn Sites documents suggests that Gougers tusks were already in place at the Dawn, which means that Aram slaying the God Pig would have happened in the Silver Age, or even earlier. But then, Ernalda went to sleep some time around the arrival of the Chaos Horde to fool Nontraya and his hordes of the Dead and didn’t really have the means to send an avenging pig or complaining of not receiving the correct worship until after the Dawn.

Jorg boaringly goes on to list the named leaders of the boar riders throughout history.

There was the leader of the center of the Orlanthi contingent at the Battle of Night And Day, Old Swine Dezar, leading 150 Tusker-riding warriors into the battle.

There was the Great Living Hero of the EWF in the Machine Wars, Varnakol the Mangler, a boar rider who had tusks and two named axes, whose enemies preferred death by his axes to being captured by him.

And finally there was Karastrand Half Troll, “leader of the boar-riding trolls of the Rockwood Mountains”, during the Troll Civil War in the Inhuman Occupation. Karastand claimed imperial human ancestry-

Jörg has the wild theory that the son given up by Harand Boardick in the Lawstaff Saga got adopted and reborn as a troll and fathered a lineage of boar-rider trolls in the Rockwood Mountains, and that  that lineage and the (already EWF-modified)  Aramites around the Ivory Plinth crossbred, making that half-troll ancestry true at least for this leader and his siblings, possibly as an adoption ritual similar tto that Pain Centaur spiel that Ironhoof used to adopt the Pure Horse Folk survivors of the Battle of Alavan Argay to found the Grazeland pony breeders.

Ludo wonders how this could be brought into a game (where Jörg assumed that any Sage worth their ink and/or facial hair would happily collect such information).

Making Games More Boaring

Next we start talking about using Tusk Riders in games.

Dom suggests that the Tusk Rider ritual to turn captives into one of their kind is not limited to humans but that it also works on trolls.

Jörg mentions the thread on BRP Central on Tusk Rider adoption. Dom points out the Tusk Rider adoption story-line in the xomputer/mobile game King of Dragon Pass, and using that in your own campaign.

Dom quips that they are sort of the Hells Angels of Gloranha, coming to beat people up, take their stuff, riding hogs.

The BRP Central thread had a suggestion that someone might quest to return the Tusk Riders to their less unpleasant human form, although we wonder who would go for that trouble.

Dom poins out the Sons of Anarchy TV show which is about a criminal biker gang, and how that could be used for some Tusk Rider plots, and that the Tusk Riders should be intelligent and clever opponents.

As they have low charisma, the leaders of a warband will lead by intimidating their followers, and by providing results.

Ludo points out how the Tusk Rider antagonists get decent tactics, acting intelligently. Dom suggests that they wish to harvest the most magical of their opponents, and that they lure them into their kind of territory by abducting dependents.

Dom points out how binding enemies’ spirits creates a magic economy for the Tusk Riders that forees them to capture other people to become powerful, which they need to survive in Tusk Rider gangs, especially as leaders. All that stolen magic makes them strong and unpredictable magical foes.

Dom describes how hit and run tactics may be used to make their opponents cast expensive spells, only to sit those out until they expire, and then hit again. They have the magic of their bound spirits in severed hands or tails to power their spells, and may use their Tusker as an allied spirit, too.

For capturing foes, they may use lassos or similar, then dragging their victims through the forests which cannot be healthy.

Ludo asks about how to stage the hit-and-run using RQG rules (like e.g. the chase rules), or whether to handwave (which is how Dom prefers to run such things, more narratively). Dom points out how the Tusk Riders are vulnerable to missile fire when doing that, as their major tactical flaw.

Ludo describes how he had the characters of his “we all play children” campaign happen on the site of a Tusk Rider massacre, and then catch up with exhausted Tusk Rider survivors of that combat, playing them dumb to match the abilities of the underage characters.

Dom describes how he ran a sequel to Defending Apple Lane where the sister of the leader of the first attack (who lost quite a few minions, and leadership) comes not so much to take vengeance but to harvest those interesting magics of the player heroes, preparing ambushes and traps for luring them into pursuit after capturing some dependents in the hamlet.

Ludo explores where Tusk Riders typically set up their bases.

Dom suggests that a Thane of Apple Lane who successfully dealt with Tusk Riders and possibly Red-eye multiple times may become a status target for ambitious Tusk Rider leaders or wannabes.

Speaking of typical boons earned by player characters Im the official adventures, Jörg asks how Dom would handle a conflict between hippogriff-riding heroes and Tusk Riders. “Into the woods” would be the Tusk Rider reaction to such opponents.

Dom goes on to describe the Stinking Forest as a war zone where Tusk Riders, trolls, elves, dwarfs and giant spiders may slug it out, allowing any playee heroes to experience crossfire situations.

Ludo talks about how there might be secret shrines to the Cult of the Bloody Tusk very close to area deemed safe by the player  heroes, with pilgrimages bringing victims there. Jörg suggests to use the Broken Tower as a possible holy site for Tusk Riders, sparing the GM a lot of prep time.

Ludo talks about somewhat “friendlier” Tusk Rider neighbors that will take ransom payments, or engage in clandestine trading, which Dom brings back to the plot hooks that can be lifted from Sons of Anarchy.

Dom mentions the problems that might arise when a party healer (possibly the NPC follower) gets taken by Tusk Riders. Do you want to face Tusk Riders with powerful healing magic, or the Sleep spell? Tusk Riders are one of the few non-chaotic Gloranthan foes who would have no qualms killing Chalana Arroy healers.

Jörg brings up the possibility of using the Tusk Riders as a playable race. We talk about how to play  characters who are bound to torture people to keep up magically, and how this needs buy-in by the players, and careful off-screen handling of the unpleasantness.

Dom mentions the scenario that a gang of Tusk Riders who may have plagued you the past few seasons offering their services as mercenaries

Dom spiced up his Tusk Rider threat by having them carry newly minted Lunar Tarshite coins, to trigger player character paranoia. Dom expands how an able Lunar commander might send out a special operations team (effectively a player character party managed by the GM) to stir up feuds and banditry in the rebelling province of Sartar, with Tusk Riders a good choice to spread terror and distraction.

As time runs out, Jörg thinks that we have boared people enough, and Ludo hopes we made people loathe / love them as much as we do.


Cover image by Cory Trego-Erdner.

The intro music is “The Warbird” by Try-Tachion. Other music includes “Cinder and Smoke“, “Skyspeak“, “Stomp“, and “Sjaman’s Dream: Fire“, along with audio from the FreeSound library.

In Episode 14, the God Learner podcast returns to its exploration of the Nomad Gods, with David Scott from Chaosium.


The “Write Your First Adventure” summer workshop has started, with a RuneQuest course by Nick Brooke.

Pirates of the East Isles is out, with some art and minor spoilers by Ludo.

The Red Deer Saga (incorrectly mentioned as “White Deer”) is now available in print.

Volume 1 of Duckpac was indeed released shortly after our recording, and is now Silver Best Seller!

Dates for Chaosium Con 2023 have been announced. You can read Ludo’s report on this year’s convention.

More current news are available in our newsletter, the Journal of Runic Studies.

Nomad Gods: The Magic Game

David gives a one minute summary of Nomad Gods.

Ludo discusses the availability of the game in print, and we mention the VASSAL virtual tabletop version again.

Trying to talk about Les Dieux Nomades, Jörg is lost in memories, and gets confused about which convention he bought it at. We go into a rabbit hole while trying to find when this game was released — if that sounds boring, you can skip ahead or use the time bookmarks (only supported in good podcast players).

We mention Nick Brooke’s fan translation of the French rules terms on his website, here and here. Nick also created a beautiful printable map with all the features of French map, but with a hex overlay that fits.

David mentions the colourful counters of Les Dieux Nomades, as can be seen on Boardgamegeek.

We talk a bit about the problems when names are translated, failing to recognize the translation, and being out of alphabetic order. Note that Jar-eel the Razoress in French is “Jar-eel la Tranchante”.

Ludo gives a shout-out to the illustrations, before we talk about the rules.

David explains the difference between the counters for Nomad Gods where there is no range factor (for spirits of magician units) but a reflection factor telling whether a counter could attack neighbouring counters in spirit combat using the magic factor or whether it could fight back rather than just soak up damage with the magic factor. But then, there are units with a range factor of zero in Dragon Pass, too, and there are a few spirits that remain on the board and can attack neighbouring hexes with their magic, too, so it is more a case of different terminology than different rules.

David relays what Greg Stafford told him: “It was one of the flaws of the Praxians that they were tied much more to the spirits than they were tied to the deities, the greater gods.

This focus on spirits and animism is the result of the great destruction from the Gods War in Prax. That’s why each major tribe has a shaman counter, and each shaman has a fetch.

RuneQuest emulates the worship of deities as spirits by giving a chance of contacting a god or goddess when reaching out to the spirits.

David points out that Cults of Prax sort of maps Nomad Gods in that a lot of Nomad Gods is in the structure of Cults of Prax.

There are unpublished descriptions by Greg Stafford about how the tribes move their herds, with a shaman at the front looking into the spirit world to look for the best magical grazing, etc.

Jörg suggests that Praxians are more versatile in rune magic through spirit cults, but again that is described as the flaw of the Praxian access to magic.

Heroquesting to spirit cults delivers lesser boons, while the spirits are more likely to be allies than patrons.

The concept of the fetch as the other side portion of the shaman is introduced here, and carries over into the RuneQuest rules (which were first published a year after Nomad Gods).

We find out more about the social position of shamans, but shamans are described as “crazed and rabid people, more than a little mad from their contact with the gods.” David puts that statement into context with Greg Stafford’s later experiences and practices in shamanism, and blames it on older concepts and misconceptions of 19th century anthropologists about shamanism.

David makes clear that a shaman is someone who is in charge of when they have contact with the spirit world and when not, so while there are times when talking on the invisible iPhone is appropriate, this happens at the shaman’s choosing and not at the spirits’ whim. Somebody constantly beset by spirits is not a shaman, or at least not a successful one.

Ludo mentions Mircea Eliade’s “Techniques of Ecstasy” as a good source on shamanism, a book that is not readable (from cover to cover) because of the learned document containing many examples. It’s considered good to dip in for specific items though.

As a source for shamanism and spiritualism, David recommends Sheila Paine’s “Amulets: a world of secret powers, charms and magic.” Any book on symbology would be good.

Shamans work with the spirits, and spirits have their own agenda, and that may be different from mortal expectation.

We talk about the Soul Winds, a devastating weapon of mass destruction that may cost you your tribal shaman, and that requires alliance with one of the Great Spirits (the Wild Hunter, Malia, or Oakfed). David suggests that this is better suited to the boardgame than to the roleplaying game.

We meet the various categories of spirits of Prax. David points out that most of these have appeared and are going to appear in the new edition of Cults of Glorantha.

I talk about the five elements having something of a balance in Les Dieux Nomades, but not in the original game.

We discuss the Lunar spirits in that game. David points out that there was a list of Lunar spirits in Wyrm’s Footnotes #4, page 49. It’s available in PDF from Chaosium, although might as well get the bundle of all 14 original issues.

The original Nomad Gods counter sheets contained a number of “mystery counters” including those of the Lunar spirits Book of Dale, Twinstars (also in the Dragon Pass boardgame) and the Watchdog of Corflu (one of the pieces which the French illustrator for Les Dieux Nomades got terribly wrong).

David goes through the list, and the discussion lands at the Medicine Bundles of Prax, plunder items useless for an individual but powerful on a clan or tribal level. David goes into what Medicine Bundles are, who would have them, and explains the mutability of their appearance as they fade in and out of existence. A Medicine Bundle embodies magical power, but the objects in the bundle are an embodiment of what it does rather than the actual things.

We arrive at Tada’s Grizly Parts, huge treasure-type artifacts that can be converted into magical units that can be summoned from Tada’s High Tumulus. We speculate about their appearance and size. Tada’s cudgel is a giant club, but Greg also said it was Tada’s penis. The description has a number of double entendres.

In Prax, Malia is a spirit of Darkness rather than of Chaos (although the way the Disease units work is similar to Chaos magic). David associates the three runes of Malia with deadly diseases (Death), minor diseases (Darkness) and plague (Chaos).

The Spirits of Earth are the spirits of the Paps, a family of their own, and presented as subcults of Eiritha in Cults of Prax.

The Horn of Plenty get special mention as one of the Seven Great Magics of Prax.

Then there is the collection of the “Other Spirits”, with a number of unaligned special spirits.

The Horned God is the entity that teaches shamanism and chooses shamans. It is a spirit that doesn’t have a cult. (Jörg’s speculation is that it is the Fetch of Glorantha.) All spirit cults are subcults of the Horned God. If the Horned God provides anything in RuneQuest terms, he provides Discorporation.

We talk about the Bad Man, the Chaos enemy of the Horned God, and the many masks of the Bad Man encountered in shamanic initiation.

Hyena is “an odd creature”, a spirit made by Genert so that his body parts would not fall to Chaos.

Ludo gets enthusiastic about the Three Feathered Rivals.

David talks about the structure of spirit cults in RuneQuest, and talks about the concept of Spirit Societies, and how they would work in RuneQuest. A spirit society is a collection of culturally similar spirit cults. In RQG, there usually is a greater spirit and a number of other spirits belonging to that group. Some are grouped by elemental runes, like they were presented in the boardgame.

Spirit societies are led by a charismatic shaman that doesn’t have to belong to the spirit cult.
A spirit society allows you to have a shared rune point pool for the spirits in the society. The Water Spirit Society would be headed by Zola Fel, and under Zola Fel you would have River Horse, Dew Maid, and Frog Woman. Your first rune point goes to the big spirit, and then you need to spend one rune point to each spirit cult whose magic you want to be able to cast.

The spirit societies are mainly pan-tribal, although each tribe that has a special strength in one rune will have a great portion of that elemental spirit society.

The one extra benefit from joining a spirit society is that you can learn the rune spell of Discorporation when you join a spirit society.

David point out that there is no spirit society of the Spirits of Air because these spirits are part of the Orlanth cult, which is why there is no shared rune point pool for these spirits.

Also there are two groups of spirits of Fire, one being the Burners led by Oakfed, the other the Star Gazers led by Pole Star, a spirit who has two magical places in the Wastes – Pole Star Mountain in the north and Star Crystal Mountain further south.

All spirit cults generally give one rune spell each, rather than the list of rune spells a theist cults give. The spirit cult of Pole Star gives Captain Souls (in the Red Book of Magic).

David points out the difference of Kallyr’s Starbrow ability which is different from the spirit cult, or the Pelorian forms of the cult (Dara Happans, Pentans).

You can read more about David’s take on Spirit Societies on BRP Central.

Spirit societies are all very minor, so minor that people looking from the outside wouldn’t even notice them.

The Daka Fal shaman may well also run the local spirit society. A shaman is not just working with one particular thing, but will also be a member of other spirit cults, and possibly in charge of the (tribally appropriate) spirit society.

We are talking about examples of published RuneQuest shamans. Jörg brings up Blueface as one example of a very powerful shaman, but being a very early example David describes him as rather weird, with several heroquest abilities rather than shamanic abilities. A “Hunter-Brother Dog-Shaman-Priest” who should have a greater range of spirits.

David suggests the example from Heroes Magazine 2.04 (the last issue of that Avalon Hill house magazine). On page 15, the Basmoli shaman Leona has a good backstory. Here is a snippet from Leona’s stat block:

© 2022 Chaosium Inc

David likes the details of the spirits given, and their origins, like Hotek, the shaman’s mother, and her grandfather as another of her spirits, her dead daughter who was being groomed to become a shaman when she died, and a grandmother who was a shaman.

The one criticism David has with the article is that shamans aren’t loners but strongly bound into their communities.

Leona is slightly insane and not quite a functional shaman because she has lost control over some of her spirits, a damaged shaman.

Ludo asks about the Wild Hunter (Gagarth) and the White Princess (Inora). The White Princess lives in a castle in the middle of the Dead Place, in the Winter Ruins. (Echoes of Elsa are undeniable…)

The Dead Place on the game board map doesn’t much look like anything, but is shown as heart-shaped on more recent maps.

Creatures of Chaos include Thed, Cwim, the broos, and the Pieces of the Devil. Ludo praises the Gene Day illustration of the broos.

David mentions his Q&A on Cwim on the Well of Daliath. Cwim is designed to be attacked by armies rather than by small parties of adventurers. Heroquesters can kill these monsters, but they do it in a different way. Average adventurers can try, and then run.

David talks about seeing Cwim from afar, and changing your route to avoid it. Cwim is the randomizing element that causes the migratory routes of the clans to change. Cwim usually is in the Wastes as the tribes usually ally to keep Cwim out of the sacred land.

Ludo comments on the effects of Chaotic magic in the board game (automatic elimination of an adjacent unit) as “ouch”, which David said sums it up nicely.

We digress to the various types of Gorp presented in River of Cradles. Gorps are “the gelatinous cube of Glorantha”, and are the spawn of Pocharngo, the Chaos god. Various types include “micro-gorp, glue gorp, exploding gorp, regenerating gorp, zoomers (a lot faster than normal gorp), breeders, paralyzing gorp”

We discuss nasty uses for Gorps: Gorp as garbage disposal? Gorp in a bottle labeled as a potion?

The Devil’s Hand is a huge nasty monster. Jörg shows his age when his comparison with the Dreadful Flying Glove from Yellow Submarine was a bit out of context for Ludo, who was listening to metal and progressive rock when he was young.

We return quickly to the Eternal Battle and what lies inside, and possibly beyond.

You can once again see the counters on Boardgamegeek, or in the VASSAL module. The counter sheets serve as art direction.

The magical scenarios serve as training exercises instituted by Jaldon.

Rather than looking at the text of the prehistory and history of Prax (which admittedly is well known to most players of RuneQuest), Ludo riffs off on the map of the Wastes which is as much (or rather as little) to scale as is the Crater map in White Bear and Red Moon.

Jörg points out that the myth section in the local game of Nomad Gods becomes the world wide foundational myth about the Chaos War. David paints Prax as the final battleground where the last deities perish and descend to Hell to join the Ritual of the Net.

The list of the pieces shows some of the William Church silhouettes at larger scale. David emphasizes the great art pieces by Gene Day which may justify buying the pdf even if the board game doesn’t interest you at all.

David goes into advertising mode, advertising the PDF we’ve been reading for 8.95$.

Jörg vainly wishes for a confrontation between Sor-eel’s Lunar forces and the Praxians, not necessarily at Moonbroth but the march on the Paps and Pavis.

Our guest for episode 13 is Nikolas Lloyd, the multi-talented host of the Lindybeige YouTube channel.


Jörg mentions Eternal Convention at Castle Stahleck in Bacharach, Germany, and the UK Game Expo which both just ended at the time of recording.

On the Jonstown Compendium we had The Lifethief, a scenario by the Beer With Teeth collective, and an overview map of the Jonstown area by Mikael Madsen.

Practical Ancient Warfare

There are more than 600 videos on the Lindybeige channel, many of these dealing with “lots of swords and spears”, and quite a few clarifying questions that arise from playing RuneQuest in Glorantha.

Lloyd started roleplaying at age 12 or so playing the typical dungeon raids and realizing the plot holes like why are there monsters hiding behind doors to jump at exploring adventurers guarding treasure chests. A few years later he came across RuneQuest and appreciated its approaches and how they helped playing in a more believable world.

We forgot to talk to him about his legendary “Prax Warrior” video, too, which you can see here:

(the story behind this video is explained in its description)

The praises of RuneQuest in its second edition are sung. They are still the same great points as in Lloyd’s series of videos on D&D from eleven years ago. Part one is below, but check out part two and part three too:

Lloyd talks about the Dragon Pass board game, and how he never managed to find opponents to play the full game with all the magic, the alliances etc. We also talk briefly about Glorantha: The Gods War, for which Lloyd made an extensive video review:

Ludo talks about the realism of combat systems and melee weapons, and the strike rank approach in RuneQuest. Lloyd describes the “dagger vs. pike” situation, and offers a house rule assigning a different weapon strike rank for fist range fighting.

The reality of disengaging aka running away without getting stabbed in the back, which seems to be a lot easier in real life than in most rpgs.

Ludo brings up the footwork rules in GURPS, and we talk about using terrain, maneuvers, and magic, especially spells like Lightwall that enable a side to regroup without the opponent knowing about it.

Lloyd mentions how keeping track of all the magic that may enter a melee can be a challenge for a GM in RuneQuest.

We talk about the usefulness of shields and parrying missiles, and house-ruling those situations.

Lloyd discusses the importance of the GM’s eye-contact with the players in role-playing and how playing online takes a lot of that unspoken communication away even in a video chat.

We discuss active use of shields in combat, character expertise over player expertise,

On the topic actual experience of fighting in a shield wall, we learn that individual prowess matters a lot less. Lloyd discusses the death-defying attitude in re-enactment battles and suggests that facing the same situation when it is your life on the line may involve a lot more visceral fear. As you might expect, you can learn more about shield walls on Lloyd’s channel:

Lloyd talks about group coordination topping individual melee expertise, the importance of maneuvering and initiative, and how one can make a difference in group combat even without actually stabbing or slashing at the foe just by positioning yourself.

The ideal fight should not be a slogging match where you stab the other guy but to achieve an objective like crossing a bridge or capturing a flag.

The tendency to fight to the bitter end seems to be ingrained in roleplaying combats, and the fear of a certain type of players (and game systems catering to their style) to lose the items that make them effective.

Jörg asks about the practicalities of offering ransom in the middle of a melee. The answer seems to be to let go of your weapons, raise your hands and shout the amount of money that you are worth, but without any guarantee that the opposing side will accept that, even if that is the accepted outcome. In the end, this is up to GM discretion, table consensus, and dramatic effect.

Talking about setting a scenario in a major battle, Lloyd mentions about his work on a book on the Trojan War for D&D 3.5 but the D20 license was discontinued and adapting the project D&D 4th edition. He discusses a couple of approaches, like having the outcome sort of pre-determined.

If the side the player characters fight on is going to lose, the objective of the game is not to win that battle but how the unit of the players performs, whether they distinguish themselves in the battle or what losses they suffer.

There is the possibility of pushing the player characters into the situation that decides the outcome of the battle, but that can often be contrived and needs some setting up.

Lloyd talks about giving the players an objective other than winning the battle, like a detached raid around the battlefield against the train or camp of the foes to recover a maguffin.

We discuss actually playing out the war-game inside a roleplaying session, and Lloyd says that this approach needs a lot of practicing and necessitates a couple of bad games before getting the hang of this.

Lloyd talks about the constants in ancient warfare, with the basic concepts remaining the same like spears, shields, or signalling through shouts, insignia, drums or horns.

The difference made by magic on the battlefield is a lot higher than any technological differences. Also magical development may replace technological development.

Are old people in Glorantha really healthy? What is the availability of high powered healing or restoration magic?

How do people allocate their magical resources? Ludo introduces spreadsheets for administration of available magics.

Reputation as a spring-board to drama.

Skill proliferation vs. nifty new skills, on the example of a “read battle” skill (which sounds like a good interpretation of how to use RQG’s Battle skill).

Are different weapon type skills necessary? Lloyd suggests a general melee skill independent of the weapon type.

What is a “broad sword”?

Bronze weapons, and limitations real world bronze has.

The importance of tin in the Bronze Age, and using its control and supply chain as plot hooks.

Ludo mentions Lloyd’s video series on slings, the first one of which is here:

Contriving situations where groups of five characters can make the difference, again and again and again…

Lloyd points out that skipping ahead to avoid tedious routines of standing watch etc. so that the bad guys don’t catch up with the players is giving out unintended information that no, the bad guys aren’t going to show up now.

He talks about doing flashbacks to establish still unknown relationships, and how “you can’t die in a flashback” may spoil the suspense for some players who prioritize survival.

Ludo suggests to have players roll the doomed assault of NPC fighters and experiencing their deaths in between playing their less combatant main characters.

There are two main types of action scenes: fights and chases, and most role-playing games dedicate entire chapters on combat but hardly any space on chases. And even if you have rules for chases, those might be about catching and fighting the opponents and not overtaking them in a race.

More about Lindybeige

You can find Lindybeige:


The hoplite picture is Creative Commons. The intro music is “The Warbird” by Try-Tachion. Other music includes “Cinder and Smoke” and “Skyspeak“, along with audio from the FreeSound library.

Shannon Appelcline is our guest for the 12th episode.

Shannon tells us about his entry into the roleplaying genre, which features the typical games of the early eighties. RuneQuest became one of his main systems when he joined the Erzo game by Eric Rowe, a long-running campaign set on Eric’s own universe, but he also started exploring Glorantha. In the 1990ies , Shannon joined the Chaosium staff.

Shannon’s Glorantha credits include articles for Tradetalk magazine and Ye Book of Tentacles (a series of fundraiser books for the German RuneQuest convention). Shannon also organized RuneQuest conventions in the nineties, and his improvised “Hero Wars” logo made for the 1998 convention ended up on the product.

We talk about the upcoming Elf Pack for RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha (the manuscript has been handed in, which means that a series of time-intensive steps need to follow).

Three Generations of Elf Pack

We learn about the incarnations of Shannon’s Elf writings, starting with a coverage of all elf forests of Glorantha for the HeroQuest (1st edition) line of Issaries Inc. But due to delays, Greg Stafford taking a sabbatical teaching English and studying shamanism in Mexico, the Issaries line closing down, and HeroQuest 2nd Edition taken in license by MoonDesign, this first manuscript was never published.

Around that time, Mongoose published their “Glorantha – The Second Age” line, and unwilling to see some other authors contradicting more than 1000 pages of material, Shannon contacted Mongoose and offered to write the elf supplement for them. Despite usually working with in-house writers, Shannon managed to convince the company. The result was Elfs: A Guide to the Aldryami, written in just three months – a short time compared to the other two manuscripts, but very long for a Mongoose RuneQuest book.

About the current version of Elf Pack, we learn that it is (mostly) focused on the Dragon Pass area, like the rest of the latest RuneQuest books.

Designers & Dragons

Shannon’s major contribution to the hobby is his history of roleplaying games titled Designers & Dragons. An original massive 2-volume book expanded into the current form which has four books, with one book per decade. It is available in print from Evil Hat (or translated into other languages, like German or French), with additional volumes with somewhat different focus added over the time.

It’s also available here:

Shannon has a few more volumes in the works, including “The Lost Histories”, two volumes of stuff that did not go into the first four volumes.

Shannon talks about Reaching Moon Megacorp as one relevant example of Gloranthan publications.

The 2010s volume is about to be collected, as a certain distance is required to make sure no trends are overlooked: Shannon talks about how his volume on the 2000s missed the Old School Renaissance movement.

Another ongoing project is four volumes on the TSR histories talking about all 100+ TSR publications (OD&D, 1st ed. AD&D and Basic D&D) for the D&D Classic website on Drivethrurpg.

Last but not least, Shannon is working on a publication history of Traveller for Mongoose.

We also mention a recent article on on the many editions of RuneQuest, Traveller and Talislanta, part of Shannon’s Advanced Designers and Dragons series there which adds current events, eulogies, and occasional glimpses into the work-flow.


Ludo makes the shout-out for the Journal for Runic Studies, his weekly newsletter/blog series, and our most recent episode on Newcomers to Glorantha featuring Diana “Berra” Probst.

The Six Paths by Edan Jones (aka Tindalos) and Katrin Dirim on Drivethrurpg, already as Print-on-Demand softcover.

Day’s Rest by Jamie Revell is also out.

Aldryami: The Elfs of Glorantha

This is not an “Aldryami 101” episode, we assume that listeners have, at least, access to the Glorantha Bestiary. For a full newcomer presentation of the Aldryami, you can of course read the Bestiary, or watch the Exploring Glorantha episode on the topic.

Elf Culture

Elevator pitch: Plant people in tune with their forest interacting with it in a collaborative way where they really are all one

Comparison with Tolkienesque elves in standard fantasy (literature and rpgs) and the difference in appearance.

Evolution of elf depictions for RuneQuest: Gaunt faces, spiked ears – that’s about the main common denominator of early elf artwork, with increasing treeishness as the time proceeds.

Different elf types matching certain types of trees or forests.

Is there space for “elfs” based on other plants?

Shannon mentions vampiric trees sucking up nutrients or sap from other trees in the network.

Undead as seen by elfs – petrified trees, trees hollowed out by insects, vampiric ones.

Vine elfs – Shannon wrote a myth why those aren’t around any more.

Elder Races pantheons may tend to be smaller than human ones.

Elf deities shared with humans

Seedings of generations of gods by primordial ones.

The Elf “Secret” – Elfsense, the ability to pick up the experiences of plant beings around them.

The importance of Aldrya, who upholds the forest

Elf Philosophy

Balance: Growth balanced by Taking

Cycles: Reincarnation, though without memory of individual experiences (but then those are held by the forests)

Making the myth matter in the game

Lots of myths not included in the Elf Pak manuscript

Myths as patterns for a heroquest (another word for an adventure)

A preview on the upcoming scenario “The Great Graft”, set in the Stinking Forest

The first Pruner among the elfs

Playing an Elf

Four major Passions:

  • Loyalty to Forest – find out the goals of your forest
  • Devotion Grower – further Growth, spread life
  • Devotion Balance – realize that every single elf is your brother, and all the other races are too, even though they may have the opposite job
  • Devotion to Cycle – things that are killed will return, and so will you if you die.

Different psychology of Green and Brown Elfs

Elf emotions being spread out into the forest, delaying a reaction.

Green emotions (communal) vs. Red emotions (individual) vs. Black emotions (anti-community).

Five forests of the Dragon Pass region:

  • The Old Woods (easternmost region of Arstola) – dissidents from mainstream Arstola, lost the site of the Great Tree when probably Arkat cut it down at the end of the Dawn Age
  • Tarndisi’s Grove – about the smallest an elf forest can become
  • The Stinking Forest
  • The Vale of Flowers (including the normal trees of the Flower Wood)
  • The Dryad Woods – including an adventure about the Forest of Wondrous Beasts

Not included, but Shannon elucidates on it: the Redwoods of Dagori Inkarth/Prax

Bringing elfs into the game:

Rootless elfs – elfs cut off from Elfsense

Rooted elfs – elfs pursuing the goals of their forest

Elfs are long-lived and have long-rooted plans

Range of elf-sense – a quarter-mile outside of the forest they lose contact and are left alone with their emotions etc.

Purpose-grown material or even individuals

The role of rootless elfs in elf society – a constant source of pity

Flamals seed came to rest on the three elements. Those that fell on Gata (Earth) became the Green, Brown and Yellow elfs, those that fell on Sramak became the various types of Murthoi or Blue elfs, and those that fell on fire became the lost White Elfs of the peak of the Spike. Those are the true elfs.

The Hybrid Races were born out of the moment of Balance between Growing and Taking, and that’s where the Red Elfs are grouped by the true elfs, right alongside the humans and other non-autotrophs.

Lesser aldryami races – Runners, Pixies, Sprites

The role of the dryads in elf society – demi-gods, something akin to the Mistress Race uz.

First encounter in an elf forest – usually an arrow.

Kings and queens of elfdom, nobility of the elfs, are more of a diplomat caste than rulers.

Vronkali were the ones who learned to Take in order to survive. The Mreli chose to accept death rather than give up their natures, and got re-awakened after the Dawn.

Hostility between elfs and other Elder Races.

Does the Cycle come into the destruction of the world in the Gods War? Shannon counters with Grower being reborn as five entities, finally Voria to restart the Cosmos.

Elfs and the Man Rune – individuality as the primal sin, the unfortunate outcome of the Green Age ending.

Intra-elf conflicts: God Learners call it Aldrya’s Woe, the elfs call it the Planting.


The intro music is “The Warbird” by Try-Tachion. Other music includes “Cinder and Smoke” and “Skyspeak“, along with audio from the FreeSound library.