In this month’s Glorantha Initiation interview, Ludo talks to Bryon Ross without any Joerg present. Bryon is a long time RuneQuest lover, but he played mostly with the Fantasy Earth setting until the release of the RuneQuest Quickstart in 2017. He is also a retired marine, SCA participant, and regular Chaosium convention gamemaster.

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Art by Dan Barker, from the Broken Council Guidebook

We start this episode with a minor existential crisis on Ludo’s identity, followed by Ludo being protective of our usual guests by volunteering to take the brunt of Jörg’s incoming obscurantism and pedantry. Ludo accuses rather than praises Jörg of being a bright guy…

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Joerg and Ludo welcome Bud from Bud’s RPG Review, where we see his hands in a typical unboxing set-up, not just doing flip-throughs but also a whole series of explanation videos:

[1] It seems that since the episode was recorded, Bud fixed the duplicated RuneQuest video playlist… or maybe Ludo imagined it.

Another place to find Bud is the “Bud and Griff’s Gaming Creepshow” podcast, a “podcast about spooky gaming” (in Bud’s words):

Last but not least, Bud is one of the authors of the Miskatonic Repository bestselling book Viral: A Modern Call of Cthulhu Scenario, with Alex Guillotte. For those of you less involved with Call of Cthulhu, the Miskatonic Repository is the sister community content program to the Jonstown Compendium.

Bud states that his “Bud Explains” videos (which Ludo has faithfully linked from his newsletter) are really for beginners, since delving into the lore of Glorantha can be hard work. He promises more in the future.

Finally you can find Bud on Twitter, if that thing is still going by the time you read this.

Main Topic

Going to our main topic, Ludo says that you will find mention of that guy Arkat in many places, with plenty of lore to dig into. So who is this guy, and why is he cool?

What Does Your RuneQuest Character Knows About Arkat

Bud points out that many of the things Arkat did are kind of hidden.

Arkat is possibly most renowned for being the person who mastered heroquesting and for being the slayer of a god, whom he called Gbaji the Deceiver, but who was known to his worshippers as Nysalor.

Bud remains neutral on whether the deity slain by Arkat was the Deceiver or not.

Ludo gives the context that all of these great deeds happened about 1200 years ago (if you are playing in the normal 1625 time frame). To give a comparison from our world’s history, Ludo suggests a weird Arthurian hero, Jörg interjects that Charlemagne fits the time frame even better. Ludo jokes that Charlemagne was evil because he introduced the school system, but Jörg points out that his evil included the genocide of the Saxons, and that that may be why the peace price of the European Union is named after him.

Getting back on topic, Ludo points out that the Gbaji Wars ended with the blighting and destruction of Dorastor, formerly a beautiful and fertile land.

Bud calls Arkat’s action the rites of cleansing, even though they poisoned the land.

(Arkat did curse the land of Dorastor, and sort of bound the Chaos that had been loosed in the final phase of the Gbaji Wars to this ruined place. The land remained dormant for quite a while until both God Learners and EWF explorers took an interest, which seems to have awakened the land.)

Ludo then talks about Arkat’s star, which appeared when Arkat apotheosized early in the Second Age. Jörg claims that the star vanished since, because the God Learners hid the way.

(Doing some additional research after the podcast, the Guide p.646 claims that Arkat is a prominent constellation in the area of the sky called the Celestial Fields, between the Celestial Forest and the Celestial River.)

(The star map on p. 645 only shows a differently named constellation: the Doves, which is how the Dara Happans name the constellation. They were followers of Nysalor and have no love at all for the slayer of their god, whom they name Gbaji.)

(The list of constellations talks about the constellation of Arkat, stating that only one star was visible there at the Dawn, but that Arkat’s apotheosis caused three bright companions and a number of less bright ones nearby that some claim for the hero as well.)

So Jörg was wrong by remembering correctly that there is no constellation named Arkat on the star map.

Bud then points out that Arkat also is a troll god.

Ludo then sums it up: Arkat was several things to several people, he was some sort of either hero or antihero or evil war general. “He killed a whole bunch of people and did many awesome things.”

The Life of Arkat

Bud starts by telling us that Arkat was born in the elf forests of Brithos, interestingly during the Sunstop… or the Sunspot? Linguistic shenanigans ensue, and come to haunt us.

The Sunstop occurred in the year 375 S.T. (“Solar Time”, after the Dawn) when the Second Council (cooperating with the Dara Happan Empire) created Osentalka, the (presumed) Perfect God, in their capital in Dorastor.

(Several other contributors to the Sunstop include Malkioni sorcerers in Fronela casting a great ritual against the Hsunchen shamans, the Kralori Emperor meditating on a potent symbol – the Dragon’s Eye, and a hundred thousand Aldryami in Pamaltela calling on a good spirit to combat a virulent rot affecting them and their forests. See the Guide to Glorantha p.128 for the wider view. A good introductory read is the history from Cults of Terror, available on the Well of Daliath and reprinted in the Guide.)

Bud goes into detail on Arkat’s birth on Brithos, an island in the western Neliomi Sea that disappeared during the Closing (some say that its disappearance caused the Closing).

Arkat’s birth may have been the creation of the opposite to the newborn god in Dorastor, a balancing force brought in by the universe. The new god was born outside of the Compromise, making the birth of Arkat the opposition of the universe to this insult to Time.

Bud compares this to Argrath being the nemesis of the Red Goddess.

Arkat was fostered by the Aldryami of Brithos, and supposedly illuminated by them at a young age, which Bud thinks is another great irony. About 24 years later he was part of the 4th Brithos Army of Law,

Eventually he became known as the son of Humakt, Arkat Humaktsson.

Progressing through local wars (with the Vampire Kings of Tanisor still as Brithini soldier, then alongside the Seshnegi Men-of-All against the Nieby priests led by Gaalth, then joining the Orlanthi of the upper Tanier River in their fight against Gbaji‘s shock troops, the Telmori who had received Nysalor’s blessing to turn into magical wolves on Wilddays) Arkat became aware of the Riddlers of Nysalor.

In Seshnela, the priests of Nysalor apparently spread poison, or an unhealable disease, and offered healing and protection from it, thereby getting people to worship Nysalor.

Arkat saw and showed that Nysalor had a duality, that he wasn’t just a benevolent god who illuminated people and taught them a different way of thinking, he exposed the deity behind these priests as the Chaos God Gbaji. Arkat made it his life quest to slay Gbaji and free the world from the great Deceiver.

(Much of Arkat’s earliest activities are mentioned in the list of the Kings of Seshnela on the Well of Daliath to greater detail than in the Guide to Glorantha, where p.410 gives details about Arkat’s deeds in Seshnela.)

Skipping far ahead, eventually Arkat managed to invade Dorastor, the homeland of Nysalor, and slew the enemy god atop the Tower of Miracles in the City of Dreams. He supposedly dismembered Nysalor and had its parts scattered and buried around Glorantha.

However, slaying a god doesn’t come easy, and Arkat looked into heroquesting at various points. He brought the Unbreakable Sword with him, the original Death, to enable him to slay a god.

Supposedly when he was on one of his heroquests, he encountered himself as a troll and was wounded by himself, an unhealable wound that he carried with him for his entire life that caused him discomfort.

Also, Arkat is known to have mapped out the Gods’ Realm to enable passage for him, which explains how he ended up so ridiculously powerful.

Before he actually went to slay Nysalor, he underwent the Rite of Rebirth and became one of the Uzuz (the Mistress Troll Race).

There are various pieces of art depicting Arkat as an armoured troll fighting Nysalor.

Once Arkat had killed Nysalor, he created the Autarchy, a.k.a. Stygian Empire, in Ralios and modern Seshnela. Ralios lies west of Dragon Pass, south of Dorastor.

The capital of the Autarchy was Arkhome (on the Nidan river in Rindland, a portion of the ancient Ralian territory of Fornoar now belonging to the modern Kingdom of Seshnela. See the political map on p.417 in the Guide to Gloranha. It was the place where Harmast emerged with Arkat on his first Lightbringer’s Quest.)

Arkat eventually pulled a Thanos move and retired, his work done.

The destruction of Nysalor ended the Dawn Age, making Arkat sort of responsible for starting the cycle of Ages in Glorantha’s History.

Ludo picks up the Thanos comparison and also brings up Colonel Kurtz from Apocalypse Now as another powerful archetype resembling Arkat.

Arkat, The Ultimate Minmaxer

Ludo recapitulates how Nysalor became the god of the Bright Empire, spreading a philosophy of participation and harmony, but on its fringes Arkat figured out that missionaries from the Empire were causing the problems that they professed to solve, resulting in Arkat vowing to destroy Nysalor’s Empire.

In order to do that, he initiated into a series of cults and religions.

(Ludo fails to mention his origins as a Child of the Forest, a bucolic existence in the forest like the happy end for Morag from Biturian’s travelogue, and his illumination experience there.)

Arkat was “initiated” into the Horali caste (his grandfather’s caste) on Brithos, the warrior caste of ancient Malkionism.

Then he moved on to the (Seshnegi-style) Hrestoli Man-of-All, mastering all of the Malkioni castes, and all the power, including sorcery,

Then he went on and became friendly with the Orlanthi, initiating into Orlanth, and then Humakt.

Then he needed anti-Chaos powers and became a troll (through the Ritual of Rebirth, initiating him to Kyger Litor) and joined Zorak Zoran for his final assault on Dorastor.

Arkat basically multiclassed like crazy, making him the ultimate mini-maxer in Ludo’s eyes.

Jörg counters that Arkat’s spiritual experiences resembled serial monogamy – whatever cult Arkat joined, he joined with all his being.

Ludo counter-argues that Arkat kept all the powers, and Bud claims that the reason for that was that Arkat was illuminated. Bud claims that this was due to the illuminates’ immunity to Spirits of Reprisal that would otherwise plague an apostate.

Jörg argues that the benefit of Illumination is rather a compartmentalization of the illuminate’s personality.

Bud continues that Arkat essentially ploughed roughshot over multiple cults, his aim being to accumulate as much power as he could to destroy Nysalor, and that Arkat was right, be cause he did it. (Which is questioned by Jorg.)

Bud feels that this is where Your Glorantha May Vary falls down slightly, when unlike the fluidity of the God Time, things go into the historical record.

What went on atop the Tower of Dreams? Nobody knows, nobody else was there. But everything else is part of the historical record, there are records of Arkat becoming a troll, the whole thing was written down by a troll who witnessed the event (and can be read in the Jonstown Compendium excerpt on trolls provided by the RQ3 Troll Gods box if you are lucky enough to own it).

Bud acknowledges historical bias, but unlike the Gods Age where you can see things from different perspectives – how many versions of the Lightbringers’ Quest are there? – but when it is viewing things from the historical record, that’s really all you got to go off.

Jörg claims that the thing about the Gbaji Wars was a clash of realities.

His personal pet theory is that whenever Arkat looked in the direction of Nysalor, he saw Gbaji, Whenever Nysalor looked in the direction of Arkat, he saw Gbaji, the chaotic Deceiver God.

What Nysalor did (or what actually his creators from the Second Council and Dara Happa did using the Pseudocosmic Egg) was to create a new reality where everything was bright and shiny and harmonious (at least once the dissenting voices of the Heortling Orlanthi and the trolls and dragonewts had been muted), and Arkat was born on the other side of this effect. Arkat brought his anti-Nysalor effect with him, and so realities clashed whenever the forces of Nysalor and of Arkat met.

Jörg draws a comparison to the Glowline (which separates a magical reality full of Lunar glow from the drab mundane reality outside) because the Glowline is a bit of a copy of this Bright Empire thing. (Jörg fails to mention the Young Elementals from the Seven Mothers write-up as his evidence.)

Bud demands to expand that a little more, since the Glowline is something everyone can see (at least on days of the Dark Moon when it makes a difference). Jörg mentions the Dan Barker illustration in the Guide p.724 which shows Arkat and Nysalor, with different skin tones and expressions but otherwise identical faces (or at least beard styles).

Arkat’s Multiple Initiations and Mastery of Heroquesting

Ludo explains how this series of cultic initiations let Arkat experience a lot of “safe” (re-enacted) cult heroquests and gave him a unique experience of arriving at the same God Time events from different quests (including the one where Zorak Zorani Arkat wounded Hrestoli or Horali Arkat).

Arkat was the first heroquester who voluntarily went off-script in his heroquesting, exploring the hero plane seeing connected paths and creating a map.

Arkat greatly innovated the art of heroquesting.

Jörg compares a heroquest to a medieval road map which only shows one linear journey where you reach intermediate spots where you could go elsewhere, leading to your initial target.

Arkat would have followed two (or more) separate heroquests to a Hero Plane location (a Godtime event) and he would have known where both paths leading there came from, and where he could continue from that station.

Ludo compares Arkat’s method to a hex crawl across the hero plane.

Bud offers a different term than off-script: Arkat got to go back-stage, also getting an insight how all of this worked.

Ludo brags about his ChaosiumCon playtest glimpse of the ever-upcoming heroquesting rules for RuneQuest. Bud (jokingly) rejects the notion that such a thing exists.

Ludo goes on to describe how those rules have techniques reminiscent of the sorcery techniques in RQG, techniques like Ranging. Arkat developed these techniques, and later the God Learners put names on them.

Ludo talks about the relationship between Arkati heroquesting and God Learner heroquesting.

Bud points out that a lot what the God Learners did was based on Arkat’s work anyway.

Ludo mentions Arkat’s very specific philosophy that all heroquesting was to be “with respect and humility”.

Apparently, Arkat set up a heroquesting police that was basically patrolling the hero plane and slapping the fingers of any transgressors.

Jörg and Bud point out that the Arkati presence more often manifests as stationary guardians.

Ludo goes on to compare the God Learner heroquesters with Mad Scientists (TM) who got whatever they wanted and destroyed many of the remaining Arkati stationary guardians, exploring the Hero Plane without any ethics.

Ludo imagines playing a Dark Empire heroquesting game where you are the guardians, something Jörg compares to the Time Police. Bud adds that these police would make sure that you don’t mess with reality too much, but that’s the problem. The God Learners effectively wiped these guardians out and made the hero plane their playground.

Jörg points out that when you enter the hero plane these days, you will still find the black guardians at all the major crossings, suggesting that the God Learners failed to eradicate them all.

Ludo approves of their presence for games set in the 1625 era,

Bud claims that the problem about the God Learners is that there isn’t all that much written about them. Bud wanted to do a video about them and was stopped by the scarcity of material.

Arkat Went to Hell

Probably several times, but very prominently involuntarily so when Palangio the Iron Vrok killed and dismembered him in Ralios around 418 S.T. Arkat was sent to a special Hell he could not use his heroic powers to escape from, which since has become a tradition to do to the big bad anti-illumination guy.

That Hell was supposed to be inaccessible, but an Orlanthi hero by the name of Harmast Barefoot managed to get him back.

Arkat had basically two lives. (The Xeotam Dialogue in the Sourcebook p.74 calls this state of being a Kaelith.)

Bud points out that Arkat having been dismembered is what he went on to do with Nysalor. Ludo asks whether that was petty, but Bud calls that the ultimate revenge.

Jörg brings up dismemberment as a proven method to get rid of a god – citing the dismemberment of Umath even before the discovery of Death as proof for the efficiency of the method.

Ludo philosophizes that a lot of people get dismembered in Glorantha, which Bud counters with the predilection of people to lose their left legs in (RuneQuest) Glorantha.

A Hero’s Retirement

Ludo points out that Arkat had fifty years of fighting, and then fifty years of peaceful retirement, during which he sets up the Autarchy (called Stygian Empire by its foes). He spends those years teaching his secrets and benevolently overseeing the lands without much interference.

Bud replies Ludo’s question about the fate of the Autarchy that it fell in the end, to the forces of the God Learners (during the reign of Annmak Peacemaker, in 740 S.T.)

Jörg points out that the Dark Empire was the premier Malkioni (and Orlanthi, and troll) realm in Genertela. It ruled over the entire Tanisor valley (the land ironically called Kingdom of Seshnela in the Third Age) and Safelster, with the capital Arkhome situated in Rindland, the home Duchy of Bailifes the Hammer who founded the new Kingdom of Seshnela.

Jörg nerdplains that Autarchy roughly translates from Greek as Self-Rule, and that that was what he allowed the local potentates to do, the Archons who were basically his disciples who kept oversight over some of those places.

The term Archon still is used for the rulers of Safelster, where a city-state might also be called an Archonate.

Fast-forwarding to the Now of RQG (i.e. 1625 ST), what is the legacy that Arkat left behind?

Bud quips that there is one less god. Or at least Nysalor required a lot of patching together by the Red Goddess, as Ludo points out. Which Bud compares to a jigsaw puzzle with too many parts.

Jörg puts forward that Gbaji was dismembered at the same time as Nysalor, who was cut into 49 parts which the Lunars collected. When the Lunars collected the parts, they ended up with more than 50, and they made sure that they weren’t using any portion of Gbaji when re-assembling Nysalor.

Bud asks whether the Lunars could differentiate between the portions of Nysalor and Gbaji, and Jörg suggests that the Lunars know about Chaos, so he gueses they could. They say so.

Ludo corroborates that when the Lunar propaganda says so, it is probably true. Right?

There are still followers of Black Arkat active on the hero planes, doing things to heroquesters, and (on the mundane plane) to people they suspect of Godlearnerism.

These Arkati can pop up and jinx your heroquests, or even your preparations for those.

Jörg manages to confuse Arkat’s Last Fortress near Kartolin Pass (crossing from Ralios into Dorastor) with Arkat’s Hold in Esrolia, the city at the end of the Building Wall.

Ludo points to The Smoking Ruins which has information and stats on some Black Arkati from that place.

Bud points out that Arkat was in his seventies when he became a troll. Bud ponders whether Arkat underwent the Ritual of Rebirth because trolls are longer-lived than humans.

Jörg counters that Arkat was born as a Brithini, a race that doesn’t age when they maintain their caste restrictions (something Arkat definitely did not do), and age slowly if they did.

Bud mentions the years of war wearing down on Arkat, and his unhealable wound from that heroquest. By normal standards, Arkat would have been an old man yet unable to fulfill his life quest (writing this feels strange the day after the coronation of King Charles III), although by Brithini standards he was still a young man (according to Jörg just about initiation age, really).

Another aspect of Arkat is that as an Illuminate, he should have known better than to pursue his revenge so relentlessly. When you’re illuminated, you understand that Chaos is not always bad.

Jorg interjects that that is why some people claim that Arkat became a Chaos monster in the end in order to overcome Nysalor. Bud asks for citations, Jörg points out that no witnesses survived. (This could be inferred from the upcoming five-fold return of Arkat in Safelster, in the boxed text on p.385 in the Guide to Glorantha.)

Bud reports that the argument has been made that Arkat never became a troll, casting doubt on the reliability of the troll witness of his Ritual of Rebirth. Bud admits that when Arkat returned from his fight atop the Tower of Dreams, he was no longer a troll.

Jörg brings up another pet theory of his, that Arkat might have become a Kitori shape-shifter (in addition to joining the cults of Kyger Litor and Zorak Zoran), the adoptive species imitating the Only Old One capable of taking human, troll and dehori (darkness spirit) shape.

Ludo admits that Arkat did ally with the Only Old One in the Shadowlands, and that he might have picked up a trick or two there. Which would be also more multiclassing, as Bud remarks.

Jörg points out that after the Gbaji Wars, the Kitori were collectively called Arkati by the Orlanthi (at least in History of the Heortling People p.72).

We digress about the Hillbilly nature of Orlanthi, and that an argument (which is what you get when you bring two or more Orlanthi together) might the best collective name for a bunch of Orlanthi (much like a Murder of Crows).

The Illumination Bit

Ludo steers the conversation back to illumination, pointing out that Nysalor was illuminated too. (Cart before the horse, really, as Nysalor was the source for that form of Illumination.)

Ludo is getting more vibes of Anarchy vs. Law/Order than of anti-Chaos vs. Chaos. He feels that the two enemies had opposed philosophies and politics about what to do with the continent of Genertela, with one making everything yellow and bright with great cities and laws and imposed order, and Arkat demanding that everybody should rule themselves (making him the ultimate punk).

Bud mentions his Illumination explanatory video and says that that is the argument against Illumination, and that the Red Goddess is taking the blame for adhering to a difference between Draconic and Nysalorean illumination (which is what the Red Goddess is spreading). Bud claims that when dragons become illuminated, they leave Glorantha, whereas when Nysaloreans achieve illumination, they stay around and use their power of illumination to build up more power, whereupon the universe creates an opposite power, and that where Nysalor was the action, Arkat was the reaction.

Jörg brings up the Nysalor quote “At the Edge of Light, there is always Darkness” as his reaction to learning about the spreading of the disease in Seshnela. Bud quips that that sounds like equivalent of “thoughts and prayers”.

Ludo thinks the dragons have the right idea, but Jörg cannot help to mention that the only dragon he remembers to have left the world was Obduran the Flyer, the only EWF Orlanthi who became a (full) dragon.(Details in History of the Heortling Peoples, p.44, 803 S.T,)

Back on topic, Ludo asks how to put Arkat into your RQG games.

Bud suggests that Chaosium should do an epic campaign, based on the idea that the Lunars put Nysalor back together, and then having Arkat return and deal with it.

Jörg mentions that he contributed to a game like that, the 1995 Freeform Rise of Ralios, a follow-up to Reaching Moon Megacorp’s 1994 How the West Was One, with the core idea that the five prophesied Arkats return.

Ludo asks whether that means that there were five aspects of Arkat coming back from the hero plane, like a troll Arkat etc.,

Ludo points out that when you are illuminated, Chaos is not necessarily bad, and a Chaos Monster Arkat could be useful.

Bud brings up that Arkat defeated the Crimson Bat at one point, and Jörg elaborates that it might have been called the Purple Bat before, a death demon of Rinliddi which Arkat flayed, which is how it became Crimson.

After taking a moment’s pause, Bud calls Arkat a bad-ass.

Bud asks whether there is any other hero in Gloranthan history who has accomplished what Arkat has accomplished. Jörg proposes Sheng Seleris. Bud complains that Sheng was killed, but Jörg replies that so was Arkat. We quibble about stars lost and returning.

Ludo points out that Arkat was liberated by the Lightbringers Quest, and then gives a metaplot spoiler that Argrath is expected to liberate Sheng Seleris with his Lightbringers’ Quest.

Jörg calls Argrath Arkat the Liberator. Ludo rambles on that much like Harmast being an Orlanthi hero performing a Lightbringers’ Quest liberating Arkat from Hell, Argrath is an Orlanthi hero prophesied to liberate Sheng Seleris from Hell, claiming that history repeats itself. Whether because of cycles of cosmic significance or because the designers run out of ideas Ludo doesn’t know.

Ludo points out that Arkat’s story was among the first Gloranthan pieces written by Greg, with the protagonist still called Argat, which only later morphed into Arkat, with the similarity of Argrath (both names meaning “Liberator”) intentional.

Jörg points out that Greg’s Glorantha at the time did not yet know Dragon Pass, When Greg decided to publish his Glorantha stories not as books but as a series of games, he took his character Arkat and put him in that board game called White Bear and Red Moon by a slightly different name.

Ludo stubbornly tries to steer us back towards how to use Arkat in your games.

One possibility might be the presence of pieces of Nysalor (or Gbaji) still lying around in some hiding places, as McGuffins for scenarios, claiming that Arkat might even have taken Nysalor’s own monsters and set them up as guardians of those bits.

Bud interjects that that implies that Nysalor was a thing of Chaos, and he says he wasn’t. Ludo refuses to be Deceived.

Now Bud admits that some say that it was Gbaji who walked away from the Tower of Dreams that day, but Ludo wants to delay talking about the crazy conspiracy theories a little longer.

Ludo points towards Safelster, where each city state may be the guardian of some pocket or snippet of Arkati knowledge, giving way to some sort of secret society/spy game shenanigans, whether in Safelster or carried into the Hero Wars in and around Dragon Pass.

Bud asks whether anybody knows where Arkat was buried. Jörg suggests near Arkhome, but draws a blank whether his body was buried, whether he was cremated, or whether Arkat ascended bodily. After all, Sartar did not leave a body behind, either.

Ludo suggests that he may have asked his followers do dismember his body after he left, hiding them away, and maybe that were some of the extra bits the Lunars found, so that they now have a Frankenstein Nysalor that may contain certain amounts of Arkat, making a Voltron illuminated god.

Jörg suggests that alternatively Arkat may have had a troll burial, becoming a funerary feast.

Bud ominously says “he exists within trolls” (and at least Jörg can hear the idea of hyena skins being sewn together transferred to Arkat and Mistress Race stomachs).

Ludo rambles about the fact that while Arkat ascended as a god, the God Learners installed locks that prevent people from contacting the hero in the God Plane.

Ludo correctly points out that there are still people maintaining these God Learner locks (check out the last paragraph on p.415 in the Guide, the city of Harsad near the ruins of Arkhome). This cripples all the many surviving (or resurrected) Arkati cults that claim they got Arkat’s power. Jörg points out that the greatest of the God Learners, Halwal, who had turned against his compatriots, had attempted to re-unite and return a single Arkat, and even he failed (which may be why he and his opponent Yomili ended up mutually eliminating not just themselves but many of their allies and foes, polluting the region of the Red Ruins to this day).

Ludo explains that when he gets his players into heroquesting, he plans to give them some God Learner or Arkati obstacles. Bud points out that there is supposedly a God Learner alive, as a prisoner of Ralzakark receiving daily torture.

Ludo states that whenever you see something phrased as a rumor, it will be true in somebody’s version of Glorantha.

Jörg repeats the slander that Belintar was a God Learner.

Ludo drops a spoiler for Andrew Logan Montgomery’s Company of the Dragon where your heroquesting players might come across a God Learner who got lost on the hero plane, without any idea how much Time has passed in the mundane world.

Jörg points out that Nick Brooke’s Scenario Duel at Dangerford has a Humakti guardian who might be sort of an Arkati heroquesting guard.

Bud proposes that the Arkati guardians at thresholds in the Hero Plane might not be guarding with death as the alternative. He brings up the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant as having a possible parallel to the Arkati hero plane guardians, as Guardians who aren’t there to necessarily stop you but to prevent you from stumbling into things you aren’t prepared for yet.

And then the God Learners found ways of bypassing a lot of them, which is one of the crimes they committed.

Jörg mentions that one of the guardians removed by the God Learners was a raccoon, the Raccoon Guardian of Tusunimmi Ford, causing some hilarity when telling the story and mis-attributing it (not Cults of Terror, but the Glorantha Book of the RQ3 Genertela Box and subsequently the Guide p.136). Bud’s observation that this sounds like a pipe dream might be accurate given the work environment at The Chaosium at the time this was written.

Glorantha can be more than a bit gonzo, at the same time being this down-to-earth Bronze Age fantasy thing.

Crazy Conspiracy Theories

Bud declines to be first responder to Ludo’s demand for crazy conspiracy theories.

Jörg puts forward that Argrath is Arkat the Liberator, and his Lightbringer’s Quest liberating Sheng is also a way of paying back the cosmic karma to Harmast liberating Arkat.

Ludo asks whether that means that the other four of the five returning Arkats could be player characters, and Jörg agrees. (Played and tested in the 1995 run of Rise of Ralios.)

Jörg suggests that there will be more than five such people claiming to be Arkat. All of them KNOW they are the real deal, but several will be proven to be false.

Ludo’s theory involves the motives of the Second Council awakening Nysalor – to bring Harmony between Glorantha and the Void. Arkat ruined that chance of reconciliation.

Bud asks about the runes of Nysalor. There is definitely light (fire without the dot in the center, aka a circle).

Ludo brags about his brand-new copy of the Prosopaedia for Cults of RuneQuest that he brought back from ChaosiumCon and looks it up. It is Light and Mastery, and there is neither Harmony nor Chaos nor Moon.

Ludo (jokingly?) comes to the conclusion that the Prosopaedia was written by biased people and suggests to ignore it.

Bud finally comes clear that his theory is that Arkat was defeated on the Tower of Dreams, and that Gbaji deceived everybody by pretending he was Arkat, and walking away. That would also make Gbaji the founder of the Autarchy, the Heroquesting police, etc.

One “proof” is that Arkat no longer looked like a troll when he left.

When Ludo casts doubt – after all most that Arkat did afterwards was to settle down on a farm – Jörg suggests that that’s what THEY tell you. Bringing up pluripresence, Jörg states that One of Them (Them being Arkat, or Gbaji) went to Arkhome and settled down,

Bud suggests that that would have been the ultimate deception for Gbaji the Deceiver, deception for deception’s sake, but when Jörg suggests that deceiving everybody possibly included deceiving himself, Bud thinks that is going too far.

Ludo comes forward with another theory – Arkat did win, but only because Nysalor wanted him to win, to dismember him and spread him around all over the known world. Bud objects that the Red Goddess was not illuminated by the body parts of Nysalor but by the spirit of the god in Hell.

Jörg’s suggestion that the dismemberment of Nysalor could be seen as a version of utuma is rejected by Ludo, who wants to have some clear distinction between these two ways towards enlightenment.

Jörg points out that the core point of draconic enlightenment is to make True Dragons out of neotenic dragons, and that human adaptation of that has always resulted in strange things.

Bud refers to Company of the Dragon which has Andrew Logan Montgomery’s essay on draconic illumination, with dragonewts having problems to wake up to draconic reality while dragons spend their time sleeping before finally ascending.

This segues into what kind of illumination did Arkat have.

Jörg dodges this by tracking back where Arkat supposedly received his illumination, giving the aldryami of Brithos as the source, asking what kind they would have had.

Bud goes back into the Godtime, where Rashoran (an aspect or jigsaw piece of the reconstituted Red Goddess) was the source of all illumination. Jörg claims that Rashoran was effectively Nysalor pre-born, or that Nysalor was the reincarnation of Rashoran.

We discuss Rashoran’s credentials (illuminated Chalana Arroy and Humakt, illuminated the Unholy Trio who then killed Rashoran and created the Devil) and his role in the birth of the Red Goddess.

Bud wants to argue that if Rashoran was the earlier version of the Red Goddess, then Nysalorean illumination really is Lunar illumination, whereas Jörg insists that Lunar illumination is Nysalorean illumination. Which one was first, the hen or her egg?

Jörg agrees that the Lunars say that Rashoran was an incarnation of the Red Goddess, and that we know that what the Lunars say is true. They would never deceive us.

In reaction to this riddle, Bud spurts that if the Lunars know that Chaos is not necessarily a bad thing, then it doesn’t matter if their reconstituted Nysalor contained bits of Gbaji, and that their claims of being able to discern what was what was a deception.

Jörg calls that out as vile slander, and probably true.

In this huddle of confusion, bad puns and talking nonsens, we realize that we have reached the targeted length of this episode, and give Bud another chance to promote his presence on the interwebs.

Any further shenanigans (or pre-show banter) are not subject of this transcript.

Credits

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

After a hiatus last month we are back with another Glorantha Initiation episode in which we interview a newcomer to the tribe. This time, Ludo is by himself due to some scheduling issue with Joerg (it was Ludo’s fault), interviewing Michael Bernth.

Michael lives in Europe’s first… no, second (probably?) happiest country. He is a multi-skilled designer (among other things) so if you’re working on a Jonstown Compendium book, he might be able to help with some InDesign layout work!

Show Notes

In this episode we talk about:

  • Miniatures of the 1980s
  • Comics like Conan the Barbarian (Barry Windsor-Smith’s run) or Prince Valiant
  • Ivanhoe (1952)
  • D&D Basic and Expert, followed by Advanced D&D
  • Going bananas with RPGs: Traveller, Bushido, Golden Heroes, Rolemaster, and more
  • Games Workshop’s RuneQuest and Broos miniatures
  • Call of Cthulhu, Cyberpunk, GURPS, Delta Green
  • Avalon Hill RuneQuest, Sun County, River of Cradles
  • The Grognard Files podcast and coming out of the “deep freeze”
  • Jonstown Compendium, and in particular the Sandheart series
  • Playing in Prax
  • Not throwing too much at the players
  • How to put all the lore and metaplot events in the game
  • Dealing with the metaplot the same way you treat real history in Call of Cthulhu adventures
  • Not being so precious about the lore
  • Lots of gold lying around in the Glorantha materials… pick it up and do what you want with it
  • Playing with new fantasy tropes, different from the usual Tolkienesque stereotypes
  • Playing with rich cultures, mythology, and cults
  • Glorantha is not about good vs evil or even order vs chaos
  • Chaos is great, it can add a touch of horror in your fantasy game
  • Where to start? Are there actually too many places to start?
  • Lack of knowledge to “hang yourself onto”
  • Broos are problematic, Morokanths may need tweaking
  • Handwaving rules like ENC, varying crunch based on the story
  • Spirit combat easily gets into a dealock, possession can lead to player agency issues, shamanism and sorcery rules are complicated, and… how does heroquesting even work?
  • The rulebook has many editing issues, and its index could be improved
  • Wishing for spell cards, god cards, and a Gloranthan tarot deck. But overall, wishing for Gloranthan novels and short story collections
  • Romulus TV show

…and more!

Credits

The intro music is “Dancing Tiger” by Damscray. The outro music is “Islam Dream” by Serge Quadrado. Other audio is from the FreeSound library.

Art by Dario Corallo

We resume our series on the People of Glorantha with, according to our guest, the very best people that there is on Glorantha. Our guest is indeed Nick Brooke!

Among his many hats, Nick is:

We talk about Nick’s history with the Lunar Empire, which starts with David Hall’s Reaching Moon Megacorp and the fanzine Tales of the Reaching Moon, which had a very pro-Lunar editorial leaning. This was perhaps in response to the Storm Bull leanings of the Pavic Tales fanzine.

Nick talks about the way British people are great for playing evil imperial people. He points to the 2022 RRR movie, although Ludo points out that the practice goes way back, with for instance Ben Hur specifically hiring British actors to play evil Romans.

While players are concerned with Dragon Pass adventurers, the GM often wants to understand the Lunar Empire better, at least to portray the evil NPCs. But Nick reminds us that it’s all just a game in a make believe world, and there’s no need to get upset online. Given the number of threads on the topic that routinely get locked down on BRP Central and elsewhere, I’m sure more people need to hear this.

What the PCs know about the Lunars

We go through the core RuneQuest homelands and Nick explains what is their knowledge and opinion of the Lunars is.

For Sartarites and Praxians:

  • They killed your grand-parent, made you pay taxes, and got eaten by a Dragon (good riddance)
  • For older RuneQuest players, they were the Roman-like occupiers of Sartar
  • Using Romans is a good model for the Lunars… see the many Roman-featuring movies and TV series in existence, including the classic Spartacus movie and more recent TV series

For Esrolians:

  • There was a recent civil war between the Red Earth and Old Earth alliances (pro vs anti Lunars)
  • Nick talks about the God King Belintar of the Holy Country as the “Pharaoh”, a term used in older RuneQuest material, but that Chaosium doesn’t want to use anymore for obvious reasons (such as the fact that there aren’t any pyramids in the Holy Country). Joerg tells me that at least Nick didn’t say “Pharoah”, as it was mispelled as such in the RuneQuest Companion.
  • Nick also quickly mentions some “Old Earth” rituals, featuring the sacrificing of a “year king”, that were “cut” from the Glorantha Sourcebook
  • There are parallels between Belintar, who dies and comes back, and the Red Emperor, who does the same
  • Nick likes to use Cleopatra and Anthony or Caesar as a reference for Lunars flirting with Esrolian queens. And yes this includes their depiction in Asterix comics

For the Grazelanders:

  • They generally love the Lunars because they often employ them as mercenaries and they pay well, although there is a minority of Grazelanders who doesn’t like the Lunars
  • The Grazelanders don’t convert to the Lunar Way, they have their fundamental ways
  • The current Feathered Horse Queen is a daughter of a Lunar King of Tarsh

For the Old Tarshites:

  • They hate the Lunars, but they’re just embittered losers of the old Orlanthi Tarsh Kingdom
  • Palashee Longaxe was a rebel leader who, for a time, manage to retake the kingdom from the Lunars, but he was put down eventually

For the Lunar Tarshites:

  • They live under the Glowline, and their kingdom is centered on Furthest
  • Furthest is a very Lunar city, planned and well designed, a beacon of civilization in the middle of Tarsh
  • The benevolent temple of the Reaching the Moon extends the Glowline here

A Short History of the Lunar Empire

Nick takes us on a historical tour of the Lunar Empire:

  • The birth of the Red Goddess in Torang (although we’re supposed to say “Blessed Torang”)
  • The Seven Mothers and their ability to bypass the Great Compromise
  • The Moon Goddess “should” have been in the Compromise… was there a patriarchal conspiracy at play from Yelm and Orlanth?
  • At Castle Blue she proved her place in the God Time and ascended in the sky
  • The Red Goddess can be seen from most of Glorantha, fixed in the sky as the Red Moon
  • Glamour is founded next to the crater left behind when she took a chunk of the earth and ascended in the sky
  • The Lunar Empire is governed by the ever reincarnating Red Emperor. Nick talks about whether they’re the same person or not after each reincarnation. Ludo makes a 1984 reference.
  • Nick touches upon the evil Carmanian empire, and the Dara Happan patriarchs that were there before. The Lunar Empire has liberated everyone with a much more feminist, open, and egalitarian society.
  • At some point, the Lunar Empire almost gets destroyed by Pentan Solar-worshipping noamds. They were led by the “madman” Sheng Seleris, a sort of a magical Genghis Khan. He’s now tortured in a Lunar Hell.
  • Nick explains the “wanes” used (or not) for Lunar history.
  • After the Pentan invasions, the great Hon Eel reconstructs the empire and invades several southern barbarian kingdoms. Later, the Empire invades even more areas like Sartar, Prax, and for a short time the Holy Country.
  • During the RuneQuest character creation (the Family History section), you see all of this progress being undone, as the Lunar Empire gets kicked out of Dragon Pass.
  • Nick explains what the Glowline is, and what the Lunars might have planned for Sartar if the Dragonrise didn’t happen.

The Lunar Empire’s current concerns are:

  • Financing the Red Emperor’s parties. Nick uses Nero and other Roman emperors as inspiration for this.
  • Jar-eel is busy “talking” to the White Moon movement, a bunch of pacifist anti-imperialist hippies.
  • The Pentans are back, and almost got into the holy city of Torang. Jar-eel thankfully stopped them, riding the mighty Crimson Bat.
  • The Dragonrise in Sartar is only a small annoyance to the Lunars at this point.

The Lunar Empire is organized between the Heartlands and the Provinces:

  • Nick goes over the pendantic history of using “satrapy” vs “sultanate” to designate the different administrative regions of the Lunar Hearlands. Once again he diverges from Chaosium terminology.
  • Incestuous noble families lead the Satrapies… errr, I mean Sultanates.
  • Provinces are former barbarian kingdoms that were conquered and converted to the Lunar Way.
  • The Lunars need to deal with the “natural state of rebellion” of the Orlanth cult
  • Nick makes fun of the Orlanthi beliefs and hypocrisy
  • We look at the difference between an Orlanthi from Sartar and an Orlanthi from Lunar Tarsh
  • Nick wants it to be known that the Empire lets anybody worship anyone.
  • Ludo is misled by rebel propaganda about how the Dara Happan became part of the Lunar Empire, so Nick explains all about it.

The Seven Mothers

We take a closer look at the Seven Mothers cult, which isn’t very well explained in the RuneQuest rulebook, and might be hard to grasp:

  • Nick recommends getting Cults of Prax for the longer (albeit slightly outdated in some places) write-up for RuneQuest 2nd edition
  • Nick explains who each mother is:
    • Teelo Norri is the outreach cult, with free food and orphanages and such
    • Irripi Ontor is a sage and astronomer, like Lhankor Mhy but with better libraries and no silly beards
    • Yanafal Tarnils is like a government-backed version of Humakt
    • Queen Deezola is for nobles, poets, and civilized people in general
    • Jakaleel the Witch deals with mad people (including making non-mad people mad)
    • Danfive Xaron is a cult for thieves who get captured and are “rehabilitated”
    • She Who Waits… let’s not talk about her
  • While explaining all this, we do a small aside about how Lunar taxes fix all the problems the Empire causes… no worries!
  • Nick talks about the similarities between the Seven Mothers and the Lightbringers, and the parallels with the Roman vs Greek gods
  • Nick explains how the Seven Mothers pacify and convert the people that the Empire conquers. The Seven Mothers are “closer to the people” than the old gods, and have many other advantages to the everyday person.

Dart Competitions

Joerg brings up the Dart Competitions, the Lunar Empire’s sanctioned way of doing spy operations and assassinations between nobles

Unlike the bickering of Orlanthi clans and tribes, these can’t interfere with the general population and the collection of taxes.

There is no “civil war” in Tarsh. Just people losing the ongoing Dart Competition.

Playing Seven Mothers Initiates

We go through a few possible backstories for a Seven Mothers initiate joining a party of Dragon Pass adventurers:

  • A Lunar Tarshite whose patron is on the losing side of a Dart Competition in Tarsh or some other province, and needs to lay low for a few years, out of reach from his/her enemies
  • Playing someone doing some “groundwork” in Sartar for a noble family’s Dart Competition (although this might require some work to manage that character’s agenda vs the other characters)
  • Families initiated into the Seven Mothers cult during the Lunar occupation of Sartar, and you could play an adventurer that comes from these families
  • Pelorian traders settled in Sartar or Prax generations ago for business reasons, since commerce between the Lunar Empire, the Holy Country, and Prax has been quite lucrative for everybody. You could therefore play someone who comes from one of those merchant families.
  • Playing a Lunar merchant who worships Etyries, the Lunar goddess of trade. Nick even shares his own head-canon for Etyries merchants, as compared to Issaries merchants.
  • Playing an Irripi Ontor scholar doing research in Dragon Pass.

The C Word

Nick brings up the topic of Chaos and then tries to run away from the podcast:

  • Ludo compares the Lunar’s use of Chaos with the US’s militaro-industrial complex and nuclear weapons
  • The Lunar Empire uses Chaos “for the benefit of people”, we are told
  • We discuss more Chaos-related matters, including what to do with Chaotic races

Other Lunar Cults and Lunar campaigns

  • Nick is looking forward to the “recognition and adoration” that the Lunar cults deserve with the upcoming “Lunar Way” cults book
  • Playing the glorious conquests of the Lunar Empire would be fun!
  • At the moment, playing a Lunar campaign is tricky and requires a lot of work: you need the Guide and the Sourcebook, and some work to model the Lunar cults into RuneQuest mechanics… but use common sense, and re-use what’s already in the rulebook.
  • You can use the Rough Guide to Glamour, Citizens of the Lunar Empire, Life of Moonson, Nick’s Glorantha Manifesto to build something.
  • Harald Smith’s Edge of Empire (we had an episode on it) is a great example of building a campaign framework in the Lunar Provinces.

Illumination

Ludo asks about Illumination:

  • Nick explains what Illumination is… shortly.
  • Illuminated people can use Chaos, and know that the Compromise can be changed
  • The Seven Mothers cult is looking for people that would be good for “Illumination training”
  • Illuminated villains can be either mad sorcerers or “dangerously sane” people.

Finally, Nick does a mic-drop by reading the Guide to Glorantha, giving the final summation of what the Lunar Empire is.

Credits

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

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).

Credits

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

Fionn fighting Aillen by Beatrice Elvery, Jason and the Argonauts by Columbia Pictures, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay by Games Workshop

In this episode of our Glorantha Initiation Series, we had the absolute pleasure of talking to Lee O’Connor. He came to Glorantha during the initial pandemic lockdown by way of his love for mythology and the fact that his middle-aged British gamer friends wanted to recapture the joy of their youth by playing RPGs again.

We apologize for Lee’s squeaking and cracking chair, which causes some background noise during the interview.

Where to Find Lee

This is where you’ll find Lee online:

Lee contributed some art to the Duckpac sourcebooks for RuneQuest Glorantha.

Lee also has some more upcoming stuff for RuneQuest:

  • Upcoming black elves book by Brian Duguid
  • Upcoming Greydog clan book by Jonathan Quaife
  • Upcoming “in-world” historical book by Jonathan Quaife

Show Notes

Here is a list of stuff we talk about in the interview:

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.

Introduction

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.

Credits

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

We kick off this new season of the Glorantha Initiation series with the lovely Bridgett Jeffries, aka “the happiest voice in cosmic horror”!

About Bridgett

You can find Bridgett all around the internet, but in particular:

Show Notes

In this episode we talk about:

  • Playing AD&D, Champions, and Battletech as a covert operation in a basement with middle-aged men
  • Chaosium’s RuneQuest Starter Stream, and the New Hero actual play
  • RuneQuest 3rd edition, its fantasy Earth, and Glorantha as a separate setting
  • Moral ambiguity in Glorantha: nothing is straightforward, everything comes with the “weight” of the lore and the setting
  • Activating Runes or Passions to augment rolls is dope!
  • Having an assistant GM to help with the rules is great for a game like RuneQuest
  • It’s hard to relate to the Bronze Age, compared to other eras… what even is the Bronze Age?
  • The problem with gatekeeping by grognards (old fans), and letting newbies discover and play the game in their own way
  • Tropes vs lore (see also this essay I wrote on the subject)
  • The Rome TV series, Troy, The Ten Commandments, Alexander
  • Tropes of the Orlanthi: violence is always an option, no one can make you do anything, follow chosen leaders
  • Tropes of the Bronze Age:
    • Religion is politics (priest kings and such)
    • Cities with temples on hills, markets full of merchants and mules and slaves, philosophers on soapboxes
  • Tropes of Glorantha:
    • Everybody comes from their own culture, with their own reasons to do things
    • Use the Runes as a guide for how cults fit in the world, use archetypes first and lore later
    • Spirits are everywhere (shamanism, animism)
  • Getting used to magic being everywhere
  • Glorantha is flat, the Underworld is below, rivers used to flow upwards!
  • The Jonstown Compendium is awesome
  • Drawing Earth Runes on your face
  • Using the RuneQuest Starter Set‘s art as reference
  • The trolls are political refugees
  • Exploring Glorantha, your Glorantha 101 YouTube series

Credits

The intro music is “Dancing Tiger” by Damscray. The outro music is “Islam Dream” by Serge Quadrado. Other audio is 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.

Jackals

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

Credits

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