I’m off to Furnace in October and Grogmeet in November, so its time to scratch that RQ itch with this little number. A prequel to Dry Run In Prax, which it will probably get bundled with as a Jonstown Compendium release.
The year is 1625, and Pavis, a Lunar city on the edge of the Wastes of Prax, is about to fall to Argrath and his rebel army. Camped outside the city, the Lunar regiment known as the Old Beards. This group of fierce barbarian fighters from Lunar Tarsh, has just returned from subduing the Empire’s Enemies in the Wastes. It’s General, Baldrox the Bearded, summons the Bastards, his elite cadre of troubleshooters.
“Our New Friend has told me a little secret. Over that set of dunes is an old Sun Dome. An early attempt by our Yelmalio allies to set up shop in these parts. It was abandoned suddenly due to troubles with the Dragons hundreds of years before our beloved Red Goddess rose in the sky to set the world to rights!
There will be gold. The Sunnies always have gold. We are about to lose this war, and I will need it to fight on when we get home to Tarsh. So, this is a simple job. Go across the desert, get into the old Sun Dome and get me that gold!”
The problem is that the Bastards may not be the only ones after Sun Gold.
If they have even the merest hint about their old temple, the local Sun Dome Hoplites will send their best troops to investigate the truth.
And word on the street is that some scruffy Praxian Shaman, Monkey Boy, and his baboon crew are also after the “shinies”.
Also, it has crossed the treasure hunters’ minds that there may be a reason the temple was abandoned in the first place.
This is a RuneQuest game suitable for newcomers both to the setting and system. Expect high adventure, a treasure hunt, with monstrous guardians straight out of Glorantha’s rich mythology.
Warning: This takes place in my Gloranthan Cinematic Universe version of the game, so Mega Gaming Fun is guaranteed!
Recently I’ve been feeling the urge to go adventuring in Glorantha again. The thing is, I don’t feel the urge to crack open RuneQuest, Questworlds, or 13th Age Glorantha to do. I have a real sense of having been there and done that (see my previous post about campaigns I’ve run in Glorantha). My initial giddiness of returning to run a campaign for RQ G has faded.
One thing that keeps returning to me is the idea that using a fiction-first Powered by the Apocalypse system will get around the new players’ two barriers when approaching Glorantha, system and setting. PbTA systems are famously rule-light, and some people quickly declare them NOT ROLEPLAYING GAMES! But other people, myself included from the lovely experiences I had running Dungeon World at both cons and for my home group, find them effortlessly easy and, with the right set of moves, describe the setting intuitively, removing the need for excessive explanation.
Sartar PBTA scope of the game
The following is from my current game draft, mainly to keep me on track.
Assumes all characters Sartarites who are attached to a clan-based community, called a Tula somewhere in Sartar, and followers of a pantheon known as the Storm Tribe.
Characters follow a single god and derive their magic from them. Each character embodies or incarnates or “God forms” their Deity. As the character gains experience through emulating the deeds of their deity in play, they become more like them by gaining Devotee Feats.
Each adventuring group has only one instance of each character class or Devotee Type. This follows standard PBTA practice but also sharpens the fiction that the characters will eventually become important spiritual leaders, Godtalkers/Priests in their community and that there is no room for multiple powerful devotees. In Sartar PBTA there are no rules for characters following multiple deities, or other magic systems such as spirit magic or sorcery.
The detail of Glorantha as a setting is light, and only explained where necessary to the rules. Refer to the Gloranthan Sourcebook or other Gloranthan game published by Chaosium INC for deep setting background.
This set of rules can be easily used for other settings where the characters are Orlanthi, such as the Eastern Wilds of Ralios.
I’m doing this for me, although I may publish a free version under the Fan License if it comes together. My next stage is to take the twenty-six-page draft, finish it to a playable state, and then give it a whirl with a short online campaign. I’m tempted to use New Beginnings as a base for the adventures and mix it with some of my ideas for a revisit to the lands of the Silverwind clan.
As a long-time Glorantha fan, the recent announcement of the ten Cults of RuneQuest books threw me into a state of deep introspection. Why you ask, get so wound up about an elf-game?
Well, because I’ve already got a ton of stuff for Glorantha, despite culling a great deal over the years, and I like other RPGs and settings. With my d101 stock for my webstore, my office, my fitted wardrobe in my bedroom, and a good bit of attic space, half the bookcase in the living room is crammed with books. It’s time to downsize big time.
Could Glorantha be part of that downsizing?
In theory, yes. I have one large stack and store, which I call the Vault, which holds all the “classics” stuff like Traveller, Warhammer FRP 1st, D&D Rulescyplopedia, and RQIII (the softcover deluxe edition from the 90s). Its all stuff I look at and enjoy occasionally, and I know that if I sold, I’d just end up buying back from eBay. So I could just add the RuneQuest Classics stuff I own (RQII, Pavis, Bigrubble, Cults Compendium, Griffin Mtn, Troll Pack) and that would be that. I’d hold on to my RQ G stuff on pdf, and use it if I ever felt the urge to dive back in and run a one-shot. Otherwise, that’s be done; everything else gets sold. I also don’t buy any new stuff. I don’t fall into Chaosium’s Evil Plan to sell me ten books with nowhere to go and embroil me in another cycle of playing and figuring out RQ G that will eat up at least five to ten years of my life (when I’ll be 60ish).
Except all that is no fun. I’m curious as heck to see how the Cults books turn out. On the one hand, I understand why people aren’t happy about it being a big slipcase of two giant volumes, available NOW! But do we really need the hernia-inducing properties of what that format would entail? Remember the two-volume Guide to Glorantha (another set of books I would not give up and would go in the Vault if I was to do a clear-out)? But it’s also a brave move on Chaosium’s part. Some books will sell like hotcakes, like Lightbringers (everyone is going to need that to play Humakti 😉 ) and Cults of Chaos (which will detail Glorantha’s brutal monstrous opposition). While some of the others, like if we have a book on Shamanism or even Cults of the West, will be much more niche for players who want to run those types of characters or GMs who are intrigued. Actually, thinking about those books make me realise that Glorantha is like crack; you can never get enough once it gets you, and gawdammit I WANT THEM ALL! This is why I considered including Glorantha in my great cull of game books. SAVE YOURSELF BEFORE ITS TOO LATE!! 😀
So I’m going for fun. Because I would be a grumpy sour puss if I didn’t. I’d be forever going “RuneQuest, it was good when it was like Star Wars and just the original trilogy, so I only play RQ2 and ignore everything after that”. I can now understand the D&D fans who have endless bookshelves of all editions and get all stroppy online when new stuff is coming out. Except I don’t have to have an edition war. Its all brilliant to me 🙂
That’s where I’m at with my Gloranthan collection. While I have less time to devote to it, that’s been happening since my great RQ III campaign in the 90s, especially with my day job being D101 Games, I’m still enjoying it massively.
So the next step, while I downsize the rest of the gaming collection, is to make a “Gloranthan Shirine” that can fit all my books. The official releases, the fan releases I’ve hung on to over the years, a box file for my handwritten notes/index cards from my 90s RQIII Karia campaign. And of course, BRAX THE BROO. It needs to be accessible, so I can both browse for pleasure and for when I want to pull out books to use. Currently, they are tucked away in a fitted cupboard and tend to end up in piles on the floor after I’ve used them. So a nice bookshelf, with a glass door would be in order.
This one isn’t going to happen overnight. Go have a word with my wife, she has different priorities for my house-clearing skills at the moment :D. I’ll keep you updated on the progress of this little project.
The important thing for me, coming out of this, I’ve decided to carry on with a hobby that’s brought me lots of fun over the years.
I’m best when Glorantha is a crucible for my creativity. I’ve tended to bounce hard off the published campaigns, which is unfair since there have been some crackers over the years. For example, Pavis and the Big Rumble, Borderlands, Griffin Mountain, and Sun County. At best, I tend to loot them for ideas. At worst, I exhibit a snobby indifference (“oh, but my game is set in Ralios, not Prax” *snort!*).
Recently I’ve been reassessing my gaming career with RuneQuest (a whole blog post of navel-gazing in itself), and part of this was reflecting on the long-form campaigns I’ve run over a good thirty years period.
Before listing my Gloranthan campaigns, it’s important to note (briefly) that in the late 80s, my first RQ experiences were with the Games Workshop editions of RQIII. Lovely hardcovers, colour plates, and easily digestible, they lacked the Intro to Glorantha that the Avalon Hill box edition had. Also, none of the fine supplements that made it out for Gloranthan under RQ III received the same treatment from GW. Outside the licensing deal, or didn’t it get released during the brief period GW published RQIII? Also, RQ2 was long gone from GW shelves. So the net result was that while I was in awe of Glorantha and briefly played two adventures with a mate from high school who had snagged RQ2 before it was gone, I didn’t get my mitts on Glorantha until I reached Leeds to go to University during the early 90s. So my formative experiences with RQ were games set on the non-Gloranthan Griffin ISLAND and my games which were non-Gloranthan (but sort of weirdly Gloranthan because I so badly wanted to play in that setting). So this is why for myself, and a lot of Brits, the non-Gloranthan side of RQ was so important, why we support Mythras, and why I wrote OpenQuest.
My campaigns over the years
These are my short takes on the games. In true Glorantha fan fashion, I’ll post longer accounts for each campaign separately.
Karia. (RuneQuest III massively house-ruled/Home/1990s)
A deep dive into a single land in the Ralios region (over the Rockwood Mountains to the west of Dragon pass) that was pretty much, along with Cyberpunk 2020, my gaming life in my student/post-student years.
Black Horse Country(QuestWorlds/Home/2000s)
My home group wanted to play in Glorantha. Using Questworlds (in its previous HeroQuest 1st/2nd incarnations), we co-authored (inspired by Burning Wheel) a short HIStory, how their characters rose from unsure teenagers to mighty heroes who fought a huge player vs player battle to determine which of them would become the new Count.
Lords of the North West. (QuestWorlds/Home/2000s)
Playtesting for Jamie “Trotksy” Revell’s Book of Glorious Joy, which I released via D101 Games/ Fun stuff because we made it so with lessons learnt about structuring the campaign we learnt while playing Black Horse County. Still, ultimately it was a brief dipping back into Glorantha.
New Beginnings (QuestWorlds/Convention/2000s) Easy to understand Barbarians vs Chaos games to play with newcomers at conventions. They were eventually published via D101 Games.
Red Sun Rising (QuestWorlds/Convention/2000s). I had the itch to play Solars vs Lunars after reading the unfinished Stafford Libary books (The Fortunate Succession and The Glorious Reascent of Yelm), and this campaign, played out over several conventions, scratched it. Also published via D101 Games.
The Long Way Home (RQ Glorantha/Online/2020?). Lunar Tarsh legionaries escape Pavis’s fall and make their way home to Tarsh.
Karia (Redux) (RQ Glorantha/Convention/2022 to present). I am revisiting my old RQ3 campaign of the 90s, and polishing up scenarios to present as one-shot RQ G for gamers of all levels of familiarity with Glorantha. See The Garden of Evil, which is the first adventure in this cycle.
So with my latest convention scenario pretty much in the bag, well in rough “lets see if this survives contact with the players” form, I’ve got all giddy and contacted some players who have played with me before, with the aim of starting up a flexible RQ campaign.
Heres the email I sent them earlier today…
I’ve got the RuneQuest bug again, and I’m planning a West Marches style RQ campaign. It will be set in my Karia setting, which is over the Rockwood Mtns to the west of the default Dragon Pass setting. This means in many ways it’s familiar (there are Orlanthi barbarians for example) but it has its own history and twists that gently make it its own thing. But all will gradually be revealed, in a non-navel gazing manner fun manner.
West Marches-style game? It’s a play style from the early days of D&D:
“Put simply, a West Marches Campaign is an episodic campaign structure and play style for traditional role-playing games that were designed explicitly for open table play.”
From “What is a West Marches Campaign?” secretsofthebarrowmaze.com
This means that there’s a pool of players who want to play. Rather than have set dates, I give dates I’m available, and then the pool votes on when they are available from that. I keep records of everything that goes on, and the players determine where they go, in the sandbox of Karia. This area is already well defined in such terms from being such a campaign in the 90s – ask Ginger Matt who played in what was my home campaign at that time. Players play as little or as often as they want/are able to, and the campaign never dies because of scheduling problems. I’m thinking of running once or twice per month.
I’ve got a starting scenario, that I’m planning to run at Go Play Manchester in November, and I’d like to give it playtest beforehand. When I’m not sure, it will be the first thing we do as a poll West Marches style!
Here’s a quick blog post about it on my Glorantha Blog, Arkat’s Playground
I will be canvassing for more players online but wanted to see if you were interested since you’ve played with me before.
The Garden of Evil was one of my first gaming convention adventures. It probably got run at one of the Battlemasters series of conventions held in Loughborough Uni in the late 90s just after Easter Weekend. Wanting a straightforward set up, which still oozes esstiential Gloranthan vibes in all the right places, I’ve gone back to it for my next convention game.
Here’s the pitch that I’m using for the game I’m going to run at Go Play Manchester, a local gathering of gamers, in November.
The Garden of Evil
Lost in the wilderness, the Garden of Evil was part of the ancient estate of Sorcerers who ruled Ralios during the Dawn Age. The evil reputation comes from the fact that they were worshippers of the Chaos God Gbjai the Deceiver. Normally it would be left alone by the nearby farming settlement of Horst, but their fields get nearer each year. This year some sheep have wandered past its’ thorn hedge boundaries by mistake, and the scared farmers have asked their Chief to send bold adventurers to find them.
This game of adventure in backwoods Glorantha uses the RuneQuest rules. The characters will be the offspring of the local warlord tasked with exploring an ancient place of mystery and danger. No previous experience of either the setting or system is required.
This adventure grew out of my home RuneQuest III campaign, that I ran in my student/post student days for most of the 90s. When I started going to conventions in the mid-nineties, I based convention games in the campaign setting, Karia – which is to the west of Dragon Pass, but has its own Orlanthi tribes being part of region known as the Barbarian Belt. So I could use the familiar pantheon of gods, the Storm Tribe, as well as throwing in nearby western cultures and even Trolls, who have one of their Tower of Lead strongholds nearby. One of my players, my long standing friend Ginger Matt, played a troll, Keltina, who started off as a rough and ready warrior, a basher guarding Troll Insect Caravans, and ended up a Sorcerer of Black Arkat.
The Garden of Evil is a simple adventure location. Its like a fun fair of all my favourite weird Gloranthan monsters, who were picked out of the RQ II monster section, since I didn’t have the Gloranthan Bestairy for RQ III at the time, in the same way I would populate a AD&D dungeon using the Monster Manual I & II. I had a rough idea of who liked who due to mythology and cultural biases, but the main aim of the adventure was to introduce the players to all the cool Gloranthan Weirdness. That while they may think they are going on a standard monster hunt, that all gets turned on its head when creatures like Dragonnewts, Broo and Gorps come into play.
The premade player characters, all ranking members of the Klerst Clan, intiates of the more warlike Orlanthi Deities with a descent amount of magic, are the sons and daughter of the local chief. I ran this during the Tales of the Reaching Moon days, and that fanzine drew heavily from Greg Stafford’s then unpublished work which detailed how the Orlanthi Barbarians lived in clans which had a social hierarchy based around their Gods and Goddesses, and had animosities towards monsters and other cultures, that led to violence and conflict. While this wasn’t as hardbaked into the scenario as it would have been say during the HeroQuest years (circa 2000-2010), it was hinted at and there if the players wanted to make it a thing.
So I spent an hour or so this evening restoring this blog to the point that I left it a year ago—restoring both content, and presentation. Even recreating the one comment from Rick Meints wishing me well.
This time last year, I felt my great plans suddenly came to a dramatic end when I realised ironically I had no spare time to pursue them. Quite simply, family life and my main priority, D101 Games, were more than enough. I was swamped with stuff and overwhelmed with an abundance of life’s challenges. Arkat’s Playground was suddenly jettisoned in an attempt to make things manageable. With my best amateur dramatic head on, I exclaimed, “oh my, the Third Age of Newt’s Gloranthan Fan Publishing has come to an end”. So I deleted the blog and thought that was that. Except as my good friend Rev Dr Moose puts it, “Glorantha will always drag you back”. Last May was the point where it had space in my head again, and with personal challenges being resolved I’ve finally got enough time to write/play again. Plus I looked at my groaning gaming shelves, a good part of which are covered with Gloranthan books and realised they will not be part of my current downsizing exercise. Because I hear the call clearly now…
So why do I keep coming back?
It’s a Gonzo Ancient World Setting of Make Believe. Look too hard at it, and its inconsistencies will infuriate you. But I think it’s never meant to be coherent. The differing viewpoints of cultures and the intrinsically personal commentaries litter the setting info. Combined with the very nature of a world where its myths, undoubtedly emotionally powerful but hard to logically pin down, directly form the worldview of its inhabitants. There is nothing else like it.
I’m committed (as in mad?) Fan Boy. I have a whole cupboard of Gloranthan games and supplements, spanning its entire publication history. I’ve a headful of memories of convention games, home campaigns (more on that in later blog posts), and conversations both online and in person with other fans about both the systems and the setting itself. If nothing else, I could happily blog about all the Gloranthan Books on my shelves.
I’ve had some of my best-ever gaming experiences in Glorantha. Once various things fall into place, chief among them how the system (be it Questworlds, RuneQuest or 13th Age Glorantha) supports the world and how it intrinsically works, players go with it, and the fun flows.
The People. I have many friends in the Gloranthan Fan community who ask what I’m up to with the setting. They like my D101 stuff, but I constantly get asked when I’m going to run Gloranthan convention games or put out new material. Some of these friendships are longstanding, as in a good thirty years.
And perhaps most importantly…
Brax the Broo would be cross if I didn’t. This oversized faux bronze statue is my own Gloranthan Writing Wyter, which I gained during my Hearts in Glorantha years from its sculptor at Mad Knight Miniatures. He’s one mean muthafooker!
This post came about because of this thread over at the RPGPub forum, where I chime in on page 2. Also, it’s in lieu of a long-overdue review of RuneQuest Glorantha itself, which is this long epic thing in my head being a long-time RQ/Glorantha fan
So introductory waffle out of the way.
RuneQuest Glorantha? I’ve come to the conclusion I like it.
When it came out, I plunged right in and ran it several times as a convention game. The epic Lunars on the run from angry animal riders, looking for the last moon boat home that is Dry Run in Prax (coming to Jonstown Compendium soonish). I even ran it online as a mini-campaign with a mix of newbies and old hands. All the new subsystems and new lore overwhelmed me, to the point of overload. And I’m a Gloranthan GM with 30+ years of experience! So when the OpenQuest Kickstarter blew up in my face with its success, I switched to running that. Partially because I craved simplicity system-wise, I also had to take care of business and get some last-minute play-testing done. Since then, OpenQuest Thursdays, as that group is known, has firmly established itself as a long-running home campaign
On reflection, though, it was very clear that the players had a great time because those new subsystems gave them options and power at the table. I’m thinking Runes and Passions especially. They can read all that new lore in the rulebook or when I shove the Gloranthan Sourcebook in their direction. We were playing Lunar Tarsh characters, so we had whole sessions discussing Lunar Theology and mythology since the players were curious and it was relevant to their characters, who are questioning their faith after the downfall of Pavis.
I’m making a small return to RuneQuest via conventions, and when I do, I shall be keeping things simple on my side of the fence and letting players focus on all the bits I find fiddly. If you want to use Passions in my game, great, but you work out when you want to use them and how.
Finally, I love the fact that Gloranthan Fandom has got a shot in the arm due to its release. People are picking up RQG and are staying and running campaigns. Lots of fan-made stuff on the Jonstown Compendium, and while the official releases are slow, in a sense, there’s no regular release schedule, there’s still a large chunk of playable stuff out there already.