Analysis Review Runequest

First Thoughts on Cults of RuneQuest Mythology

My love affair with RQ/Glorantha is back on. After gazing at the big pile of RQ G books I was going to sell for the best part of a week and thinking all the great things I could do with them, I realised there’s still the Great Gloranthan Campaign of the 2020s to run and the shared joy of running RQ G at conventions! 

So I renewed my vows by getting the latest  Cults of RuneQuest book, Mythology. From a quick skim of the pdf, it’s like much of the RQ G line, an expanded RQ 3 supplement with RQ 2 Redux* formatting and rules and the super wow Glorantha in full Technicolour presentation**. In this case, the 80s Gods of Glorantha RQ3 box set introductory chapters with a much more detailed overview of the pantheons and the mythological ages. It ends up with the universal cult format, which is how to present Glorantha’s religions in RQ G game terms.

Cults of RuneQuest Mythology cover

So it’s a bit odd that this is the fourth book in the series, yet it says it’s the first book in the Introduction! As an old hand, I get it. As far as the intended reading order, this is correct. Still, the first two books are fundamental to anyone gaming/digesting the Sartar campaign, and many RQ neophytes would probably run screaming if this book was put before them as the first book they needed to read. It’s quite logical, but it is very wall of text, which is in keeping with the more popular RQ2 presentation but more formidable than the deliberately brief RQ3 Gods of Glorantha format***. They also fold in Greg’s copious notes and information from the HeroQuest era, which is, thirty-odd years of on-off development of the 80s material, which has greatly expanded and only been previously hinted at in fan publications and online email lists during the 90s and 00s (Gloranthan Digest, HQ Yahoo, etc.). As a long-time fan, it’s lovely to see everything in one place and easily accessible. 

One thing, though, this isn’t the generic RPG version of how to present Mythology in your game. i.e. an RPG version of Joseph Campbell’s Hero With a Thousand Faces. It’s very much how to present Gloranthan Mythology, and it’s setting up a framework for later RQ books (see the Universal Cult format, which is presented in RQ game terms), which kind of nixies the claim of the back cover that this is a systemless book. 

You can not fault its 158 pages of full-colour art presentation-wise. The quality of the art produced lots of “oos and ahs” moments, and everything complements the text, which is easily readable despite its density. The mythological maps are my personal favourite. One major nitpick I have is that they used red as text colour for the Myths pull-out boxes. I hate this because it violates obvious**** design, colour psychology and guidelines, and probably accessibility rules. Thankfully, it only seems confined to a handful of instances in one chapter.

A more detailed review to follow when I’ve read the incoming hardcover.

Newt’s RQ Nerd Notes

*RQ2 Redux is my shorthand for RQ Glorantha, reflecting that the game went back to RuneQuest 2, updated it with new stuff (and some old stuff sitting in Greg’s Game Design boxes) and then pushed it out to the adoring masses. 

** Which Chaosium, to their credit, are getting very good at after a somewhat shakey start with the core rulebook – which had a lot of reused art from earlier editions and glorious maps rendered unreadable by a faux ageing layer of grime.

***This an acdote which is from Sandy Petersen if I remember rightly. The idea was to introduce the whole set of Glorantha’s Gods in a shorter format, with all the game information but less of the game fiction, which gives colour and roleplaying detail. The long-form cult descriptions were intended to come along in later supplements – which, from memory, Troll Gods and Lords of Terror (the RQ3 version of Cults of Terror) was the only ones to make it out before the RQ3 licensing deal with Avalon Hill died in the 90s. 

**** Well obvious to me as 20+ years of web developer and desktop publishing experience. The number of times I have had to tell folk who presented me with text in red for their websites, “Do you want to present your website as written by a serial killer?” with them thinking that they were being cool and creative.

Analysis Runequest

By gum, the Darkness was strong

Once again, Real Life TM ganged up on me strongly, and it looked like my Gloranthan Fan Light would be extinguished! But I’m back at it, with the easing of the Bleak Times. This is what English Folk Lore calls the rainy dark season, which starts end of November and ends the first week of May, it’s sort of Autumn, Winter, and the early cold, wet part of Spring all rolled into one. I’ve now got space to get excited about Orlanthi, Lunars, Trolls, and Krajki(?) again.

Upcoming Posts

I’ve now got a RQ reading pile, for while I was distracted by a whole bunch of RuneQuest Cults books, it dropped from Chaosium. I’ve just bought book 4 Mythology, which amusingly the Introduction says is the first book, so I’ll be reviewing it first. Expect my thoughts on this to be posted here.

Also, seeing I didn’t get to go to Furnace last year, the scenario I planned to run there (“By this Shining Light, my Hand is Guided!”) is getting a run out at Virtual Grogmeet 2024 in April. I’ve got the hang of running convention games using a lighter version of RQ (which I’m calling RQ: Lite or Newt’s RQ Con Guidelines), which, again, I’ll post here soon.

During my time in the wilderness, I started to believe all the nonsense that non-Gloranthafans often throw at the game, which nearly saw me sell off my RQ books. Cheerfully throwing them into the abyss, saying, “it’s ok, I’ve gone digital!”. But after a week of seeing the pile of Gloranthan Gold sitting there and my mind mulling over the possibilities of that Great RuneQuest Campaign of the 2020s that I’ve yet to run, I got myself together, put them back on the shelf. It’s been a weird, miserable, wet winter, and my office here at D101 HQ has got beyond messy. But now that I’ve more energy I see that simply putting them away and going to IKEA for advanced storage solutions, is a far more reasonable solution. But this long dark tea time of the soul, threw up answers to the doubts that many people come up with when considering RuneQuest as a game, that I’m sure is post at some point 😉


To Build the Gloranthan Shrine?

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.

Current state of my office, and this is just one side!

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).

“I’ve looked at the size of my collection, and you want me to add more? I’m out!”

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 🙂

“RuneQuest? Glorantha? It’s BRILLIANT!!!”

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.

“Why the fuck Newt, I’m I standing next to the One Ring Roleplaying Game. You know I fucking hate Tolkien!”

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.

Analysis QuestWorlds Runequest

My Gloranthan Campaigns

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.

Pre-Gloranthan RQ

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.

Analysis Site News

Why I Keep on Coming Back to Glorantha

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!