Sunday, August 1, 2010

MythConceptions (hang on, that's been done, hasn't it...?)

The new issue of Rule One Magazine (an online Glorantha zine) is out and has a few nice articles.  In particular, there's this article about the use of Gloranthan myths in games.  I've had mixed success in getting my players to adopt Gloranthan attitudes, and the major obstacle has been a lack of knowledge of the various mythologies.  The Mongoose I Cults of Glorantha volumes aren't detailed enough and the Heroquest stuff is just overwhelming in its detail, so what we really need is a Cults of Prax equivalent for the new systems (Sartar: Kingdom of Heroes  does manage this for the Orlanthi gods, but I need something more Praxian).  Hopefully Loz's Cults of Glorantha remix will suffice when it comes out.

So Gregory Molle's approach strikes me as a great way to introduce myths into the game.  It also would probably mesh well with Loz's Mythic Resonance rules, which I haven't used so far.  My players' characters currently worship Humakt and Vinga, with another slowly learning about sorcery by researching a fragment of the Book of Arkat, given to her by, if I remember right, Kyger Litor during a Heroquest.  So these are the myths I'll give them (comments welcome):

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Secrets of Pavis Campaign: A Heroquest

It's been a while since I updated the campaign log and even longer since some of the sessions, so memories are hazy and almost certainly inaccurate, but for the record, here we go.

When last seen, Xaraya, Grom and Skye had agreed to aid Marcilla, High Healer of the White Sisterhood, in a Heroquest to bring Darnbar Chaosknower back to life.  The PCs escorted Marcilla to Horn Gate, stopping off at Ronegarth, where they picked up Lady Jezra, who was intent on visiting the White Sisters to get some herbs to help treat her mother, who had fallen quite ill.

They reached Horn Gate without incident, and Xaraya was able to restrain herself from confronting the Sables.  At the hospital, Marcilla gathered her sisters and explained the legend to her helpers.  During the Gods War, Lhankor Mhy went missing. Chalanna Arroy was worried at this, and asked Humakt, Issaries and Vinga to help find the Knowing God. Each was unwilling, but the Goddess persuaded them.  They overcame obstacles on the way to the land of the dead, where they found Tien about to decapitate Lhankor Mhy.  Humakt defeated him and drove him off.  Chalanna Arroy healed Lhankor Mhy, Issaries told him where he was, Vinga gave him a pair of walking boots and Humakt gave him a sword to defend himself.  In return, the Knowing God gave each of them a reward.  Then the gods returned to their homes.

Xaraya agreed to play the role of Issaries, while Skye and Humakt of course agreed to play the roles of their patrons.  Marcilla explained HeroQuesting for the PCs’ benefit, and emphasized that if the PCs veered too far from the ritual, very bad things could happen and if they did so on purpose then they would commit the sin of God Learning.  She stressed that if they failed at their tasks, they would likely fall out of the God Plane, with possibly bad results.  If they died on the God Plane, however, they would almost certainly be lost there forever.  In the earlier parts of the legend, when they are being recruited, they would have to play the parts of disinterest well.  If they simply agreed to go along, they would have failed and would fade as the legend goes on.  If they played their part too well, however, they would not accompany CA on her quest and would fall out of the HQ.  The PCs gulped and agreed to these conditions.

The sisterhood began their prayers and the questers found themselves on the God Plane, each heroforming into the gods they represented.  First Marcilla approached Xaraya, who as Issaries was engaged in a market.  Xaraya successfully resisted Marcilla's first two attempts to persuade her/him to come with her, when Marcilla argued that she/he must help her friend, and that without knowledge the market goods would be worthless, but agreed to come when Marcilla said that Issaries' customers were falling in numbers, for they did not realize they needed his goods.

Next, the gods approached Vinga, who was playing with Yinkin.  CA failed to get Vinga's attention until she sent Yinkin away, but was glad to see Vinga did not follow.  Then CA explained she needed someone who could climb far over hill and dale to find Lhankor Mhy, and the goddess agreed to go with them.

Then the gods approached Humakt, who was locked in combat with a Zombie god.  Grom defeated the Zombie easily and realized his sword was now enchanted against zombies.  Marcilla asked him to come with  her, but he said he had other zombies to dispatch.  So Marcilla showed him affection, and Grom was eager to help her, realizing his emotions for the beautiful healer.

The gods then came to a great scarp, which the legend said Vinga climbed and then pulled up her friends, with some undefined help from the other gods.  Skye climbed the cliff with difficulty, but then was at a loss as to how to pull her friends up as she failed in exerting herself.  Xaraya/Issaries shot an arrow up attached to a rope, and with the two ropes the questers were able to continue.

The legend then said that Issaries guided the gods across the River Styx towards Havan Gor, judge of the dead. Xaraya did not know the secrets of Issaries' travel in the underworld, and so was left to her own devices.  She managed to bring the gods to the dark river, where again she shot an arrow tied to a rope, which enabled them to cross over.

At last the gods found Lhankor Mhy, unconscious and with a garrote around his throat, put there by the headhunting Chaos god Tien.  The god was a headless monster, and Grom/Humakt challenged him.  Grom won swiftly, setting the monster to flight.

The questers could now see that Lhankhor Mhy was Darnbar, suffering from a grievous head wound.  Marcilla healed him and he opened his eyes.  He asked where he was, and Xaraya told him.  In return, the god gave her a magical map that could tell her where she was at any time, if she could read it.

Next, the god said he needed boots to make his way back to the God Plane.  At this point Skye realized she had forgotten to bring a pair that would fit him.  She faded out of the Heroquest.

Finally, Lhankor Mhy asked for a sword.  Grom realized that he, like Skye, had forgotten to bring the item, but he had the sword at his side.  Reluctantly, he turned over his newly-enchanted sword.  In return, the god told him the secret of Defending Knowledge.

The gods started back to their homes, although Lhankor Mhy did so with difficulty because he had no boots and Vinga the pathfinder was not there.  The questers woke up back at the hospital.  Darnbar was breathing and would live, but Marcilla said that because the myth was not wholly successful, he had not found his way back easy.  Ever after, she lamented, Darnbar would be subject to the Relife Sickness, and would be a shadow of his former self.

Nevertheless, the quest had succeeded in its main objective, and the party celebrated with the sisterhood that night.  Grom found himself unable to take his eyes off Marcilla all evening.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Gringle's Pawnshop

Thanks to James at Grognardia for linking to Gringle's Pawnshop, a discussion board for old-school Runequest fans.  When I get my act together I'll be posting there as Lucky Eddi.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Summons of the Wyter

The first adventure in the Mongoose Second Age "Living Glorantha" campaign is out.  Summons of the Wyter, although suffering from the sadly usual proofreading issues (they even misspell Wyter in the title, for Orlanth's sake!), is actually a very nice episode.  In particular, it introduces the mythical nature of Gloranthan gaming very well right up front.  In fact, I think that if Avalon Hill Runequest had developed along these lines rather than the chaos-and-caves of the Runequest Renaissance (which are excellent adventures in their own right, I should stress) then we might never have had the Hero Wars schism.

It's also nice to see some MRQ2 NPCs statted up.  The NPCs of Blood of Orlanth, for instance, during the MRQ1 era were very magic-lite and so, while the setting and plot were recognizably Gloranthan, the NPCs didn't seem right.  These guys are much more evocative of the magic-rich Second Age, as is the dilemma the PCs are presented with.  A very nice beginning - even if you're not going to port your characters around between Living Glorantha GMs, it looks like this campaign will be well worth playing.

Image taken from Questlines.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Second Age Adventure Setting: Pythos University

I've become more and more interested in running adventures set in the Second Age, and have been toying with a few different settings.  Here are my first few notes on Pythos University, a God Learner academy located in Slontos.  I'd love to know what you think.

Doomed to a hideous parody of existence after the fall of Slontos, Pythos University is currently a center of experimental Heroquesting, pushing the boundaries of myth to come up with new theories about the way the hero plane works.  The University is made up of several Collegia (vulgarly, colleges), associations of scholars centered around differing theories or avenues of inquiry.  The leaders of these colleges – variously called Masters, Principals, Wardens and Deans – are often in quiet, and sometimes noisy, competition. 

The University is famous for having developed artificial Heroquest Gates, allowing researchers access to the Hero Plane directly from the colleges.  Because of the experimental nature of the magic involved, the University is a dangerous place, and at least one college bears the marks of backlash damage.  Crippled students are common, and, although the College of St Xemela looks after them, many have severed ties with their colleges and settled in the town, which recognizes the wealth the colleges bring, but worries about the horrors the experiments can unleash on the town.

Attempting to keep order in this town is Inspector Fanto, a former student of great intelligence who found himself stripped of magical ability during one experiment.  There is a high level of mortality in the town, and it is the Inspector’s job to sort the accidental from the deliberate.  The Inspector is highly respected by the University’s leaders, but often finds that researchers dismiss him for his lack of magic.  Townspeople often do not trust him because of his status as a former student.  Nevertheless, the Inspector and his staff are often all that stands between the University and oblivion.

The Colleges

Collegium of the Fifth Action (Action College): Action College is headed by Master Hedin tel Frolos, leader of the Hedinist or Hypotheticalist School.  Hedinists are interested in what happens when central characters or events are altered or prevented in Heroquests.  Hypotheticalism is extremely dangerous, because often the myth falls apart or “snaps back” with massive backlash.  Hedin’s leading researcher is Doctor Hawk, who has been crippled so badly that he is confined to a magical flying chair and can only speak through mental link with his Venator servant.  Doctor Hawk is zeroing in on a grand unification theory of Heroquesting, something that will underpin the artificial Monomyth that is central to God Learner theory.  Other personalities at the College include…

Collegium of Hwarosian Mystery (Old College): Old College was the first college established at the University.  It is headed by Warden Moser de Suler, one of the oldest and wisest researchers at the University.  Old College is a mainstream God Learner research establishment and does not push the envelope particularly, which is why the other colleges were established.  Warden Moser is concerned at just how far his colleagues are going, and often employs agents to spy on their activities.

Zistorite Research Institute (Machine College): Machine College is a combined effort of the Cogs of Zistor and the Order of Otherworld Exploration.  Led by Clarxo the Wheel, the College devotes itself to applied mechamagics, and the Advanced Mechamagic Building has produced some very important advances over the years.  However, there have not been many breakthroughs in recent years, and Clarxo is becoming impatient.

Collegium of St Volanc (St Volanc’s College): St Volanc’s ceased to be a college devoted to the war order some time ago and is now the home of the Conditionalist School of Enginistos Got, a former Hedinist who took his research one step further.  Conditionalism seeks to promote other participant(s) in a myth to replace the protagonist(s).  The central concept of Conditionalism is The Could-Have-Been King, whose power the Conditionalists are attempting to harness, along with an army of Meanwhiles and Never-Weres.  Needless to say, this is even more dangerous than Hypotheticalism.  The college’s East wall has been blown down and several dozen students killed in the past couple of years.

More to come if people are interested.

Time and tide wait for no man, and neither do blogs.  Sorry I haven't posted in so long, but I do have lots of content ready to see the light of day.

In the meantime, here's an interview with one of my gaming heroes, the great Paul Jaquays, co-author of Griffin Mountain and the splendid Hellpits of Nightfang.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Addendum: Second Age Refuge?

Could Sanctuary work in the Second Age of Glorantha?  As it is located very near Zistorwal, the Clanking City, it would make a nice base for PCs involved there.  Ilsigi could again be Heortlings, with the EWF taking the place of the Rankans and the God Learners/Zistorites the Nisibisi.  The Waertagi have been swept from the seas by the God Learners, so they fit as the Beysibs again.  The EWF have savage leaders like Varankol the Mangler and in fact, you could just make Vashanka a member of the Eternal Dragon Ring who is defeated in battle, with Tempus as his closest associate.  Savankala could be the Golden Dragon Sun.  In fact, it probably all works better like that, with added dragons!  What's not to like?

Sanctuary Much

One of the things I retrieved from the UK recently was my Chaosium edition of Thieves' World.  As classic games go, this is really up there with the best of them.  The only thing missing was the original Personalities of Sanctuary book, which I had discarded at some point because I had the RQIII stats in the Thieves' World Companion. Darn it!  As it happens, I discovered the recent Green Ronin game based on Sanctuary was available direct from them for a fraction of the price asked at my FLGS, so I ordered that for comparison.  So far it feels like a useful addition to my Thieves' World games collection.

But what has this got to do with Runequest, I hear you ask.  Well, not only was the Chaosium set put together by Greg Stafford himself, complete with RQII and then RQIII stats, but Sanctuary itself was transplanted to Glorantha.  As "Refuge," the city was perched at the tip of the Eastern peninsula of the Holy Country.  Beyond that, however, I know nothing, but as I intend to make that area an attractive adventuring element in my sandbox I have decided that Refuge will indeed be Sanctuary transplanted.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Stalethia the Moondancer

Inspired by this thread on the Mongoose forum, I decided to try to create a Lunar magician.  As it happens, I needed to design one for my campaign, so if you are a player, read no further, there be spoilers ahead! I think these rules for Lunar Magic work quite well and are based on the original rules in Gods of Glorantha adapted to be more compatible with new, improved Sorcery.  As you might guess, some of the inspiration for the character comes from Ni Chang, the white-haired witch in The Forbidden Kingdom (a very Gloranthan movie).

Stalethia the Moondancer, Agent (Rune Priestess) of HonEel the Dancer

Stalethia is a direct descendent of HonEel herself, although via a cadet branch, and therefore a distant cousin of JarEel the Razoress.  She therefore considers herself akin to a demigoddess, although few others do.  She has therefore trained herself to the utmost to perform missions on behalf of the Emperor in the hope that Takenegi might notice her and raise her to her appropriate position of honor.  She is willing to do anything in the service of the Empire and to honor her ancestor.  Fortune has brought her to Prax, where she is working with Imperial intelligence to subvert local authority and bring it under the control of the Count of Prax, her cousin SorEel the Short.  Stalethia’s preferred modus operandi is seduction (either sex, she doesn’t care), although if she has to engage in combat she is no slouch, and her Lunar Magic and heroic abilities can make her extremely deadly.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Best Description of Third Age Glorantha, Ever!

It comes from Deleriad in this thread at
My personal view of Third Age Glorantha is that it's somewhat like, what if the Romans had discovered nuclear bombs while the Greeks had dabbled in Lovecraftian science. The two empires had then both imploded and taken large chunks of the landscape with them and only the fundamentalists who had refused to have anything to do with either, had survived into a "new dark age." Only now, some more fools with more brain than sense had managed to hurl a portion of the planet into space in order to make a moon. To me, that's the backdrop.
 That's about the size of it...

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Inspiration from the Doctor

With the new Doctor Who almost here in the States and already there over in the UK, it occurred to me I wanted to mention how the last episode of the last season contained some rather nice inspiration for a Gloranthan theme.  The corrupt Time Lords had engineered the return of Gallifrey and the Doctor berated them:
"You weren't there in the final days of the War. You never saw what was born. But if the time lock's broken, then everything is leaking through. Not just the Daleks but the Skaro Degradations, the Horde of Travesties, the Nightmare Child, The Could-Have-Been King and his army of Meanwhiles and Never Weres. The War turned into Hell and that's what you opened, right above the Earth. Hell is descending!"
 That sounds like God Learner territory to me. Under attack by all the forces of myth in Glorantha, what could the God Learners have created to defend them?  Their magical imagination would have been stretched to the limits. What if the last desperate act of the God Learners in Jrustela was to lock part of their existence away, including the war against them, waiting for a chance to return?  Preventing their return could be a major act in the Hero Wars.  Perhaps the Nightmare Child and the Could-Have-Been Kin will make an appearance in my campaign in years to come...

Character Bank

Goodness.  Is it that long since I last posted?  In any event, inspired by a post on the Mongoose Runequest II Forum, I thought I'd post some generic NPCs along the lines of the useful generic NPCs in the old Gamesmaster's Handbook.  They're based on an 80pt characteristic build, with 200 free skill points, so as not to overshadow PCs.  They try to follow the characteristic spread of the NPCs in the Handbook, some of which were rather odd (generic herder with a CHA of 17?).  They're made for Glorantha, hence the Common Magic skills.  We start with 4 barbarians...

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Creature Feature

One of my very few complaints about Mongoose RuneQuest II was the paucity of monsters in the core rulebook.  Now, this is going to be rendered moot very soon with the release of the Monster Coliseum book, and we have the MRQI Monsters and Monsters II books that don't need much conversion.  However, for the most part the monsters we have are tried and true and it is hard to see where new monsters are going to come from.  Well, until now.  Check out RPG Creatures.  This guy not only describes his monsters and provides generic stats, but he posts quite beautiful pictures of them as well (see example to the right).

That'd be pretty good on its own, but reading through the generic stats it becomes clear that conversion to MRQII stat blocks is going to be a piece of cake.  Not only that, but most of the descriptions feel right, with a bit of tweaking, not just for RQ, but for Glorantha.  A lot of these are going to show up in My Glorantha, somewhere.

Thank you, Nicholas Cloister, thank you.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

In Memoriam: Gygax on Taxes

In memory of E. Gary Gygax, who died two years ago today, here are some of his thoughts on taxes, from the first edition of the Dungeon Master's Guide:


What society can exist without revenues? What better means of assuring revenues than taxation, and all of the names used in the title of this section are synonymous with taxes - but if it is called something different perhaps the populace won't take too much umbrage at having to pay and pay and pay...

If the Gentle Reader thinks that the taxation he or she currently undergoes is a trifle strenuous for his or her income, pity the typical European populace of the Middle Ages. They paid all of the above, tolls being very frequent, with those trying to escape them by use of a byway being subject to confiscation of all goods with a fine and imprisonment possible also. Every petty noble made an extraction, municipalities taxed, and the sovereign was the worst of all. (Eventually merchants banded together to form associations to protect themselves from such robbery, but peasants and other commoners could only revolt and dream of better times.)

Plus ca change...

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

This is SARTAR!

The old Runequest 2 (not the new one I review below), had what can fairly be described as a legendary section that previewed "sources to be published," most of which have either never seen print or have only done so in vastly changed form.  One of them was:

THE SARTAR CAMPAIGN: Maps, personalities, histories, local cults, and other material about the storm Kingdom of Sartar.  Includes tribal specifics, extensive Road Encounters section, and a full explanation of the Orlanth cult.  Based on the campaign led by Greg Stafford.

Almost thirty years later, that sourcebook is finally here.  And perhaps it's the Gloranthan fanboy in me speaking, but it's been worth the wait.

For many years virtually all I knew about Sartar came from playing the game Dragon Pass, in which it was clearly the plucky little underdog with a barbaric (in the classical sense) culture taking on the hyper-civilized Lunar Empire.  With Lunars often having Roman names, I could not help but think of Sartar as Gaul or Britain.  In fact I often thought of developing a small village holding out aganst the Lunar invaders, aided by the unique magic of their priest.  The chief, Tonobri, would be carried everywhere on a shield, but the village's main assets would be two warriors, Steri and Obel...  Perhaps I shall put that clan together some day - the new book makes that easy and interesting, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Old School: Midkemian Splendor

Back before he became a best-selling author, Raymond E. Feist published some pretty good old school town/city supplements based in what was to become the famous world of Midkemia.  Of these, I still have the workable city of Carse, which actually found its way to Glorantha as the city of Karse in the Holy Country.  However, my first Midkemian purchase was Tulan of the Isles, which I thought was a splendidly developed town built on several islands in a river.  It even had its own dungeon, The Black Tower, which was available as a separate product.  Yet my local game store never had it in and I'd given up paying shipping by that stage.  Exploring around the old school blogosphere, what do I find tonight but Midkemia Press's residual website, which includes a free download of The Black Tower.  Now if only I could find Tulan of the Isles...

Runequest Campaign: Rabbit Hat Farm II

Duke Raus took the news of possible chaotic activity, more than just broos, in his lands at Rabbit Hat with little humor. He instructed the PCs to clean out the place, and to aid them sent with them Dranbar Chaosknower, a Lhankor Mhyte expert in chaos lore, Gorkin Rockbone, a Flintnail rock dwarf whose experiences as a pestle (don't ask) had scarred him for life, and the beautiful Marcilla, a High Healer of the White Lady. The party set off for Rabbit Hat with some trepidation and wondering whether Subodai's chaos-killing skills might have protected him. On the way, Grom noted that Marcilla would occasionally speak to a butterfly that flitted around her, and the dwarf would occasionally talk about not letting his secret out.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Old School: Mining White Dwarf 3

The cover to White Dwarf issue 3 is one I particularly like, because the adventurous couple, who have obviously bit off more than they can chew, aren't wearing any armor.  I like this because our first level characters never really wore any either, except for the odd fighter who claimed he was of knightly stock and had inherited some chainmail.  The reason for this was simple - you go into dungeons to liberate large amounts of cash and the more you are weighed down by armor, the less you can be weighed down by treasure.  In the first few levels of the dungeon, those amounts of cash are likely to be copper or silver rather than gold, so you really need the carrying capacity.  At least, that's how we reasoned it.  As a result, the lives of our PCs tended to be nasty, brutish and short (a bit like the players, really - we were 12-13 year old boys...)

Turning to the contents, the first article is extremely interesting and I suggest still useful.  It suggests a non-geomorphic approach to solo dungeon mapping which requires considerable investment in time to set up but once you've built your library of 200' by 200' dungeon elements, you can use it to create a massive variety of dungeon layouts.  I did this one summer vacation and it worked extremely well.  Worth looking at.

Runequest Campaign: Rabbit Hat Farm I

As part of the deal that took them from Pavis to Ronegarth, Duke Raus gave the PCs a land grant.  Rabbit Hat was the name of the walled settlement and farmlands that made up the grant, and the PCs expressed an interest in visiting their lands.  Daine, however, had some news for them.

Far from being a fully working holding, Rabbit Hat was currently, Daine presumed, unpopulated.  The settlement had been attacked out of nowhere by Bison Riders from the Wastes.  The few survivors fled to Sun County on hearing that broos had been seen in the area after the nomads had departed.  As a result, the settlement was presumed ruined.  Daine added that the Duke's title to Rabbit Hat was also a matter of legal dispute with the Count of Sun County, although the case had lain on Sor-Eel's desk in Pavis for years and was unlikely to be decided soon.  Because of the likely presence of unquiet spirits, the shaman Stars-Not-Night was prevailed upon to accompany the party, as was a Storm Bull follower, Subodai the Uncouth, in case the broos were still around.  Finally, a young Orlanthi mercenary, Oderic, also accompanied the group.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Review: Runequest II Core Rulebook (Mongoose)

First, apologies for the lack of updates. I've been afflicted with various health problems (I have something wrong with each of my heart, lungs and digestive system. Yay!) and haven't really felt like writing outside work.  However, the release of Mongoose's latest version of my favorite role-playing game is worth getting back in the saddle for.  Simply put, this is the best role-playing game ruleset I have ever seen.  Lawrence "Loz" Whitaker and Pete Nash have done an astounding job in fixing the problems with the system - many of them going back to the classic Runequest 2 (don't get me started on the numbering issues) of 1979. They have both simplified and enhanced the rules while remaining true to the central principles of RQ and, indeed, Glorantha. So let's take a look at the major features of the book.

Production Values. First of all, this book looks impressive.  It is leather-bound with gold lettering (runing?) although the rune is not the Magic rune as depicted above, but the Luck rune (looks like Pi). The typesetting is clear without the annoying borders Mongoose often uses.  Pull quotes are useful and tables make sense. There are a few typos and mistakes but an errata sheet is due soon.  The artwork is serviceable to good with only a few gratuitous scantily-clad women (not that there's anything wrong with that).  This is the sort of book you wouldn't mind leaving out in plain view, which sadly isn't often the case with RPG books.