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Glorantha: How to get started


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Hi, I have written a post that condenses the seeming consensus on forums about how to get started playing in Glorantha. It also includes my opinion.
 This will prove useful when someone who does not know anything about Glorantha asks me about how to get started. Please let me know what you think. 🙂

https://elruneblog.blogspot.com/2020/04/roleplaying-in-glorantha-how-to-get.html

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Read my Runeblog about RuneQuest and Glorantha at: http://elruneblog.blogspot.com.es/

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Your "Dragon Pass" outline leaves out most of Tarsh and the Stinking Forest.

The scenarios in "The Smoking Ruins" can be fairly lethal, but the same goes for some of the encounters in the GM screen package, and my experience with The Rattling Wind is that any combat approach is a recipe for a total party kill. The Hidden Valley offers enough of a sandbox to start a campaign with locals.

 

When I started playing in Glorantha, I took another place adjacent to the well-developed area of Glorantha and ran a campaign in Heortland.

Nowadays, there are a number of promising series in the Jonstown Compendium community program that lend themselves for good starts. The White Ruin as part one of the Namoldin campaign gives you a start in the conflicted area between the Colymar and the Malani tribes. The Sandheart Militia saga is into its second installment, and builds on MOB's RQ3 supplement Sun County (which is sadly still out of print, as are the other RQ3 Renaissance products). For a ducker take at Glorantha, Yozarian's Bandits offer a good one-off or possibly a jump-off to a dungeons and drakes campaign, with The Quacking Dead offering some supplemental horror. The announced Six Seasons in Sartar and the Dundealos project of the Jaldonkiller Saga (both briefly covered in the current episode of Wind Words) have a similar scope.

For a jump into a deeper, a lot more eldritch version of Glorantha, you could do worse than looking at the Rough Guide to Glamour as your setting material. You should have the Redline History of the Lunar Empire, and the boxed sections on the satraps of the Empire in the Guide to Glorantha can offer you additional material unless you want to go with the freeform characters of The Life of Moonson as your main NPCs. (The Namoldin campaign shows some shared DNA with the Home of the Bold and Heroes of Wisdom freeform background booklets and the after-game narratives, too.) Some of the Madness in Champions of the Reaching Moon (in the Hero Quest/ Glorantha vault at Chaosium.com) may come in handy, too. And the RQ3 Monster Colliseum (a much reviled supplement) will come in quite handy for gladiatorial themes in Glamour (or elsewhere in the Empire), too.

Urban adventures can be quite Gloranthan, too. If you don't mind canon too much and are lucky enough to have access to the Thieves World box or the Midkemia Press City of Carse book, you can play these in Glorantha. The Chaosium house campaign did so. You can tie a naval campaign to that, too - Men of the Sea offers the concept of Ports of Call.

Blood over Gold isn't quite canonical any more, either, but remains a solid campaign with strong Gloranthan vibe. Also in the Vault.

If you don't mind doing a little more work producing your major harbor, Dosakayo on Melib is a great place which may inherit from Lhankmar or Sindbad's Zanzibar, and the Maslo port of Westel gives you a similar fairly blank land that you can fill with details. Having a (pdf) copy of the Guide to Glorantha is probably required for this, but you don't have to read that from front to back.

If you can wait a bit longer, Nochet is going to be another extremely multicultural setting.

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Frankly, all of Dragon Pass (or even all of Sartar) is already an overly-broad and overly-deep pool for some new players!!!  So, I would expand/explain the "start small" advice... 

In Sartar, begin with everybody from a single Clan, or even a single Stead... except any Humakti PCs:  they can (arguably should) be from elsewhere, but taking an Oath of Service with a local chiefain or thane, etc.

You could equally pick a band of Beast Riders from one Tribe, and give them reason to be in either Pavis or Sartar.

An interesting alternative to the above Clan/Tribe centered games is to pick a single Cult, and have the PC's all holding to a Cult loyalty above clan/tribe (oooo, built-in conflict!).

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2 hours ago, Runeblogger said:

Please let me know what you think. 🙂

Great stuff! That would have been good to have for our first episode of Wind Words ;)  Great intro to put the newbies at ease, too.

I wouldn't have mentioned The Widow's Tale in the fiction section, since it's completely out of print and unavailable everywhere (not even in digital form AFAICT?).

This may prove controversial but I don't think HeroQuest is good for GMs new to Glorantha. One problem I've seen for instance is at character creation: in RQG, a player picks, say, an Ernalda priestess, and they can pick their spells and skills from the list. Even better, they have their backstory (and therefore motivations) filled up thanks to the amazing family history. In HQG, however, it's, like "OK you're an Earth priestess, now spend some points in traits and magical abilities". And everybody around the table is, like, "errr I don't know? What kind of magic can you do in this world? What is Earth magic like? Is there a spell list?". Sure, the GM and players could invent their own Earth magic on the spot and make their Glorantha vary but if you're already doing that at character creation, you might as well play in your own homebrew world IMO. For this reason, I tend to recommend HQG only to GMs who either have prior knowledge of Glorantha, or at least have a couple other books on the subject that they're wiling to read. The free-form aspect of HQ is great for being able to do whatever you want, but it means you have nothing to guide your hand if you don't know your material.

It totally agree with your conclusion -- that's pretty much what I would do too. Keep on blogging!

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10 hours ago, 7Tigers said:

Nice!
Perhaps missing Sartar Companion existence?

Good idea. I mention it in my review of Sartar: Kingdom of Heroes, but maybe it is useful to also mention it under the "further adventures" section, thank you. 🙂

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Read my Runeblog about RuneQuest and Glorantha at: http://elruneblog.blogspot.com.es/

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10 hours ago, Joerg said:

Your "Dragon Pass" outline leaves out most of Tarsh and the Stinking Forest.

The scenarios in "The Smoking Ruins" can be fairly lethal, but the same goes for some of the encounters in the GM screen package, and my experience with The Rattling Wind is that any combat approach is a recipe for a total party kill. The Hidden Valley offers enough of a sandbox to start a campaign with locals.

Thank you, I'll edit the map.  🙈  I don't know why I left Tarsh out and I wouldn't have thought about including the Stinking Forest.

I could have written a blurb about every scenario that has been published, but the idea is to offer just the essential pointers, so newcomers don't feel swamped in too many options. Striking a fine balance is difficult, so I'm not sure if my post, as it is, already includes too many options! 🤔

10 hours ago, Joerg said:

Nowadays, there are a number of promising series in the Jonstown Compendium community program that lend themselves for good starts. The White Ruin as part one of the Namoldin campaign gives you a start in the conflicted area between the Colymar and the Malani tribes. The Sandheart Militia saga is into its second installment, and builds on MOB's RQ3 supplement Sun County (which is sadly still out of print, as are the other RQ3 Renaissance products). For a ducker take at Glorantha, Yozarian's Bandits offer a good one-off or possibly a jump-off to a dungeons and drakes campaign, with The Quacking Dead offering some supplemental horror. The announced Six Seasons in Sartar and the Dundealos project of the Jaldonkiller Saga (both briefly covered in the current episode of Wind Words) have a similar scope.

Haha! "dungeons and drakes" has a nice ring to it! 😆  Yes, I am tempted to include some scenarios of the Jonstown Compendium and Yozarian's Bandit Ducks, is good for that, but as I said, for now I prefer to keep the list of initial options short. However, you are welcome to add your comment to the blogpost. 🙂

10 hours ago, Joerg said:

Urban adventures can be quite Gloranthan, too. If you don't mind canon too much and are lucky enough to have access to the Thieves World box or the Midkemia Press City of Carse book, you can play these in Glorantha. The Chaosium house campaign did so. You can tie a naval campaign to that, too - Men of the Sea offers the concept of Ports of Call.

Blood over Gold isn't quite canonical any more, either, but remains a solid campaign with strong Gloranthan vibe. Also in the Vault.

If you don't mind doing a little more work producing your major harbor, Dosakayo on Melib is a great place which may inherit from Lhankmar or Sindbad's Zanzibar, and the Maslo port of Westel gives you a similar fairly blank land that you can fill with details. Having a (pdf) copy of the Guide to Glorantha is probably required for this, but you don't have to read that from front to back.

If you can wait a bit longer, Nochet is going to be another extremely multicultural setting.

The idea is to present to newcomers material that is easy to find and start playing now, so that leaves out Thieves World. I was also tempted to include Blood over Gold, but again, I think it is best for newcomers to start either in Sartar or Pavis/Prax, since those are the places you have the most support for. In the future, I will add the RuneQuest Starter Set that is in the works.

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8 hours ago, g33k said:

Frankly, all of Dragon Pass (or even all of Sartar) is already an overly-broad and overly-deep pool for some new players!!!  So, I would expand/explain the "start small" advice... 

In Sartar, begin with everybody from a single Clan, or even a single Stead... except any Humakti PCs:  they can (arguably should) be from elsewhere, but taking an Oath of Service with a local chiefain or thane, etc.

You could equally pick a band of Beast Riders from one Tribe, and give them reason to be in either Pavis or Sartar.

An interesting alternative to the above Clan/Tribe centered games is to pick a single Cult, and have the PC's all holding to a Cult loyalty above clan/tribe (oooo, built-in conflict!).

You are right! :)  However, if you pick up the GM Screen Pack and the Broken Tower scenarios, you don't need to know a lot. Still, the idea of how all the characters belong to the same group of adventurers is not dealt with in the RQG rulebook, is it? I could perhaps add a line about the clan. On the other hand, the RQG lets you have starting PCs from different homelands, and it is up to you to decide why they are together. Is the idea of "all of you belong to the same clan" compatible with having Praxian, Tarshite, Lunar and Grazelander characters in the same group? 🤔 Perhaps that's best for the HeroQuest campaigns to explain that, as they seem to be much more clan-based.

Read my Runeblog about RuneQuest and Glorantha at: http://elruneblog.blogspot.com.es/

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8 hours ago, lordabdul said:

Great stuff! That would have been good to have for our first episode of Wind Words ;)  Great intro to put the newbies at ease, too.

Thank you! 😋 

8 hours ago, lordabdul said:

I wouldn't have mentioned The Widow's Tale in the fiction section, since it's completely out of print and unavailable everywhere (not even in digital form AFAICT?).

Hmm, yes you are right. I have now erased that, thank you.

8 hours ago, lordabdul said:

This may prove controversial but I don't think HeroQuest is good for GMs new to Glorantha. One problem I've seen for instance is at character creation: in RQG, a player picks, say, an Ernalda priestess, and they can pick their spells and skills from the list. Even better, they have their backstory (and therefore motivations) filled up thanks to the amazing family history. In HQG, however, it's, like "OK you're an Earth priestess, now spend some points in traits and magical abilities". And everybody around the table is, like, "errr I don't know? What kind of magic can you do in this world? What is Earth magic like? Is there a spell list?". Sure, the GM and players could invent their own Earth magic on the spot and make their Glorantha vary but if you're already doing that at character creation, you might as well play in your own homebrew world IMO. For this reason, I tend to recommend HQG only to GMs who either have prior knowledge of Glorantha, or at least have a couple other books on the subject that they're wiling to read. The free-form aspect of HQ is great for being able to do whatever you want, but it means you have nothing to guide your hand if you don't know your material.

I agree that there should be more examples in the HQ book about that. The HeroWars books included names of runespells that at least gave you a hint about things you could do with the runes. Still, I don't want to leave out HQ for starting GMs, because I want newcomers to know the narrative option is there if they don't like crunchy rulesets. If their players do weird "un-Gloranthan" things with their runes, well, their Glorantha will vary! 😛

Read my Runeblog about RuneQuest and Glorantha at: http://elruneblog.blogspot.com.es/

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1 hour ago, Runeblogger said:

Thank you, I'll edit the map.  🙈  I don't know why I left Tarsh out and I wouldn't have thought about including the Stinking Forest.

The dragonewts sort of defined the region with the Crossline to the south and the Deathline to the north, leaving the eastern border undefined.

So yes, the Stinking Forest and the Valley of Flowers may be treated as the westernmost extent of Dagori Inkarth just as much as they are part of Dragon Pass.

 

1 hour ago, Runeblogger said:

I could have written a blurb about every scenario that has been published, but the idea is to offer just the essential pointers, so newcomers don't feel swamped in too many options. Striking a fine balance is difficult, so I'm not sure if my post, as it is, already includes too many options! 🤔

Offering a number of entry-points avoids railroading the new GM into playing a style of scenarios that she may not be that familiar or comfortable with.

 

1 hour ago, Runeblogger said:

Haha! "dungeons and drakes" has a nice ring to it! 😆 

Playing the underdogs can lead to light-hearted games while skirting on rather deep and deeply emotional subjects. The D&D-inspired web-comic "Goblins" is a good example of that. Ducks, trollkin and baboons all fill that role admirably.

That said, I have avoided monkeying around so far, and the one durulz that I had in my Gloranthan games was squashed by a certain ghostly chariot in a one-hit kill.

 

1 hour ago, Runeblogger said:

Yes, I am tempted to include some scenarios of the Jonstown Compendium and Yozarian's Bandit Ducks, is good for that, but as I said, for now I prefer to keep the list of initial options short. However, you are welcome to add your comment to the blogpost. 🙂

I'll edit the post above down and add it.

 

1 hour ago, Runeblogger said:

The idea is to present to newcomers material that is easy to find and start playing now, so that leaves out Thieves World.

You are right - City of Carse is available from Midkemia Press as pdf, so it would be eligible. (So are the cities of Jonril and Tulan of the Isles, the book that was published by Avalon Hill as RQ3 Cities, and another supplement "The Sunken Lands", for a mere 27$ total for their entire product range).

 

1 hour ago, Runeblogger said:

I was also tempted to include Blood over Gold, but again, I think it is best for newcomers to start either in Sartar or Pavis/Prax, since those are the places you have the most support for. In the future, I will add the RuneQuest Starter Set that is in the works.

Just like Griffin Mountain offered a place that wasn't over-defined in the RQ2 era, Blood Over Gold offers material outside of the narrow scope of the Sartar vs. Lunar Empire narrative while being close enough to be able to interact with some of that. While it was written for HeroQuest 1st edition, applying it to HeroQuest Glorantha rules shouldn't be a major problem.

 

Its deviation from canon is not that crushing, really. The cuneiform correspondences of an Assyrian merchant family operating in Anatolia presented by the British Museum isn't that different from the setting in Blood over Gold, really.

 

You can of course put canon a lot further out of the window and use Ttrotsky's Kingdom of the Flamesword version of a feudalistic Kingdom of Seshnela that can be found in the internet archives, or use D101's Book of Joy that covers Loskalm from the same basic assumptions that were all over the place in 1st edition HeroQuest.

 

Depending on your language skills, you might be able to make use of the Swedish Fronela campaign or the French Dundealos campaign for their respective translations when they get available. I'll surely try to get hold of these. Other foreign language versions may come up with their own localized campaigns, too.

 

 

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16 hours ago, Runeblogger said:

I have written a post that condenses the seeming consensus on forums about how to get started playing in Glorantha. It also includes my opinion.

Great writeup!  

Quote

The most common and sensible piece of advice that veterans give to beginners is: start small. That is, you don't need to know everything to start playing, it is better to focus on a small region of Glorantha and place your players' first adventures there.

Reminded me of how I started with RQ2/3 years ago.  Started very small.  Had my rulebook (RQ3 deluxe ed., though I had RQ2 and all RQ2 supplements, and my Redline History of the Lunar Empire), and set out to run a campaign.

My first scenario was the Money Tree, which seemed a reasonable fit for my chosen location (Imther), although I created everything after.  Eventually used Griffin Mountain with a quest to Gonn Orta's "castle".  Cults were largely drawn from Cults of Prax and the Gods of Glorantha book.  Yelmalio was used heavily.  As there was a strong Lunar focus, used Yanafal Tarnils (reskin of Humakt) and Irrippi Ontor (reskin of Lhankor Mhy).  At some point wrote up Hwarin Dalthippa cult as her temple became focal point for many characters.

Quote

The two regions of Glorantha that have the most support in terms of background and published scenarios are the Kingdom of Sartar in Dragon Pass and the city of Pavis in Prax. Therefore, these are the two regions that are the most easy to start in, since most of the work has already been done for you.

If Sartar (or Tarsh) had been more detailed when I started I might have run there.  There's an abundance now on Sartar and good background and scenarios to work with.  The Broken Tower from the Quickstart was very good for starting up a new RQG campaign. 

The RQ Classic Borderlands is worth noting (and perhaps annotating the map since that is further down the River of Cradles).  You don't need much background to use - the first couple scenarios are great intros for players into what's around along the river and the nearby natives.  And easy to hook up to Pavis, or any of the Sun County material.
 

Quote

 

As for books, the best thing is to start with the basic roleplaying rulebook of a game that has Glorantha as its setting (see the next section further below), as each of them obviously contain a fairly good introduction. ...

The Glorantha Sourcebook (read a review). While not exactly an introductory book to Glorantha, it really is the closest thing there is to it (aside from RPGs, that is) and it has a reasonable price as well. It focuses on the history of Dragon Pass and the Lunar Empire, as well as on the mythical ages of the world, while providing a solid overview of the main pantheons and gods.

 

Prince of Sartar, King of Dragon Pass, and Six Ages are all great introductions.  For me, the great introduction was the Travels of Biturian Varosh from the original RQ2 Cults of Prax (which since it's available in pdf, I highly recommend as well).  

Glorantha Sourcebook is a great background book now.  I was fortunate to have both the last 4 Wyrms Footnotes and the AH Heroes magazines, so had some of this content available.  But the packaging here, plus background on Dragon Pass are great additions.

Between rulebook, a bit of cultural background, and some ideas about Glorantha to work with, you really have what you need to get underway.

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6 hours ago, Runeblogger said:

but the idea is to offer just the essential pointers, so newcomers don't feel swamped in too many options. Striking a fine balance is difficult, so I'm not sure if my post, as it is, already includes too many options!

I often see a tendency in responses to newcomers to provide a barrage of information and options, and I agree that this is too much.  Essential pointers work best.  I think you kept to a pretty good balance.  I'd probably have left out the RPG's with Generic Rules (or left that as an "appendix" or a followup post).

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6 hours ago, Runeblogger said:

Still, I don't want to leave out HQ for starting

Oh yeah I didn't mean that it should be removed -- I was just suggesting a bit of a warning about it, or simply just sharing my own opinion. Both RQG and the Glorantha Sourcebook would benefit from a bit more disclaimers IMHO, as they take.... err... people with certain discerning tastes :) (they're definitely not your usual RPG book).

24 minutes ago, jajagappa said:

I'd probably have left out the RPG's with Generic Rules (or left that as an "appendix" or a followup post)

Yeah I wanted to write something about it originally but couldn't really form my argumentation. Now I think it really boils down to:

  1. The GM has to pick, adapt, and/or design rules for worship, Cults, and 3 different types of magic. It seems rather hard to do if you don't know the setting yet.
  2. Most of the proposed systems are actually systems that were born out of RQ. These are the systems you pick after you've played RQ for a bit, or, maybe, CoC, and want a few tweaks here or there. In reality, Gloranthan newbies are, well, new to this RPG ecosystem, so I don't think they would even know about these things.

But hey we're mostly nitpicking here -- again, great blog post! Thanks for the continued blogging over the years!

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1 hour ago, lordabdul said:
  1. The GM has to pick, adapt, and/or design rules for worship, Cults, and 3 different types of magic. It seems rather hard to do if you don't know the setting yet.
  2. Most of the proposed systems are actually systems that were born out of RQ. These are the systems you pick after you've played RQ for a bit, or, maybe, CoC, and want a few tweaks here or there. In reality, Gloranthan newbies are, well, new to this RPG ecosystem, so I don't think they would even know about these things.

I included Mythras because I have read over on rpg.net some posters recommend it for playing Glorantha. On top of that, two friends of mine are using it to play games in Glorantha, so it is an option. And by including Mythras I felt I also had to include OpenQuest and Legend. 😅 But as I say at the end, I would choose RQG.

Read my Runeblog about RuneQuest and Glorantha at: http://elruneblog.blogspot.com.es/

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15 hours ago, Dethstrok9 said:

Thank you for putting together this resource, I am just getting into Glorantha and this is much appreciated!

Thanks for the feedback! Since the post is targeted to people in your same situation, your opinion is very valuable. I hope it is not too much information. 🤓

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Read my Runeblog about RuneQuest and Glorantha at: http://elruneblog.blogspot.com.es/

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9 hours ago, Runeblogger said:

You are right! :)  However, if you pick up the GM Screen Pack and the Broken Tower scenarios, you don't need to know a lot. Still, the idea of how all the characters belong to the same group of adventurers is not dealt with in the RQG rulebook, is it? I could perhaps add a line about the clan. On the other hand, the RQG lets you have starting PCs from different homelands, and it is up to you to decide why they are together. Is the idea of "all of you belong to the same clan" compatible with having Praxian, Tarshite, Lunar and Grazelander characters in the same group? 🤔 Perhaps that's best for the HeroQuest campaigns to explain that, as they seem to be much more clan-based.

I suggest that this very "wide open" start up -- with PC's from Prax and Tarsh and the Grazelands -- is part of the barrier that your essay hopes to offset.

PCs from 3 or 4 homelands can easily triple or quadruple the amount of start-up background-detail and "lore" that the campaign needs to have "on tap."   More and more daunting!

It's part of why "start small" works well -- the players reinforce one another, each may realize and incorporated different features and elements, and share with each other.  Their PC's tend to have shared bonds and backgrounds, and the GM isn't supposed to be "the expert" on Tarsh AND Sartar AND Prax ETC...  because the players will tend to lean on the GM for support & extra details, at need.

RQG does permit you to have many starting backgrounds, but... that isn't necessarily an asset!

Not when the group is being daunted by how huge the background is!

 

 

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17 hours ago, g33k said:

It's part of why "start small" works well -- the players reinforce one another, each may realize and incorporated different features and elements, and share with each other.  Their PC's tend to have shared bonds and backgrounds, and the GM isn't supposed to be "the expert" on Tarsh AND Sartar AND Prax ETC...  because the players will tend to lean on the GM for support & extra details, at need.

OK, you have convinced me. ;) I have added this under the first piece of advice. I have also marked Duke Raus' grantland on the map, so readers can have a better grasp of where the Borderlands is set.

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