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Now available in print: BLACK SPEAR - a Hero Wars saga for RuneQuest


Nick Brooke

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Available now from the Jonstown Compendium: BLACK SPEAR, by Nick Brooke & Mike O'Connor. 181 pages for $19.95 in digital (PDF) format, $35.95 as a standard colour printed hardcover book, or $49.95 $44.95 in premium colour hardcover.

"Know then, oh Prince, that in the Sea Season after the Battle of the Queens
was Colymar's Black Spear sent forth to rouse Argrath from his slumbers..." 

An epic saga of the Hero Wars, festooned with heroquests and deep Gloranthan weirdness. Probably the strangest thing I’ve ever written. Designed as a follow-up to The Duel at Dangerfordbut it also works as a stand-alone mini-campaign. Canonically set in Sea Season 1627, with suggestions at the back of the book for changing things around. Illustrated lavishly by Mike O’Connor: 50+ pictures, one or two songs, some poetry, not many stat-blocks.

Edited by Nick Brooke
Now available in print!
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1 hour ago, Nick Brooke said:

An epic saga of the Hero Wars, festooned with heroquests and deep Gloranthan weirdness. Probably the strangest thing I’ve ever written.

Well, I guess I know what I'll be looking at running after the Smoking Ruins!  (Assuming they get out of there alive first, of course...)

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Day 1, and BLACK SPEAR is the #1 Hottest Community Content title on DriveThruRPG (and nine out of the top ten are Chaosium books, just saying).

image.png.6213058df97d7ec6067d3a24223c2886.png

The first review is in, from @davecake, who wrote on Facebook: "This is one of the greatest Glorantha things ever written, and a staggering work of genius." (I assume he liked the pictures, which are really rather special)

You can leave a rating and a review on DriveThruRPG 24 hours after purchase. I note in passing that my birthday is this Tuesday, and if you can't think of anything else to get me it'd be lovely to have some feedback from happy customers.
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Posted (edited)

Still Day 1, and now BLACK SPEAR is the #3 Bestselling Title on all of DriveThruRPG. Which is nice.

 May be an image of text that says "Bestselling Titles SO FANIASY EMPIRE IN RUINS DEVIANT BLACK X PE @ 1. WFRP: Empire in Ruins Enemy Withi... $22.99 NICK BROOKE MIKE OCONNOR 2. Deviant: The Renegades $24.99 3. Black Spear $19.95"

Just waiting for my Copper Best-Seller medal to drop...

UPDATE: Copper happened. So did this:

 

143FECA2-5DE8-41E8-B5C5-00184070F894.jpeg

Edited by Nick Brooke
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@Nick Brooke - first impressions are very good.

Like Duel at Dangerford I expect I will make great use of it, drawing upon your familiarity with Glorantha to inform my own campaign. Practical interpretation of the setting into gameable content is welcome.  It's always interesting to see behind the curtain of how other GM's run games so I find your footnotes and asides particularly helpful - many published products are less generous in this regard.

What appeals most is that this is a mini-campaign that really only could happen in Glorantha as it is so interwoven with the culture and mythology of that setting. Act 2 (Desert Storm) is a good example of this and is not a scene I would ever think to craft that way - I like it for that as it is a provocation for how more game-playing value can be extracted from the richness of the Gloranthan setting.

If I may, the only comment I have found thus far that cause me to double-take was in the first paragraph of p.142. The analogy used there seems unnecessary inasmuch as there are alternative ways to make the point. It detracts rather than adds to the charm of the product and the writing.

Overall this is a very fine addition to the Compendium and I look forward to using it.  This must have involved a lot of work - thank you for sharing it with us. I look forward to seeing it accumulate precious metal tokens on DriveThru.

Edited by RandomNumber
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This is what I love about Black Spear. Nick has taken some of the most "disappearing up its own bottomness" of Gloranthan mythology and - very reverently to the sources as it turns out - turned it into something so utterly gameable and fun!  Another thing he has accomplished magnificently is inserting the player characters into the Hero Wars metaplot with agency. When you have a metaplot e.g. The Great Pendragon Campaign, there's always the challenge of ensuring the player characters don't end up just standing around watching in awe as King Argrath or Argrath et al do amazing things. Greg managed that for the GPC and Nick has done so here.

And of course the other thing to be gobsmacked about is Mike O'Connor's art! His glorious style embodies Greg's dictum that Glorantha is the technicolour cure for bland pseudo-medieval fantasy. And there's lots and lots of it!

One of my favourite pics:

FAvnLzGX0AIJkFo.jpeg.c8181044c71c242967792486c699f0be.jpeg

Edited by MOB
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On 10/3/2021 at 7:35 AM, Nick Brooke said:

You can leave a rating and a review on DriveThruRPG 24 hours after purchase. I note in passing that my birthday is this Tuesday, and if you can't think of anything else to get me it'd be lovely to have some feedback from happy customers.

Yes, I have acquired it now, and I must say @Nick Brooke you've produced a real gem here.  Just bought today, so haven't yet passed that 24 hour mark... but phrases that come to mind so far include:  "brilliantly mad", "wickedly delightful", and "gloriously illustrated".  Love it! 😎 

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Three  ratings and two lovely reviews so far.

One of my playtesters, Chris Gidlow, wrote: 

“From my adventurer’s limited perspective, it was everything I could possibly want – high-stakes quest, travelogue, dungeon-bash, wargame and heroquest taking us from Dragon Pass to Pavis by the scenic route, encountering diverse Gloranthan cultures and playing my part in the unfolding Hero Wars. However, now I get to see the whole pack laid out, the paths not taken, the vast mythic vistas and the depth of imagination and research, I am truly awestruck. This really is the Gloranthan scenario you are looking for … Nick presents a palimpsest of novelties overlaid across familiar locations from RuneQuest’s past and vibrant present … held together with a heroquest around a central myth of Glorantha, rather than minor obscure cults prepared for a scenario. This is absolutely the next scenario you have to get! Your adventurers are in for an utter treat.”

And @Eff of Eight Arms and the Mask wrote:

Black Spear is a triumph. This adventure synthesizes together many of the more forbidding, obscure, or occultated aspects of Glorantha, a setting notorious for all three of those things, and does so in a way that's directly approachable, with the author explaining his reasoning as he goes, offering alternate pathways at each juncture. This takes the form of a symbolic journey through the ruins of older Gloranthan games and scenarios, right into the heart of darkness, all held together by a collage of cultural references … Strongly recommended.”

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Now up to six ️ ratings, and two new reviews.

Harald Smith @jajagappa writes:

Hang onto your chariot! And get ready for one wild ride over the rainbow into a technicolor wonderland and the heart of darkness. This extended RuneQuest adventure puts the characters front-and-center in a far-flung heroquest engaging with movers-and-shakers at a seminal moment in the world of Glorantha. My first reactions were: "brilliantly mad", "wickedly delightful", and "gloriously illustrated" (in no particular order). 

For the gamemaster, the Black Spear demonstrates how to get an epic quest underway and bring the adventurers right into the mythic events that drive the world. It maintains a well-thought-out flow yet is filled with useful advice, thoughts, and humor on how to run each session - even musical recommendations to get players into the right frame-of-mind! The wonderful illustrations with their graphic novel feel feed right into this and provide plenty of possible handouts to help players envision what they've landed in. 

For the players, it's an opportunity to step out of a hard-and-fast rules mentality and into a seriously entertaining and memorable story. This is the Yellow Submarine, Neil Gaiman's Sandman, Apocalypse Now, Mad Max, and more rolled into one non-stop adventure. By the end, they'll be ready to dive head-first into the Hero Wars (or frantically trying to stop it!).

For newcomers to Glorantha, the Black Spear plunges you right into the magic of a world that have kept many engaged with it for years. For old-timers, it's a wonderful homage to favorite RuneQuest settings done over in new and intriguing ways that will get you out and boogieing big-time with the newtlings. 

A wildly delightful plunge into RuneQuest and Glorantha. Highly recommended!

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And Mike Hagen (A Rough Guide to Glamour) writes:

I was sadly unable to be part of any of the play testing of 'Black Spear' but nevertheless, was enjoying regular generous updates from Nick as the work progessed, contributing honestly not much beyond the occassional guffaw and "this is -expletive removed- amazing ". And it kept getting better.

So though the final finished product is, in the words of Thomas Jefferson, "too many damn pages for any man to understand" that's mainly due to their being jam-packed to overflowing with sweet, sweet Gloranthan goodness. But for those of you mythological diabetics out there or the functionally illiterate just buy this product for the reality altering, simpy stupendous Mike O'Connor art alone. Buy it now. There you've been told.

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Posted (edited)

And now there’s a Drew Review: yahoo! From Andrew Logan Montgomery: Black Spear: A Review

“There is nothing else quite like Black Spear. There are some very deep dives into Gloranthan lore here, some terrific heroquests, but Black Spear also leans into pop culture and some really trippy shit, man. That is what I think is brilliant about it. There is absolutely no mistaking the setting it was conceived for … This is some top shelf, high-grade Gloranthan-psychedelia. I simply cannot recommend it highly enough.“

Edited by Nick Brooke
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Now up to eight ️ ratings and six rave reviews (five on DriveThruRPG plus one on Drew’s blog), the latest one being from playtester Matthew Tyler-Jones (The Effekt Podcast) :

“What a marvellous book. I have been privileged enough to experience this mini-campaign as it was being sculpted by Nick Brooke. Sculpted from an amalgam of deep, deep Glorantha lore and a scattering of popular culture. But on reading the book, I am so pleased to discover Nick's customary foot-notes which are like his asides at the game table.

“This adventure may not be for every table - if your group resent a Moonson that looks like Elvis they may not relish Bowie as Argrath <see NB note>, and some tables might feel railroaded once or twice - but it should be for every GM. It is an object lesson in making myth in Glorantha, and particularly for GMs new to the world (hello starter kit) it works as an insight into the complex history of Glorantha, the history of RuneQuest the game, and a primer on handling surreal heroquests in your bronze age world. If you are a new GM who wants to look like a seasoned pro, this is your vade mecum.

“As a playtester, I also got a preview of some of the art by Mike O'Connor, but the full PDF has much much more. It’s great, in a style that fits the heroquesting vibe - very different from the "archeological illustration" of much recent RQ content, but which I feel might well suit the glaze of actual Gloranthan pots and mosaics.

“A must for every GM's library.”

 

NB note: GMs who lack Bowie’s raw charisma - if any - will be reassured to know that I set out several different takes on Argrath you can mix and match for your table, if Ziggy Argrath isn’t entirely your cup of tea: mystical Argrath, mumbling Brando Argrath, Muad’dib Argrath, Andy Serkis Argrath, Greg Stafford Argrath, and more besides.

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Here’s a Silver Bonus Art Preview: Frazetta Newtlings, by Mike O’Connor.F806D7A2-6D67-4CB8-AA71-53B3C4F04599.thumb.jpeg.10cb8d915e30047fd950a0de1b42e34d.jpeg

(if anyone is worried about fantasy cheesecake art, these newts are both asexual bachelors)

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On 10/2/2021 at 4:14 PM, jajagappa said:

Well, I guess I know what I'll be looking at running after the Smoking Ruins!  (Assuming they get out of there alive first, of course...)

Well nuts! The group in my Roll20 campaign should be finishing up Duel at Dangerford tonight, and I was looking at this as the next step. Guess I'll just have to demonstrate good roleplaying skills, and make sure Harmast only acts on what HE knows, and not what I know.  On the other hand, PbF goes slowly enough, that maybe my group can get through it fast enough that my aging brain cells will forget the details before you start.

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1 minute ago, Marc said:

Well nuts! The group in my Roll20 campaign should be finishing up Duel at Dangerford tonight, and I was looking at this as the next step. Guess I'll just have to demonstrate good roleplaying skills, and make sure Harmast only acts on what HE knows, and not what I know.  On the other hand, PbF goes slowly enough, that maybe my group can get through it fast enough that my aging brain cells will forget the details before you start.

I think you know my games well enough by now that I'm quite happy to pull in unexpected surprises and my own preferred cultural references... 😈  After all, my dragonewts quote Finnegan's Wake... 😜

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Posted (edited)
26 minutes ago, jajagappa said:

I think you know my games well enough by now that I'm quite happy to pull in unexpected surprises and my own preferred cultural references... 😈  After all, my dragonewts quote Finnegan's Wake... 😜

I expect and encourage GMs to add their own preferred spices and flavours to Black Spear. It’d be a bit sad to run it exactly as written when you could go wild and crazy in your own preferred idiom.

(And that’s why I didn’t spend much time creating varied stat-blocks and “balanced” combat encounters. Anyone who wants those would have to rework everything I wrote anyway, depending where on the spectrum their game falls between “I keep losing fights against trollkin” vs. “We’ve all killed Harrek, who’s next?”)

Edited by Nick Brooke
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8 minutes ago, Nick Brooke said:

I expect and encourage GMs to add their own preferred spices and flavours to Black Spear. It’d be a bit sad to run it exactly as written when you could go wild and crazy in your own preferred idiom.

Yes!  But, at the same time, when an idiom clicks sometimes you just have to go with it. 😎 (Bowie - check; Sex Pistols - check; TS Eliot - check; Apocalypse Now - check ...)

 

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And thank you for the review!

Quote

It's beautiful, it's brilliant... it's bloody bonkers. More than a game supplement, Black Spear is a literary event and the reinvention of a genre. Something special just happened here.

 

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Well, Nick, I owe you a review on Drivethru. Just haven't found the right soundtrack yet.

"Take me back to my boat on the river" might be apropos. If only for the performers.

 

I do feel taken back to your performance in the Rise of Ralios freeform in 1996.

 

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Telling how it is excessive verbis

 

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  • Nick Brooke changed the title to Now available in print: BLACK SPEAR - a Hero Wars saga for RuneQuest

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