Jump to content

Changes to Illumination through the years

Recommended Posts

Illumination is an experience. A profound one, that changes the worldview and interactions with the world of the one who experiences it, generally permanently. In this respect, it has something in common with shamanic awakening, divine initiation, or sorcerous mastery - it opens the one who experiences it to new magical abilities and a new way of experiencing the world, and there are some immediate consequences but it is also the beginning of a long process of learning more ways to use it, and potentially opening up further possibilities. It is also as unlike those other experiences as they are unlike each other, maybe more so. It is subtler, more inward focussed, harder to explain and communicate. Its direct magical effects are few, and mostly internal, but its real significance is how it interacts with other forms of magic (and given we know about it mostly in the divine magic dominated areas of Central Genertela, we care about, and know about, it’s potential interactions with divine magic the most). Though we know other more distinct magic is possible - Red Goddess magic requires Illumination but has aspects of spirit magic, sorcery, and rune Magic (in that it requires initiation). 

There are basically four big changes to the understanding of Illumination as presented in The Lunar Way that distinguish how it was presented in RuneQuest 2 (Cults of Terror) and to a lesser extent RuneQuest 3 (Dorastor Land of Doom, with some extra notes in Lords of Terror), though actually they were all introduced in HeroQuest Glorantha.

First, it has gradually been described as having a broader range of applicability. In RQ2 it was known to Rashoran, Nysalor, Arkat, and the Red Goddess, with Arkat and the Red Goddess having learnt it via Nysalor (and Rashoran being a deity in the God Time, of no known direct relevance to mortals). In RQ3 it was broader - known in Peloria, but also in Kralorela, Ralios, Jrustela and Vralos. The mysterious Near Ones or Friends of Pamaltela are mentioned for the first time. Many of these are clearly offshoots of one of the prior entities, but not all are, at least obviously, we might even be skirting on The God Learners Secret (or at least, A God Learners Secret) with the mention of Jrustela. The mention of Kralorela might just be a reference to Rashoran as allegedly Eastern, but more likely that this is the first inkling of draconian thought (clearly linked with mysticism in Cults of Terror) as having fundamental links to Illumination. By the Guide to Glorantha both Illumination and draconic consciousness are clearly identified as forms of mysticism, and in HeroQuest Glorantha it is made clear that Illumination, EWF draconic consciousness, Kralorela draconic mysticism, Vithelan mysticism, the Cult of Silence, some God Learners (the Middle Sea Empire strongly suggests the Malkioneranists), are all game mechanically the same, and also considered the same by “many Gloranthan scholars’. So we can assume that eg the Order of Day, or Arkati Wizards, recognise that Kralorelan draconic mysticism, and the EWF as descended from it, and that the rules for the most part are the same. 

Second the practical abilities of Illumination are separated and not all gained automatically. In Cults of Terror, there was a list of six benefits of Illumination, all were gained immediately on Illumination, and all were 100% reliable. The cumulative chance of Illumination is conceived of as an Illumination skill, or of any relevance once Illumination is attained. RQ3, in Dorastor Land of Doom, says that may have different powers (though saying the majority of Illuminants have all powers but the ability to Illuminate others), or powers of differing reliability (they might be automatic, or might need a successful Illumination skill roll (which is likely to be low, as no means of teaching it are available other Riddles), and mentions that the powers are ‘in order of most to least common’. It also mentions that some Illuminates may have entirely different powers, without giving any hint as to what they might be. In HeroQuest Glorantha, this is scaled back significantly - in stead of ‘most Illuminates possess powers I-V’ it becomes ‘most Illuminates possess one or more of powers I-V’. So we have a version where Illumination grants you potentially only a few powers, and they may be learned in ways that require a skill roll, or ways that are automatic (though the default seems to be a skill roll is required). For the most part this seems to be intrinsic to an Illumination school, but Illuminates may not even recognise they have an ability until they try to use (which they may never have a reason to do). This makes it clear that the different schools of Illumination do have real, significant game differences, it leaves open to what extent an Illuminate may gain abilities beyond those known to their school, and how. I’m inclined to say that they can learn abilities known to other schools, but it is very rare, as Schools of Illumination are already very rate. But we know there are rare individuals with knowledge of more than one form (including Argrath, who is known to have studied both draconic and Arkati forms). It seems a thing that Player Characters might do. 

Third is expanding the list of standard powers. It’s arguable that the list of powers changing is just a rules construct - that the changes are in response to different things (especially Runic connections) being explicitly represented in the rules, rather than a change in how we understand Illumination  Six powers are listed in Cults of Terror. HeroQuestGlorantha adds one - the ability to combine Incompatible Runes (though this ability is fairly rare). It also generalises from the ability to learn Nysalor Riddles to the ability to Illuminate Others, noting that it varies by teacher. RuneQuest Glorantha adds the ability to overcome Runes and Passions, allowing Illuminates to act against their core personality traits and motivations, and makes this ability, and the ability to combine Opposing Runes, the most common abilities of Illuminates after the Secret Knowledge (which has never had game rules). 

Fourth  is teaching and relevant skills. Illumination is attained by rolling a successful Illumination roll at Sacred Time. In RQ2 the Illumination roll was simply the number of Nysalor Riddles answered. In RQ3 this was clarified to be treated as a special skill - like other magical skills it had a 0% chance, until a circumstance gained the first 1%, unlike other skills it did not even get characteristic (Magic) bonus, and cannot be changed by experience or training, so despite being treated as a skill it is effectively the same chance as in RQ2 (though as a skill, it’s implicit that it might be improved by circumstances). This is somewhat muddled by stating that other teaching methods exist, and that the methods of learning to tech these other methods might include study or long meditation, but not what those methods are (presumably not standard experience or training, but other methods of teaching, such as individual tuition plus long meditation). So Illumination is likely to be low and slowly gained for schools such as Kralorelan or East Isles schools, and especially anyone not actively seeking Illumination, though potentially a Lunar Nysalor enthusiast might have the opportunity to meet teachers knowledgeable in potentially dozens of Nysalor Riddles in a relatively short time. The Nysalor Illumination presented in The Lunar Way changes this dramatically. Once the initial Illumination skill is obtained (which can be done by answering a single Riddle, but also by many other means, including a Madness spell), the skill begins at Magic bonus plus Moon Rune/5. A base skill of ~20% would not be surprising for a typical Lunar initiate. So even if nothing else is changed after that point, and the character is not actively seeking Illumination, it typically t might lead to Illumination with a handful of years. In previous versions of the rules, a character who had only experienced a Riddle or two could likely go their entire life without Illumination, with just 2% a year, but this is very unlikely with a 20%, or even 10%, chance - this is a dramatic change to the game world. And if a character is actively seeking Illumination, they will find it not too hard to find - first, it may be learned and trained like any other skill. The chance for Illumination may be Augmented with a Meditation roll or Moon Rune. And it can be further increased, though at some real risk, by spells such as Madness, Mind Blast, or the mysterious Ray of Piercing Truth (we literally know nothing else about this spell, and it may be an editing error). And of course, Lunar schools of Illumination can be expected not only to  teach Illumination, and Meditation, but in addition to expose the student to multiple Riddles. This change, that Illumination should no longer be considered a rare attainment even within the Empire, but instead should be considered routinely attainable by any Lunar citizen who desires it, is a big change. And it makes Illumination much more common even to others - an East Isles or Kralorelan mystic student, once they have been accepted by a teacher and been exposed to mystic, might expect their significantly increased base chance and the opportunity for increases through training and Meditation to make the attainment of Illumination a practical expectation, rather than something very rare. This is slightly off put by the idea that they are likely to start with a lower number of usable abilities (for an involuntary Illuminate, likely only the first three, maybe not even all of those), but it is a dramatic difference for Lunar characters especially. 

Edited by Nick Brooke
  • Like 1
  • Helpful 4
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Nick Brooke changed the title to Changes to Illumination through the years
11 hours ago, davecake said:

This change, that Illumination should no longer be considered a rare attainment even within the Empire, but instead should be considered routinely attainable by any Lunar citizen who desires it, is a big change.

I was thinking of this too. 

If we assume Glorantha works like the rules indicate, the main reason why willing citizens fail to become initiates of the Red Goddess is not illumination, but becoming a priest or a rune lord (or if it suffices, an acolyte) of a lunar cult.

In game terms, you can start three dice rolls away from being a Red Goddess initiate. First using your highest skill to answer a Riddle (let's say 70% boosted with meditation 85%), second to roll for Illumination during the Sacred Time (33% if you take the stats of Percippus in The Lunar Way p. 95), and finally third to pass the examiners with INT+POW (31% if you have the 18 POW necessary and average INT of 13).

That all adds up to 7% which is not terrible after your first Sacred Time having answered 1 Riddle -- but it does assume you start with POW 18 to make a Priest. 

I'm super happy that RQG no longer assumes that all players start with rubble rats with best skills at 35%, but the Illumination rules change is a supermassive change in how the Lunar Empire works.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I guess this is how I would run Illumination powers in my game:

After you are Illuminated, you can try using them by rolling your Illumination skill. Failure indicates you haven't mastered the power yet, and must wait until your Illumination increases before trying again. Success indicates that you have discovered the power, and no longer need to roll when using it.

For Runic affiliations, I might perhaps dictate that your Harmony + Disorder caps at 100+Illumination, to add more granularity. Or possibly have the player roll Illumination whenever her stats would breach a cap, to see if they get capped or she masters the power.

Just to postpone the moment when a player with perfectly good in-character explanation grabs all the free gifts of Yanafal Tarnils or Yelmalio. Yanafal Tarnils and Yelmalio.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I just read the illumination chapter in the Lunar Way book, and similarly realised that illumination has just been made relatively easily attained in lunar territories. As the book says, Lunar Heroquesters surprise their foes by changing the rules as a matter of course. In the coming Hero Wars lunar just got handed a major ace in the deck.

A new Arkat is going to be needed.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

16 hours ago, Aurelius said:

Just to postpone the moment when a player with perfectly good in-character explanation grabs all the free gifts of Yanafal Tarnils or Yelmalio. Yanafal Tarnils and Yelmalio.

I think the idea that Illuminates routinely are able to gain gifts and then simply ignore the accompanying geases, so getting some cool superpowers for free, was a terrible one, and responsible for much of the idea of Illumination as overpowered. And it’s just one somewhat dubious interpretation of the original rules. 
Further, I think it was probably done as a spur of the moment thing to enable cheesy Dorastan sword broo encounters without much thought as to the lasting consequences. I’m going to be running it instead as Illuminates may break their geases with no consequences other than being unable to use the accompanying gifts (probably temporarily until they can do some meditation or cleansing ritual to regain use of it, but possibly until they go through the whole ritual process of gaining them again. This would still be a notable advantage  (normally breaking a geas would merit expulsion from the cult, plus the weapon breaking curse of Humakt, so just (temporarily?) losing access to the Gift is a big advantage - especially if you do it at a crucial moment to succeed at a HeroQuest etc. and I’d at least make them have to risk an Illumination role every time they broke the geas.

In any case, nothing in the existing rules says that every Illumination school grants those powers, or grants a perfectly reliable version, and it is even said that these are relatively rare powers, so it is easy to justify not giving these powers to PCs if you think they are unbalancing, or just cheesy and grossly meta-gamy (as I do), and keeping them just as a special ace up the sleeve for cheesy Dorastan sword broo and such.

Though of course, anyone observing an initiate of Humakt with Gifts and no geases would be suspicious (“no, I merely got lucky rolling 01 on the geas table a dozen times in a row, says new Sword ‘Riddling Rob’”). 

I do think this very easy attainment of Illumination is a big change to Lunar power, though, even without those completely free gifts.

At a basic level, before we get to the fancy stuff like Red Goddess’s Lunar Magic (which as you point out, really isn’t that difficult), you get Opposing Runes. And the Seven Mothers has Life and Death magic, so Truesword and Heal Body are right there. Eventually both Sever Spirit and Resurrect (both are (single Use). A lot more available potentially from other cults - Death magic from Jakaleel and Hwarin Dalthippa, Yara Aranis, even Ikadz Life magic from Deezola and Hon Eel. And it’s interesting that while there are no obvious Lunar deities to provide Disorder and Illusion magic to complement the Truth Magic of Irripi Ontor, and the Harmony magic of Deezola Etyries and Danfive - but actually Annilla provides both! Of course there is no obvious Stasis magic as a counterpart to Etyries Movement magic, but that’s not surprising as there is virtually no Stasis magic at all - I think literally one spell unconnected to Mostar! Though spinning on the spot seems a nice unification of the Movement and Stasis runes. 

While immunity to Spirits of Reprisal is irrelevant to most Lunars (as most Lunar cults have none), the power to ignore cult rules would seem to allow joining multiple Lunar cults and ignoring the awkward parts like multiple tithes and multiple time requirements, and there are suggestions in some places this is done routinely (especially in the upper echelons of the Lunar College of Magic). Even if you say that most cults might object to this, the mundane benefits of initiation into the Red Emperor cult suggests that the Imperial elite servants of the Red Emperor are absolutely expected to. Of course they must be Loyal to the Red Emperor, but it is a virtual guarantee they can overcome their own passions including that. 

And joining multiple cults includes things like becoming both an Irripi Ontor sorcerer and a shaman of Jakaleel, plus Lunar Magic of course, and becoming an astonishingly versatile magician. Plus access to all elementals and except Storm, including a couple unique to Lunar powers. All hail the Reaching Moon! 

19 hours ago, Aurelius said:

For Runic affiliations, I might perhaps dictate that your Harmony + Disorder caps at 100+Illumination, to add more granularity. Or possibly have the player roll Illumination whenever her stats would breach a cap, to see if they get capped or she masters the power.

I favour something like the Second option, as I really like more granularity as well. I think the moment of Illumination should be the beginning of your mystic journey, not take you direct the end. Though I also the of making that mystic journey more about experiences than rolls - adventures dealing with other Powers, questioning other principles etc. I guess the general need to get an experience roll on a Rune with a low value will take care of? 

  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...