Jump to content

Glorantha 101


MatteoN

Recommended Posts

Hi all,

I've only recently found out there will be a new edition of RuneQuest by Chaosium, that'll bring the game back to its original setting, Glorantha. Fact is, I've never played any version of RQ or HeroQuest, and all I got in the past from reading a few forum threads on the subject is that Glorantha is a bronze age fantasy setting where everybody belongs to a (religious?) "cult", there are elves and dwarves, although different from the familiar Tolkienian archetypes, there are ducks (instead of hobbit/halflings?) ecc. I get the setting is huge and has a long history. What I'd like to know are a few basic facts that help me figure out what playing RQ is like.

First of all, how would you define Glorantha, as a setting for RuneQuest? Gritty high fantasy? I can combine those words, but I'm not sure I can really imagine what it looks and feels like.

Second, what role do cults play in the game? Should I necessarily play some sort of zealot or pious person?

Third, what are the main factions in Glorantha, and what do characters (at least NPCs) belonging to each faction typically do in the game?

 

I expect all these questions have already been answered before, so I'd be grateful if you could even just point me to the relevant threads.

Thank you!

 

 

Edited by MatteoN
  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

31 minutes ago, MatteoN said:

First of all, how would you define Glorantha, as a setting for RuneQuest? Gritty high fantasy? I can combine those words, but I'm not sure I can really imagine what it looks and feels like.

Glorantha can either be an extremely detailed and complex setting, or a broad background. The level of detail can appear daunting, but you don't have to know or use all of it, or even a fraction of the detail. It's there if you want it, but there are still plenty of areas left to the imagination. If you examine a pdf of the Guide to Glorantha, read the first few chapters, but the rest is there to be dipped into as needed.

The nature of any game in Glorantha very much depends on what you want it to be: there's room for epic high fantasy quests, treasure hunting adventure, military adventure, or whatever you want it to be. The main theme, which can either be center stage or distant background in the most common setting, Dragon Pass, is the conflict between the Lunar Empire and the nation of Sartar.

31 minutes ago, MatteoN said:

Second, what role do cults play in the game? Should I necessarily play some sort of zealot or pious person?

The majority of people in the world of Glorantha are initiates in one or more cults, much as the inhabitants of ancient Greece, Anatolia, Mesopotamia etc. were initiates in the cults of their various deities. As such, cults provide a framework for their social interactions and behavior. Some people are pious, some people pay their dues and continue with their daily life, and some people strive to rise in importance in their cult. Some cults are more demanding than others, and there's that background struggle between the Lunar Empire and the various cults which oppose it.

31 minutes ago, MatteoN said:

Third, what are the main factions in Glorantha, and what do characters (at least NPCs) belonging to each faction typically do in the game?

The main factional split among humans is - the divide between the Lunars and those who oppose them. Some cults oppose the Lunars more than others, but the Lunar cults and others fill pretty much the niches you'd expect: there are warrior cults, healer cults, knowledge cults, etc. But this struggle can be center stage or off stage, depending on the setting and style used. For example, the city of New Pavis, built beside the massive ruins of Old Pavis, the Big Rubble, is either occupied or liberated from the Lunars, depending on the date, but many of the inhabitants are interested in the treasures and dangers in the Rubble.

And of course there are non-humans with their own agendas.

To quote from the Guide:

In some Gloranthan stories the player characters will be ordinary villagers who are caught up in exciting and alarming circumstances. In others, the typical player character is an outsider to the region in which the adventure takes place. He is likely to be a wanderer in search of fame, prestige, or simple wealth, using his considerable skills in personal combat and magic wherever he travels. Such characters have a greater chance of survival and are more exciting to play for younger players.

 

What are some examples of Gloranthan adventurer occupations? Traditional Gloranthan player characters that we've seen include scruffy treasure-hunters, famous mercenaries, treacherous professional spies, distinguished emissaries, drunken caravan merchants, even roving scholars - basically, anyone working in hazardous activities for a chance at a big gain. Note that merchants are not listed incorrectly: a merchant's life can be very risky as well as very lucrative in Glorantha.

 

Edited by M Helsdon
  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

1. Polytheistic swords and sandals fantasy, if you want some words.  It's hard for me to tell what you're asking.
2. Cults are like classes.  You probably should be pious, but it depends on the exact rules and the GM.  Being less specialized might be viable.
3. There are human cultural groups that are associated with pantheons, kingdoms, and races.  In the Dragon Pass region there's the Lunar Empire, a couple Orlanthi kingdoms, the Praxian nomad tribes, and some petty territories.  Each nonhuman race is like a faction; races are more segregated than intermingled.  Cult are sometimes played like mini-factions.  Groups survive, develop philosophically, and sometimes conquer each other.

  • Like 1

What really happened?  The only way to discover that is to experience it yourself.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

5 hours ago, MatteoN said:

First of all, how would you define Glorantha, as a setting for RuneQuest? Gritty high fantasy? I can combine those words, but I'm not sure I can really imagine what it looks and feels like.

Second, what role do cults play in the game? Should I necessarily play some sort of zealot or pious person?

Third, what are the main factions in Glorantha, and what do characters (at least NPCs) belonging to each faction typically do in the game?

First: I've run it as gritty swords and sorcery, and as high fantasy. The core metaplot is the barbarian kingdom of Sartar rebels against the Lunar Empire, and that rebellion sparks the hero wars, which draws the greatest heroes from all over the world to fight on one side or another. When not dealing with that plot line, you can run the game as politically or apolitically as you wish: The city of Pavis is a hearkening back to old school days - New Pavis sits outside the vast ruins of Old Pavis, effectively a giant dungeon, and it can be played as such. 

Second: Glorantha a "bronze age world" - kinda-sorta - is a place where religion, government, and daily life are not separate. A character's "Cult" is part of his lifestyle - if you're a merchant you follow a mercantile god. Your cult is also your trade guild, your source of magic, and sometimes your social circle. Roko Joko was right to say it's sort of like your character class. It's also kind of your alignment. But it's not a set of rigid boundaries: Just because your character is a dedicated honorable death-worshipping swordsman does not prevent you from learning to track, or swim, or even master making lace doilies. That's the beauty of the system. Likewise, there is low-level magic available to everyone; as you rise in your cult you gain access to cult secrets. You may choose to specialize in magic. But no one person can do everything - you have to pick and choose.

The main factions, in the most conventional games are the Lunar Empire Vs. the Kingdom of Sartar. However, in Glorantha, as in the real world, things are not as neat as good-guys and bad-guys. There are Sartarites who support the empire, and Imperials who sympathize with Sartar. Not to mention plenty of mercenaries who will take whatever side they think will pay better. Worry less about "factions" and more about play.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

2 hours ago, MatteoN said:

Hi all,

I've only recently found out there will be a new edition of RuneQuest by Chaosium, that'll bring the game back to its original setting, Glorantha. Fact is, I've never played any version of RQ or HeroQuest, and all I got in the past from reading a few forum threads on the subject is that Glorantha is a bronze age fantasy setting where everybody belongs to a (religious?) "cult", there are elves and dwarves, although different from the familiar Tolkienian archetypes, there are ducks (instead of hobbit/halflings?) ecc. I get the setting is huge and has a long story. What I'd like to know are a few basic facts that help me figure out what playing RQ is like.

First of all, how would you define Glorantha, as a setting for RuneQuest? Gritty high fantasy? I can combine those words, but I'm not sure I can really imagine what it looks and feels like.

Second, what role do cults play in the game? Should I necessarily play some sort of zealot or pious person?

Third, what are the main factions in Glorantha, and what do characters (at least NPCs) belonging to each faction typically do in the game?

 

I expects all these questions have already been answered before, so I'd be grateful if you could even just point me to the relevant threads.

Thank you!

 

 

Glorantha is magic-rich and extremely mythological.  The myths&gods are the real driving forces, with a daily presence in many people's lives...

Elves and Dwarves DO exist, but as you note they're VERY non-Tolkien-esque (and Dwarves especially can make poor PC races).  Ducks are a semi-silly / semi-tragic race, and don't really replace the role halflings hold in D&D. Trolls (again, not a very D&D take on them!) exist and are one of the most-playable non-human PC races.  I believe the new edition will make an effort to provide several "PC'able" nonhuman races.

Depending on what you want, Glorantha can range from a gritty "live hard and die young" vibe, on up to epic High Fantasy.  Combat will seldom be a "safe" option, however:  even the mightiest can be teetered by one lucky shot...

"Cults" is the generic RQ term for a group who worship a deity-figure:  a God or Goddess, demigod, perhaps ancestor-spirits, sometimes even a great hero.  As-noted, belonging to a cult (or several!) implies no special zealotry or piety... more like a pragmatic grasp of how things work.  Cults often act as "gate-keeper" organizations for some skills, and most advanced magics; for example, any "Thieves' Guild" in a city is likely actually a front for a Trickster-God or even an outright god of thieves, and is the only place you'll likely get training in certain "covert" skills... or needed gear; and they may have some rare (or even unique) stealth-oriented magic available, too.

Cults are also, from an "adventuring party" perspective, a useful place to reasonably find safe-haven lodging, to seek allies, resupply, etc.  They often cut across social strata, tribal or national borders, etc; and thus they can provide a good focus for a bunch of otherwise-disparate characters to join a single "adventuring party."

Glorantha is far too large to describe in terms of "main factions" of the world; different regions will have different factions, different conflicts.  The most widespread conflict is Creation vs Chaos.  It is both the overarching meaphysical/spiritual/Spirit-questing conflict, and a very down-to-earth fight-against-evil combat; despite that, in some places, the "major" conflict will have no clear evidence of Chaos-taint on either side.  In the most-developed region of Glorantha, the Lunar Empire is expanding rapidly (and looks nigh-unstoppable to many).

The "Noble Resistance to Chaos-Tainted Lunars" is probably the most-popular sort of campaign, but the "Bring the Ignorant and Superstitious into Lunar Enlightenment" campaign is also popular, as is "We just wanna go adventuring, and wish the !&$^@^# Lunars and *&%^^&@ Rebels would get out of the way!"  But it can just fade into the background if you want to run, e.g., the classic "Borderlands" campaign, or be one element (among several significant ones) in a Pavis/Big-Rubble campaign, or gradually move from vague-background-problem to primary-front-and-center-issue in a Praxian Nomad campaign; etc.

 

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Regarding gloranthan rule systems: RuneQuest is grittier than HeroQuest:Glorantha, which is epics-oriented. No idea about 13th Age which I don't know. But of course, you can do what you want with any set of rules. And there is another common accepted rule called "YGWV" for "Your Glorantha Will Vary".

Just start with a simple background and dig into it and expend it while playing.

  • Like 2

Wind on the Steppes, role playing among the steppe Nomads. The  running campaign and the blog

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

2 hours ago, Zit said:

Regarding gloranthan rule systems: RuneQuest is grittier than HeroQuest:Glorantha, which is epics-oriented. No idea about 13th Age which I don't know. But of course, you can do what you want with any set of rules.

Yes, but I guess in RQ (as opposed to HQ) you necessarily have to resort to magic to raise to to the setting's less mundane challenges?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You ressort to magic at every level in Glorantha !

I was speaking of course of the old RQ versions. I find Runequest more adapted for low (beginners) to high (runemasters) level characters, but not really to very high and heroic levels, while HQ is. It is not to say that you can't play big heroes with RQ, but the rules are not really made for it (in my opinion which everybody may not share): Magic available for PCs remains at a human scale, Heroquesting is not handled and stats are detailed. However, the new RQ version will have rules for Heroquesting and the magical effect of runes will be more integrated, so I suppose it will be possible to handle a better way heroic powers and epic campaigns than with the older versions.

  • Like 1

Wind on the Steppes, role playing among the steppe Nomads. The  running campaign and the blog

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

In Runequest, combat is DANGEROUS (even at high levels (but n.b. "level" is used colloquially here -- RQ has no "levels" in the D&D sense of the word)).  The original combat system (which is also the general task-resolution / skills system, plus "hit-locations & damage dice vs hitpoints") had input IIRC from SCA fighters (medieval combat-reenactors, competitive/unscripted, NOT "staged" scenes).  Consequently, it's a reasonably-realistic representation of how dangerous medieval combat is:  a blow from e.g. a longsword (1d8), if it does maximum-damage (8 hp to a single hit-location), is enough to disable even a mighty warrior...  As it should be!  Nobody can really keep fighting if they just took a foot of sharp steel into the gut...  They may not be "dead" (yet), but they are down/disabled, and likely to die without modern medicine or fantastic Healing-Magic!

Armor is Your Friend.  It subtracts straight off the top of the damage roll, so that 1d8 of longsword damage, if it hits 5 points of armor, does NO DAMAGE on a roll of 1-5, and only 1/2/3 points of damage on a roll of 6/7/8.  As your character improves, you will generally expect to get better armor, better weapons... but your poor skin stays very VERY tender!  Armor enchanted with extra protection becomes VERY attractive; many Rune Lords wear armor that even maximum-damage rolls will not penetrate... thus, weapons get enchanted too!  At lower levels, even a point or two of enchantment on weapon or armor can be sufficient to turn a battle... and most warriors will indeed know a bit of Battle Magic.  Heck, even your local peasantry may know a bit of practical magic, such as "Mending" spells and the like.

Heroquesting -- and many of the ceremonies of the Cults -- involve re-enacting on a symbolic level (and occasionally re-enacting very literally) important myths and stories of the God and the Cult.  This accrues power to the God; other forces like to try and interrupt such ceremonies & hero-quests, causing the stories to end differently.  Not only does your god NOT gain the power, the invading/interrupting deity is likely to gain the power instead!  Eventually, as the PC's become some of the primary enactors of the key roles of a Heroquest, some of that power may accrue to them, personally.  Obviously, you want to be as well-prepared (both mundanely and magically!) as you possibly can be.  The greatest influence is gained by actually entering Godtime, and interacting with the stories directly!  But beware... it's possible to change the very fabric of reality this way, and you will CERTAINLY be directly interacting with the Gods themselves in doing so!

Edited by g33k
clarified a hp/location mention
  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

And it is worth noting that most of what people have described here is about the default setting - which is one small corner of Glorantha. Other parts of it vary a great deal - different people, different factions, different concerns, different magic. The Western nations are more philosophical, and their magic (sorcery) is much less directly tied to their morality. Or there are various shamanic nomads ranging across the plains. Other parts differ wildly in a whole range of other ways - jungles, savvanahs, etc. Its a broad and rich world - but the Lunars vs the Orlanthi is the default setting, and most of what you'll get in products in the near future. 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 month later...
On 8/23/2016 at 10:14 AM, davecake said:

... but the Lunars vs the Orlanthi is the default setting, and most of what you'll get in products in the near future 

Hm.

I'd say the Lunar / Orlanthi / PraxNomad triangle is the "default" setting.

But (so far as I understand, not being a playtester) the core game shipping will indeed be set (yet again) in Dragon Pass, and center on the Lunar/Orlanthi conflict.  It's possible that the product is close-enough that Someone Who Knows may comment here, if it turns out we're misinformed (or that may be wishful thinking on my own "I want more RQ:News" part...) ?

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 14/10/2016 at 1:33 AM, g33k said:

Hm.

I'd say the Lunar / Orlanthi / PraxNomad triangle is the "default" setting.

But (so far as I understand, not being a playtester) the core game shipping will indeed be set (yet again) in Dragon Pass, and center on the Lunar/Orlanthi conflict.  It's possible that the product is close-enough that Someone Who Knows may comment here, if it turns out we're misinformed (or that may be wishful thinking on my own "I want more RQ:News" part...) ?

 

Oh yes, Prax too is part of the default setting, and the Nomads too - but thats really a side theatre to the Lunar vs Orlanthi conflict, and whether the initial product covers just Dragon Pass, or Dragon Pass and Prax won't matter much as I'm sure it will be practical to play in either. I don't expect there will be enough material that most players will want to run a Pelorian game, for example. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'll get the Uroxi to tell the Storm Khan that.... The leaders of the Lunars in Prax are subordinate to the ones in Dragon Pass, the leaders of the rebellion against the Lunars in Prax are mostly Orlanthi, and the main war leaders of the Praxians (mostly the leaders of the Bullocks, Twin Spears, and other warrior societies) end up fighting the Lunars in Dragon Pass under Argrath. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

2 hours ago, davecake said:

I'll get the Uroxi to tell the Storm Khan that.... The leaders of the Lunars in Prax are subordinate to the ones in Dragon Pass, the leaders of the rebellion against the Lunars in Prax are mostly Orlanthi, and the main war leaders of the Praxians (mostly the leaders of the Bullocks, Twin Spears, and other warrior societies) end up fighting the Lunars in Dragon Pass under Argrath. 

I don't entirely disagree with you, but IMHO you're oversimplifying a bit.  :)


I will suggest that the "leaders of the rebellion against the Lunars in Prax are mostly Orlanthi" effect is in large (though not whole) part because of the tribal-rivalry effect.  "The Praxians" as a whole are reluctant to follow any Tribal leader because they suspect that leader will always favor their own Tribe and lay plans in such a way as to inflict the worst losses upon rival Tribes.  The Lunar seduction of -- and elevation of -- the Sable Tribe being a prime example of one tribe gaining "unfair advantage" in dealings with outsiders.

Praxians can (in some ways) unite more-easily behind an outsider than behind one of their own!

Still and all, there *IS* this whole "Orlanth vs. the Red Goddess" war... I suppose that has some bearing on the question of "what's the main conflict" vs "what's a side theatre."  :P

 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, g33k said:

Praxians can (in some ways) unite more-easily behind an outsider than behind one of their own!

and

43 minutes ago, M Helsdon said:

Jaldon Goldentooth being an exception, which is why the White Bull secret society brought him back to lead the war against the Lunar Empire.

Jaldon was always the the reluctant Paps Khan, however in his original five years, it was he who turned the Praxians into a cohesive fighting force - the tribal Altars scenario was one of his training exercises. He then led the Praxians against the EWF and was eventually killed by one of their sorcerers and cursed to never be able to return to Prax. So if he can get back onto Prax, he becomes Paps khan (as usual), and will lead the Praxians back into Dragon Pass. He's a rubbish Paps Khan, he'd rather be raiding than ceremonial stuff.  The sole purpose of the Praxians in the Hero Wars is to provide Argrath with troops. They are much like the Fremen in Dune (in use rather than culture - elite troops going off to sack the Empire).

1 hour ago, g33k said:

The Lunar seduction of -- and elevation of -- the Sable Tribe being a prime example of one tribe gaining "unfair advantage" in dealings with outsiders.

They weren't seduced, they did it as it was culturally appropriate. Two of the five phratries became pro lunar as they were exposed to the Antelope Lancers' (a sixth phratry) ancestral cult - the same as theirs but with a shaman path. That gave them advantages over the other three phratries. One remained neutral, the other two were conservative believing that their original ancestral cult was the real one. It did of course backfire as the two pro lunar phratries were wiped out (men, women and children) by the other sables after the Second Battle of Moonbroth. The population of the sables was halved! (two phratries 40%+ another 10% of the others in the fighting).

  • Like 1

-----

Search the Glorantha Resource Site: https://wellofdaliath.chaosium.com. Search the Glorantha mailing list archives: https://glorantha.steff.in/digests/

Link to comment
Share on other sites

19 hours ago, David Scott said:

They weren't seduced, they did it as it was culturally appropriate. Two of the five phratries became pro lunar as they were exposed to the Antelope Lancers' (a sixth phratry) ancestral cult - the same as theirs but with a shaman path.

I still see this as being "seduced:"  away from the Way of Waha.  Granted, the Lunar Way has always been good at adjusting to / adopting many local Ways, as part of their own expansion.  Maybe it's just my own insufficient understanding of what the Lunar-influenced Sables did, how they lived, what their worship was like, etc ... ?

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

2 hours ago, g33k said:

Maybe it's just my own insufficient understanding of what the Lunar-influenced Sables did, how they lived, what their worship was like, etc ... ?

Basically the Moon as a rune has been present in the Wastes since before time in the form of the Twinstars. The Twinstars are the Founders of the Sables (not Storm Bull). One has the Sky Rune, the other the Moon rune. As a result the Sables have always been able to do a form of Moon magic - not the same as Lunar magic. This is an accepted part of the Way of Waha. Waha himself befriended the Twinstars in the Great Darkness and gave them a place of honour in Praxian society - the Hidden Ancestor spirit society (named as one was invisible in the sky except to initiates). 20% of Sable people are members of the society with a few percent in the other tribes - exclusively those born with a dominant Moon rune. The important thing about this society (and the other Praxian elemental societies) is that it has no shaman path. Shaman that lead the societycome from Waha, Eiritha or Daka Fal (or somewhere else). The highest form of functionary is the Spirit talker and this is how it's always been.

A group of Sable riders who had emigrated to the Hungry Plateau and got tied up in mercenary activities against the empire, were basically enlightened to the fact that the Twinstars were actually long lost children of the Red Goddess. As a result switched sides. With this revelation, a shaman path was later found. Their Hidden Ancestor society become a slightly different form they now called the Twinstar society. The big difference was that they were led by their own shaman. They also had access to a new selection of Moon magic and weird spirits. However the society was effectively the same and performed the same role. It now sat not only in the Praxian Tradition, but in the Lunar Tradition too.

The Hungry Plateau Sables remained in distant contact with their Praxian cousins. When the Lunars came to invade, the Hungry Plateau Sables were obvious in smoothing the way. It didn't take long for the Praxian Sables to discover that their was a shaman path in their ancestral society. It was easy to join this other society as it was the same society! The advantages were mainly new magic. New magic gives advantages. Waha never spoke out against the Twinstars, as they were his friends. The fact that their ancestry had been revealed made no difference. It did inside the Sable Tribe though. Of the 5 phratries, 2 switched completely to the new version of the society. One remained neutral with a mix of both societies. The other two rejected this new revelation and remained with the old version.

  • Like 2

-----

Search the Glorantha Resource Site: https://wellofdaliath.chaosium.com. Search the Glorantha mailing list archives: https://glorantha.steff.in/digests/

Link to comment
Share on other sites

3 hours ago, g33k said:

I still see this as being "seduced:"  away from the Way of Waha.  Granted, the Lunar Way has always been good at adjusting to / adopting many local Ways, as part of their own expansion.  Maybe it's just my own insufficient understanding of what the Lunar-influenced Sables did, how they lived, what their worship was like, etc ... ?

 

Bear in mind that many Praxians settled in Peloria in the First Age after the Battle of Argentium Thri’ile : the Sables are the only ones to have survived intact, and were recruited to the Lunar Way in 1275 because of their ancient link to the Twin Stars.

The Bison Riders founded dynasties of Sylila and Vanch - In 1349 the Bison Kings of Vanch were defeated by the Conquering Daughter during her Second Daughter’s Road campaign. It is significant that the Lunar Provincial regiment that retains a link to the time of the Bison Kings is the Foot Bison, who fight as light infantry.

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.

Guest
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...