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HorusArisen

Glorantha Second Age

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There's a lot to be said about first MRQ. I was in the infamous playtest, and I know what piece of crap was their first playtest document. Their latest one, revised by Kenneth Hyte, was good, but for some reason they decided to change it, for the worst.

But MRQII is a very good game.

I also think both introduction books for Glorantha 2nd Age are excellent. I love how the one for MRQ2 starts from a very broad view of the world and make successive zooms to provide some very detailed settings in Ralios. Their other Gloranthan books seemed crappy enough that I never bought any.

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As author of a fair chunk of GtSA books, here's a little history and background from me.

Canon was definitely ignored in the earliest releases. The writers at the time weren't familiar with either RQ or Glorantha and suddenly found they had to become very familiar with decades-worth of information even to get a rudimentary grip on the subject matter. It was easier for some more than others. Given the overwhelming amount of information one needed to absorb, even just on the Second Age and events leading up to it, one was faced with a truly daunting task. Couple that with a book-in-a-month timetable (standard for Mongoose at the time), and it was a fraught exercise.

I was brought on because I had a reasonable grasp of Glorantha and exercised that from the start. My second book for Mongoose was the Dragonewt book, and so I went to the two authorities on Gloranthan lore that I knew well; Greg and Jeff. This continued with each Glorantha book I tackled, with both being consulted widely and deeply before I set pen to paper. 'Dara Happa Stirs' saw me spending a weekend with Jeff brainstorming and immersing ourselves in the Pergammon Museum's incredible exhibition on Babylon, the two of us formulating the Karvanyar campaign arc, understanding the Ten Tests and ensuring that texts such as Glorious ReAscent of Yelm were adhered to as precisely as possible. Despite the brutal deadline, which I managed to get extended to 6 weeks, it was a fun book to write and one that I remain proud of.

Every Glorantha book thereafter I was involved in followed a similar pattern. Unfortunately, 'Pavis Rises' was handed to an author utterly unfamiliar with the canon who didn't liaise with Jeff despite my insistence that he do so. The original draft of 'Pavis Rises' (I still have the manuscript) is.... well, best I not say too much. I therefore rewrote it, from scratch, with Pete, Jeff and Greg's help, in about three weeks. That was the level of challenge I had working at Mongoose, and I'm still staggered I managed to write to the standard I did. There were a couple of misses for me, Glorantha-wise: I wasn't happy with Fronela, again due to the massive amount of information that needed to be conveyed; and there are elements of 'The Abiding Book' that I simply had to rush to meet the deadline. But 'Dragonewts', 'Mostali' and 'Darra Happa Stirs' I'm proud of and enjoyed. Even some parts of 'Pavis Rises' I really like - the Giant scenario was fun.

I think Mongoose tried its best. I really do. The problem, aside from the deadlines and post-writing processes, was that it's production approach simply didn't mesh with the deep complexity of the subject, and was compounded by having writers unfamiliar with the canon having to rapidly assimilate it. I actually don't think Matthew (Sprange) was prepared for the huge amount of lore that surrounds Glorantha, and the vast wealth of understanding its fans have. Consequently, Glorantha was treated as a property with a relatively straightforward canon and background, like some of the other tittles Mongoose had, when it needed a very different approach from the start.

And, irrespective of one's feelings for MRQ1, Mongoose did bring RuneQuest back to a wider gaming awareness after spending about a decade as a moribund, half-forgotten system. They got a lot wrong, but they also got quite a bit right, and so while criticism is justified, there are some things that do have merit.

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Did you ever hear how the idea of the rune tokens came about? It's so out of left field like, "The game is called 'RuneQuest,' so let's make it so people go on quests to get runes!" Yet clearly somebody thought there was something of value to it or it wouldn't have been there. What was the perceived benefit to the game from that in the mind of its originators?

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1 hour ago, lawrence.whitaker said:

'Dara Happa Stirs' saw me spending a weekend with Jeff brainstorming and immersing ourselves in the Pergammon Museum's incredible exhibition on Babylon, the two of us formulating the Karvanyar campaign arc, understanding the Ten Tests and ensuring that texts such as Glorious ReAscent of Yelm were adhered to as precisely as possible. Despite the brutal deadline, which I managed to get extended to 6 weeks, it was a fun book to write and one that I remain proud of.

A truly excellent work that I hope someday, somehow may be republished for one of Glorantha's current rules systems.

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3 hours ago, JonL said:

I'll say this for Mongoose, they had the balls to put out an entire Ducks book. It's a mixed bag like most of their stuff, but still, that's some serious commitment.

I fear that rather sums up a lot. Putting out a 120-page splatbook on a subject that owes a huge amount to its lightly sketched, leftfield, less-is-more ambiguity is always going to be problematic.

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1 hour ago, JonL said:

Did you ever hear how the idea of the rune tokens came about? It's so out of left field like, "The game is called 'RuneQuest,' so let's make it so people go on quests to get runes!" Yet clearly somebody thought there was something of value to it or it wouldn't have been there. What was the perceived benefit to the game from that in the mind of its originators?

Before my tenure I'm afraid, and one of those ideas that, in other contexts, wasn't necessarily bad, but showed a deep misunderstanding of Glorantha from the start. I ditched the whole physical runes mullarkey as rapidly as I could for any Gloranthan book I wrote. As you say, I believe some of the original thinking was that old RQ showed precious little questing for runes and so ought to have a physical risk/reward principle to justify the name.

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2 hours ago, lawrence.whitaker said:

My second book for Mongoose was the Dragonewt book, and so I went to the two authorities on Gloranthan lore that I knew well; Greg and Jeff.

Does this mean that the book is at least mostly canon? :) I gotta say that it's probably one of my favourite of the mongoose books (mainly because I hate explanations like: "It's just too weird for you to play, 'nuff said," and appreciated the effort that went into explaining how you could theoretically play a Dragonewt).

As a whole, I think the mongoose books were a bit rushed and maybe not the highest quality, but they did introduce a lot of people to Glorantha and, despite veering from canon quite a bit, made it easier for newbies like me to digest. Also, even if it is quite uncanonical, YGMV. In fact, YG Will V, a lot.

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I suppose there's a more general point that a lot, possibly most, of the first edition of Mongoose RQ were bad gaming products and riddled with Glorantha issues. Some like Blood of Orlanth were I reckon excellent gaming products but still pretty dodgy on the Glorantha front. However, speaking as someone who found the whole clans and cattle-raiding era of HQ profoundly uninteresting, the Glorantha second age material, for all its flaws, really reinvigorated Glorantha for me. I loved the drama and excitement in the era for all of the failings of the products. And maybe, sometimes, it's the flawed material that inspires the most creativity from a reader because it gives you room to rewrite. 

Ultimately, MRQ and Glorantha the second age provided me with a good 7 years of excellent gaming. I'm sure that almost any other games publisher with something approaching quality control would have provided better product but you play with what's in front of you. I can completely understand Chaosium's decision to focus RQG where they are; they're a small company and they need to ensure that they play to their strengths. Personally though I haven't been inspired by anything I've read yet. 

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3 hours ago, lawrence.whitaker said:

And, irrespective of one's feelings for MRQ1, Mongoose did bring RuneQuest back to a wider gaming awareness after spending about a decade as a moribund, half-forgotten system. They got a lot wrong, but they also got quite a bit right, and so while criticism is justified, there are some things that do have merit.

I totally agree.

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2 hours ago, JonL said:

Did you ever hear how the idea of the rune tokens came about? It's so out of left field like, "The game is called 'RuneQuest,' so let's make it so people go on quests to get runes!" 

Strange as it may seem, I remember the idea of "physical runes as drops of the blood of the gods" was floated by Steve Perrin during the ill-fated online playtest of RQ1. Many strange things happened during that playtest. I still have a few docs on my hard drive...

 

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2 hours ago, JonL said:

Did you ever hear how the idea of the rune tokens came about? It's so out of left field like, "The game is called 'RuneQuest,' so let's make it so people go on quests to get runes!" Yet clearly somebody thought there was something of value to it or it wouldn't have been there. What was the perceived benefit to the game from that in the mind of its originators?

It was probably a way to actually make runes a part of Gameplay, and they were probably designed without Glorantha at the forefront (do keep in mind that MQ was a generic system). I think that the increased difficulty of getting magic was also so they could make spells a bit more powerful and make up for the lack of divine magic in the core rulebook. Personally, I like the integrated runes idea, though the balance between what spells can be cast through which runes is a bit off to me. All-in-all, it was an interesting concept that unfortunately did not fit with Glorantha.

Another theory was that they took RQ2's "focus" idea and ran a bit to far with it.

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I think it might be fun to do something like icons for saints of a semi-lost religion, or maybe Espers/Materia from Final Fantasy. 

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18 hours ago, Joerg said:

Or, in other words - I didn't miss out in anything when the Gloranthan background was produced for a different game system. I didn't go for über-crunchy western sorcerers, and I didn't go for excel spreadsheet long duration sorcery.

Lets face facts.  Every sorcery system developed so far has been deeply flawed.  I confess I prefer the spreadsheet sorcery for one reason and one reason only.  Messing about with tables, calculations, and so forth feels a lot more the way I would expect sorcery to work, and sort of helps you roleplay the mindset of a sorcerer.  In many ways sorcerers were more of a headache for GMs than for players.  e.g. When does their damage resist 10 elapse again?  

18 hours ago, Joerg said:

I haven't had too close a look at their setting-less RQ material. I found the minimalist HeroQuest rules quite a good tool for simulating empires, big organisations or rivaling organisations in the background of a campaign, regardless which rules I inflict on the player characters, and I wouldn't go back to RQ crunch for detailing an empire. A few resources, a few challenges, a few conflicts, a few rolls, so I can keep my back story alive without having to dice out everything.

Personally I seldom if ever dice out such things.  Characters deal with the public face NPCs of such organizations with some sort of back knowledge of how efficient or inefficient they are and what sort of treatment they can expect in the future being based on their treatment in the past.  I could see why you might like HQ for such things, but organizational structures require transferrable systems and assets to coordinate them, and HQ keywords doesn't encourage that.  RQII Empires is only a partial answer imo.

18 hours ago, Joerg said:

I would certainly allow you to entomb the harvest, or to kill it on the field. Trying to live on this stuff would have consequences, though. It would be a once in a life-time activity - you wouldn't die of it, but it might make you wish you had.

The barn was sepulchral, the field fenced in with adjoined death runes.  The cattle knew it, and grazed fitfully in the field, in a cold sweat when forced to pasture there, for they had no desire to enter such a field of death.  As for the harvest, the saved grain would not grow, and when ground for bread, it tasted of ash and despair.  The remainder was given unto Ty Kora Tek and Asrelia.  Such bread proved a boon when given as hospitality to guests whom the Clan would prefer to see leave, but most was prepared into siege bread, for it put those who ate it into a mindset for selling their lives dearly in battle, and death in the grimmest circumstances.

18 hours ago, Joerg said:

Don't you confuse Humakt with Orlanth, here? Humakt is the cool warrior, almost like an Orlanthi woman in how he may kill unnecessary emotions. He knows his duty, and won't be baited.

Orlanth here is wearing his Rex hat.  The hero quest is about weaponthanes and cottars in dispute.  Humakt isn't that cool headed as to not be arrogant in his sense of martial prowess when compared to Barntar, and Humakt will accept challenges where his honor i.e. his public face, is at stake.  The other thing is, that in a hot headed clan, even Humakt will be more hot headed.  Every clan's take on every deity is slightly different.  The Humakt of the Dundealos is not quite the Colymar Humakt, and is certainly not the Dortastor Broo Humakt or the Kingdom of War Humakt.  All worshippers are like the proverbial blind men touching the elephant.

18 hours ago, Joerg said:

About as much as we regard a theory in biology as sacrosanct - if it was arrived at by careful observation of as much evidence as possible, we will accept it. If we have reliable dating for an event, we will use it for that event.

Well that view places you at odds with the philosophers of History.  History is not a science, it is an art.  History is the study of documents and what they reveal about events in the past, and that is ultimately about interpretation and opinion.  Archaeology is the science, and even there many artefacts are open to interpretation.  While historians try to be methodical and remove bias from their accounts, they never do.  Ultimately every historian has a bias, however subtle, and some of the best historians have had the most terrible biases.  Edward Gibbon springs to mind.  Undoubtedly a brilliant historian but very much a man of his time as his work and its inherrent prejudices reveals.  I love his work, but I read it well aware of the fact that I am viewing the past through the eyes of a late 18th century British fan of Empire.  As to the issue of dating, yeah... that too is more open to interpretation than you might be prepared to overtly accept.  After all, when an historian dates something they are suggesting that it was somehow the important event that signaled a change, but often they misapportion credit.  For example, most people are told that the use of atomic weapons is what heralded the surrender of Japan, whereas according to the documents of the Imperial Japanese War archive, the devastation of the cities was less problematic for the Japanese Military than the annihilation of their best remaining forces by the USSR in Manchuria over a 2 week campaign that saw the death of over a million men in the closing weeks of the war.  So while we have the "dates" for the bombings, how relevant and decisive were they if they weren't the enemy's primary concern or their major motivator for the surrender?  I am using these examples to illustrate the points I am trying to make about history as a discipline, not because I want to argue about them btw.  History is a moving feast, and not nearly as solid as you seem to think, I fear.  History also changes according to the prejudices of the time it is written and the messages it is supposed to convey.  History is intrinsically political, and is inevitably co-opted to fit the opinions of politicians of any given time, and the interpretation of even key facts can be viewed very differently, which is where Anthropology, Political Science, Sociology, Pscyhology and even Philosophy come in.

18 hours ago, Joerg said:

I did fix it - I disregarded everything that didn't fit. Which was, alas, the EWF side of the Mongoose Glorantha line. 

I think that may have been an over-reaction.  I am sure there is more material there that can be used.

Edited by Darius West

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On 4/11/2017 at 9:05 AM, HorusArisen said:

So honest and brutal opinion is this product line any good? I went on a spending spree when the MRQ stuff first came out and they got sent straight to the dark corner of my hard drive unread :(

Now I'm looking to get a Mythras game going I've been delving into the various MRQ books for material but with RQG coming soon(ish) was wondering if I'd get any mileage out of the Glorantha specific books?

Honest opinions?

Honestly? It is not as bad as people say it is.

The background material is generally OK, but has flaws, mainly that it is not 100% compatible with earlier or later material, which is mildly annoying.

The various books are generally usable and playable. The magic is OK, but has the general Mongoose flaw of "I need a spell to do this, so I'll write one without thinking of how it balances with other spells".

I liked the Jrusteli books, for example, especially the HeroQuesting ideas.

There are no real scenario packs, except for Blood of Orlanth or Dara Happa Stirs, which are both recommended.

If you want a lot of ideas about the Second Age and can get them cheaply then they are not a bad buy.

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On 4/13/2017 at 3:06 PM, deleriad said:

I s speaking as someone who found the whole clans and cattle-raiding era of HQ profoundly uninteresting, the Glorantha second age material, for all its flaws, really reinvigorated Glorantha for me. I loved the drama and excitement in the era for all of the failings of the products.

"Profoundly uninteresting" cannot be emphasized enough.  When one considers that the alternative to MRQ was HQ, one had to avidly wish for the former's success if only to sway the powers that be not to saddle us with an infinite future of cattle raids and tulas.

Those were dark times indeed.

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5 hours ago, Pentallion said:

"Profoundly uninteresting" cannot be emphasized enough.  When one considers that the alternative to MRQ was HQ, one had to avidly wish for the former's success if only to sway the powers that be not to saddle us with an infinite future of cattle raids and tulas.

Those were dark times indeed.

Lol i'm actually bummed that I missed the cattle raiding and tulas age.

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5 hours ago, Pentallion said:

"Profoundly uninteresting" cannot be emphasized enough...etc

...Those were dark times indeed.

I had my stash of RQ2 and RQ3 products for all those years. Then suddenly MRQ1 and HeroWars show up, practically eroding everything I had envisioned for RQ and Glorantha. Both had a very different flavour to Glorantha to what I remembered, esp MRQ1.

Everything except for that white book of Gloranthan fiction in the HW box - it felt like a  link to earlier Glorantha 

Things picked up somewhat with MRQ2 and HeroQuest, and in recent years things seems to be falling back into place.

MRQ1 and HW were a very uninspiring era for me in regards to RQ and Glorantha, but things have been looking good in the last few years. Esp from the release of the HQ Sartar and Pavis books onwards, it feels like a setting I want to run.

 

Edited by Mankcam
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5 hours ago, Pentallion said:

"Profoundly uninteresting" cannot be emphasized enough.  When one considers that the alternative to MRQ was HQ, one had to avidly wish for the former's success if only to sway the powers that be not to saddle us with an infinite future of cattle raids and tulas.

Those were dark times indeed.

Lemme see, the cattle raid and tula game par excellence, King of Dragon Pass, sold hundreds of times as many copies as any MRQ supplement. I'd say there are quite a few fans of cattle raids and clan rings.

From a business perspective, the Mongoose stewardship was a disaster. Despite having a good distribution network (much better than we at Moon Design had at the time - we relied primarily on direct sales), Mongoose RQ sales dropped off a cliff. Compare the care that a licensee like David Dunham or Sandy Petersen takes with their Gloranthan product - well actually there is no comparison.

Artistically, we consider it a disaster as well. Mongoose's approach to making books meant even good writing went poorly edited. Glorantha concepts and themes got reduced to pastiches. The Zistorites were reduced to steampunk abominations, the EWF little more than D&D Dragonborn. You might disagree with that assessment - as is your right - but objectively we think you would be wrong. ;) 

But if you enjoyed playing MRQ materials - great for you! Follow your bliss in gaming! Just don't expect us to share your sensibilities. 

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23 hours ago, HorusArisen said:

Contentious thread, I think I'll go with the middle ground and use what I like and ignore the rest.

This is the best way to go.

Look through the books, find what you want, and use/adapt it for your game.

 

And never forget that Your Glorantha Will Vary.

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On 13/04/2017 at 9:26 PM, Mark Mohrfield said:

A truly excellent work that I hope someday, somehow may be republished for one of Glorantha's current rules systems.

Agreed, I really liked it

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13 minutes ago, Jeff said:

Glorantha concepts and themes got reduced to pastiches....... the EWF little more than D&D Dragonborn. You might disagree with that assessment - as is your right - but objectively we think you would be wrong. ;)

OK if they got EWF very wrong, what would be very right?

I know we have the guide, the king of Satar, hints and echo's that come from Delecti and Pavis.

But if we want a flesh out the EWF where would we go? what influences would be good? what could we steal from or use as a model?  

The reason i'm asking is putting more EWF ruins, history and forgotten lore in Balazar than maybe is canon.

But buried under citadels, overgrown in Elf Woods, and ignored in troll dens are ruins, lore and items that hark back to time blitzed from the collective memory. Only Gon Orta remembers what, where, how and why and he is not saying.

You do have to ask why ancient  giant specialising in the sales of magical lore and artefacts, choose to settle himself where he did?

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4 minutes ago, Jeff said:

Lemme see, the cattle raid and tula game par excellence, King of Dragon Pass, sold hundreds of times as many copies as any MRQ supplement. I'd say there are quite a few fans of cattle raids and clan rings.

King of Dragon Pass gives a quite a bit more than cattle raids, you know that Jeff. But there is a level of quality that a number of HW/HQ1 products did not hit. That's why the breadth and depth given by, say, Sartar: Kingdom of Heroes is so much better than, say, Barbarian Adventures, the latter which acted as a portal to drain my enthusiasm from the game world.

For MRQ it looks as Loz's eloquent and balanced appraisal get the vote with 23 Likes (and counting). I've kept a few of Mongoose fanzine level products (most written by Loz), at least until better versions can be produced. It is a shame that Loz and Pete did not have the opportunity to be involved with a production team and be given the level of support, quality and love now being shown by the new Chaosium team.

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