Simplifying not dumbing down

So I’m preparing my pitch for the 7 Hills Convention in April, where I’m going to unleash my mega-adventure for HeroQuest Glorantha upon 4-6 players.  Even if the players are familiar with Glorantha I want it to be mega-fun rather than mega-complicated, because even with a four hour slot I’m not cramming in 16 hours + of my home campaign (with all its plot twists and stuff that my players have painstakingly built up), I’m creating a sandbox with story seeds and plot threads that the players can pick up and have fun with.

So with this in mind I launched into writing my pitch. I came up with two versions, a long pitch (approx 300 words) and short pitch (approx 200 words).

Long pitch

At the Dawn the land of Karia was made the Centre of all the World’s Religions by Nysalor the the New Sun. Here this glorious mortal-made God created a special temple to celebrate the mystries of the five elements – Water, Air, Darkness, Earth and Fire. When Nysalor betrayed his worshipers and all creation by revealing himself to be the chaos God Gbaji the Deceiver, the hero Arkat Chaosbane revealed the Temple of the Elements’ true purpose ad been created to enslave the elements and channel the worshipers magical energy to Nyslor himself. Then Arkat and his armies destroyed the Temple and ravished Karia, suppressing many vile chaos cults in the process. Arkat would finally forsake his human form to take on that of a Troll to defeat Gbaji in the far off land of Dorestor. Even when he returned to the west as a human to establish his Dark Empire, Karia remained silent and haunted by the destruction he had wrought there.

Now in the Third Age, King Aruzban Ironarm of neighbouring Delela has declared the old Undying curse of Arkat broken by his hand, and that life has truely returned in its fullness to Karia. He has encouraged his tribesmen to inhabit the land, of which they have taken the lower third. Heretics from the Duchy of Naskorion to the west have also settled in the land, as have Trolls from the Queendom of Halikiv. An uneasy peace exists amongst these traditional enemies, and its focus is the city of Watcharkat. Here a group of followers of the various faces of Arkat, who call themselves Arkat’s Council, watch for the re-emergence of old magical enemies. Their mystics foretell the rediscovery of the temple saying in the present “one day the Five Pillared Temple of the Elements will be discovered and there in the sacred precincts Gbaji will be arisen”.

I wrote the long pitch almost automatically, straightout of my head which is crammed with 30 odd years of Gloranthan knowledge. I sat down to revise it and realised that it was confusing even to me, and instead wrote the second Short pitch.

Short pitch

In the time of the Dawn there was a powerful temple in the land of Karia, called the Temple of the Elements. It was a peaceful place where followers of the man-made god Nyalsor the New Sun, contemplated the mystic energies of the five elements – Fire, Earth, Air, Water and Darkness – that had created their god.

Then the god-slayer Arkat, came with his armies from the West. He said the temple filled with falsehoods, their peaceful meditation were merely studies in enslavement and Nysalor was actually an evil god of Chaos called “Gbaji the Deceiver”. He destroyed the temple and slaughtered its worshipers. Since the five pillars of the temple were created by a god and beyond his means to smash, he buried them.

It is now the Third Age and Karia is being gradually resettled by people from neighbouring lands. In the city of WatchArkat the Council of Arkat, a group of powerful monster hunters, live in plain sight amongst their enemies in an uneasy truce. Only they know the prophecy

“One day the Five Pillared Temple of the Elements will be discovered and there in its sacred precincts Gbaji will be arisen”.

This is the pitch I’m going with. Not only is it quicker to read, which is important since folk will either be reading it on the website (always write at least 25% less for the web) or quickly on the signup sheet on the day. The first pitch falls into the trap that it mentions too much that is really out side the scope of what I should be telling folk in an introduction. Its contains detailed background information that the players may never even discover in game (although I’m now intent on putting in King Aruzban Ironarm with his Troll crushing arms in the scenario some how). Its the sort of show off info-dump that I might show to a fellow Glorantha-phile in the vain hope of impressing them. Pitch 2 is mega-complicated while Pitch 1 is more mega-fun. It sets the scene of the Temple and its importance in the fight of Nysalor vs Arkat, and its link to the horror god Gbaji both past and present. Best of all it points out the player characters are “a group of powerful monster hunters” :).

Glorantha is Go!

Quick update on where I’m up to with D101’s Gloranthan efforts at the beginning of 2016.

Gloranthan Adventures #3 Defenders of the Dark slipped, in the face of all the work I had to do around Crypts & Things (which is now a huge and mysterious thing). Good news is the text is ready to proof by a dedicated proofer and the art is commissioned.

Hearts in Glorantha #6 (aka Vol 2 issue 1) didn’t take off as I planned. It seems that I’m back at the stage where I was with issue 1, where I have to build up a bull pen of regular writers. This means I’ve moved my adventure Dead Man’s Scrolls from GA#3 (which makes sense since it makes that book an all UZ book) into HiG#6. Fortunately HiG regulars Stewart Standsfield is  back with a series of Caladraland articles while Jane Williams is working on an adventure.

I’m still looking for submissions for Hearts in Glorantha #6 so if you are interested please get in touch at newt@d101games.com.

Gloranthan Adventures #4 is already on the cards. This is going to be a mega-adventure set in the land of Karia, an area in the East Wilds haunted by the legacy of Nysalor and Arkat. I plan to have this in a playable form by 7 Hills in April and be able to offer it at UK Games Expo and Continuum later in the year.

I had feared that the Gloranthan flame had gone out here at D101, due to huge work pressures of our other game lines,  but after a bit of refocusing we’re back up and running. No idea when these books will be out (C&T dominates our release schedule because its a Kickstarter in fullfillment) but I hope to have something out by UK Games Expo, were we will be on a stall behind our friends at Chaosium :)

If you are interested in helping out with HiG or GA, please get in touch at newt@d101games.com.

Hearts in Glorantha volume 2 issue 1 call for submissions!

Hello all Glorantha Fans!

The time has come to open the doors to the Hero Plane and invite strong Fan Authors and Artists, and other esteemed Contributors (such as proof readers), to come to the Sacred Place that is Hearts in Glorantha.

Oracles have been consulted and it is time to put the wheels in motion, summon up the spirits, call upon the essences and Heroform the Gods to create a new issue of Hearts in Glorantha.

If our efforts are mighty enough will be the beginning of a new Volume of this fearsome fanzine.

Interested?

1. Go read the submissions guidelines

2. Contact me at newt@d101games.com

 

Playing Glorantha using other Systems

I seem to be on sort of a break as far as running Glorantha is concerned. I think that’s due in part to me being busy writing other D101 Stuff (Crypts & Things esp) over the last six months, and I’m still taking in the sheer breath and depth of material in the Guide and the new HeroQuest Glorantha books.

Instead I’ve taken the opportunity to play in some games using very different systems from what I’m used to (HQ/RQ).

First off is Evil Gaz’s Savage Glorantha.  Evil Gaz is one of the infamous Smart Party, a group of friends who collectively run convention games at UK cons, and now courtesy of Gaz and his mate Baz have a rather excellent pod cast “What Would the Smart Party Do?”. Now Gaz is a big fan of Glorantha from the RQ2 days, and the more direct play style of those days, before all the navel gazing mythological stuff that came after it.  Savage Worlds is his go to system so he’s running a game using the old RQ2 Classics material specifically Borderlands and Beyond (I’m not paying too much attention to it, because its been long enough for me to remember the outlines but not the details which would spoil the game for me ) as the setting/adventure and Savage Worlds as the system.  The conversion is very quick and on the fly but he’s paid enough attention so that RQ2’s magic systems (Battle and ]Divine) are in it, and the advantages and disadvantages (which do the main heavy lifting to make sure that one Fighter isn’t like another Fighter) make the characters fell Gloranthan.  He’s running the game via quick two hour Google Hangouts sessions, and apart from myself the other three players are all new to Glorantha.  Character gen was basically a suggest a concept to Gaz and he came up with a character.  I pitched Morgan “Short beard” Gonch  a rather adventurous Lankor Mhy student with a short scruffy beard, whose been taught a bit of swordplay by his local Humakti swordmaster, and is on an ongoing quest in Pavis/Prax to recover magical knowledge stolen by the villainous Lunars.  This quest had lead to his capture by the  Seven Mothers, and drafted into the service of Duke Raus, a local Lunar Noble with an estate out in the Praxian wastes.  I was joining the rest of the party , a group comprising of a Humakti, Stormbull and an Orlanthi, a couple of adventures in, and the opening scene was literally Morgan walking up to the campfire, making introductions before the group set off to continue their patrol of Duke Raus’ ‘Grant Lands’. We encountered an ancient tower, with the sounds of squealing pigs. The Stormbull decided to charge his Rhino into the stone double doors to gain entry, and away we went. Given the nature of adventure, what followed was a tense two hour grindfest, but both Gaz and the other players kept it going a pace so that it never dragged or got boring. Savage Worlds worked well as the system for representing Glorantha. On one hand if you just swing your sword and hope for the best, its like RQ right down to its fragility of characters. However once you start spending ‘bennies’ (Savage’s equivalent of Hero/Fate points) or using the special combat moves, where you have to give an explanation of how you are pushing it,  the game suddenly felt heroic, and up there with HeroQuest for that side of things. It was the best of both worlds. The adventure saw my wet behind the ears academic handle himself with enough bravery to be accepted into the group of warriors :)

The second Gloranthan game I played with a different system was Guy Milner’s 13th Age Glorantha game at Furnace just gone. I can’t go into to much detail about it, because the playtest packet is currently under NDA, but I can say that the game was a resounding success, despite my misgivings that as basically being a D20/D&D derived game (with a heavy dose of Narrativism).  Like the Savage Worlds game, the basic rules played Glorantha to the system’s strengths, so it was all  Class with Level based goodness that any player familiar with the World’s Favorite Roleplaying game in its D20 variant glory (feats although straightforward are still  a big thing as push-button powers in combat).  13th Age’s Narrative elements really shone through in letting each character have their moment in the spot light and the use of the Runes (like HQ Glorantha each character has three to start with) within that framework (rather than the more rulesy Feats) was inspired, and allowed us to excitingly deal with situations within the game quickly and colourfully which might have otherwise been reduced to a series of bland dice roles.  This alongside 13th Ages “One Unique Thing” really highlighted that even at 1st Level our characters where Gloranthan Heroes and Heroines :)

The City of Serris

Behold, here is the full colour map of Serris, by Xavier Llobet who also did the full page illustrations for Gloranthan Adventures 2 Red Sun Rising.

Ma of the city of Serris, by Xavier Llobet
Map of the city of Serris, by Xavier Llobet

This is one of my favourite bits of art that Xavier did. In fact its the piece that hangs together the whole book, since three out of the four scenarios are set there. In many ways the scenario arc is on one level the story of the city.  That’s were I put the mythic resonances, the city God (also called Serris) is the God of Builders (and a non-cannonical son of the Dara Happan Earth God Lodril), and through his priesthood is able to rebuild the city if it is damaged. This has happened many times during history, including when the Lunar Empire seized the city from Camarian invaders. I’ll stop there lest I give more away 😉

It’s a city of two halves and Xavier pretty much nailed with extreme detail the differences between the highly organised and regimented Dara Happan Old City and the chaotic and disorganised Lunar New City in this map.  The Old City is the city that Serris the Builder created for his mortal apprentices. It has aqueducts, bridges, a street layout that is in accordance with Yelm’s Four Sacred Directions, and towering white stone walls. Its a rigourously planned city, were very little has changed over time. The New City, or Moonie town as it is populary known, has grown from a city of tents from the lunar invaders, to a sprawling mess, where twisting labyrine streets circle around the major buildings, such as the Red Moon Temple and the Lunar Circus.  It clings limpet like to the southern walls of the Old City, whose Dara Happan residents who belong to to families who have dwelt in the city since before time began say to the new Lunars “you stay out, you don’t belong here!”   If they Lunars feel any resentment, they keep it to themselves. Maybe its because they believe that eventually the Lunar Way will absorb even the most hardline Solar Worshiper and this will see the gates of the Old City flung open to mob of the Red Goddess?

Go grab a copy or read more about it.

Or

 

Big Gloranthan publishing day!

Cover by Jon Hodgson
Cover by Jon Hodgson

After a couple of years of inactivity, D101 Games presents not one but three Gloranthan Fan titles.

Hearts in Gloranthan vol1 Collected. This is 280 pages of the first five issues of Hearts in Glorantha (HiG), a fanzine dedicated to Greg Stafford’s mythic fantasy world of Glorantha, that were published between 2008-2012. The original articles, which cover setting information, creature write ups, adventures, homelands ,fiction, and rules guidance for both HeroQuest and RuneQuest, has been tidied up and 22 pages of new material about the Balkoth Tribe of Sartar has been added exclusively to this collection. Features articles on the Lunars, Chaos, Oceans and Seas, Sartar, Dragonewts, Dwarves & Ducks??!?!

Gloranthan Adventures 2 Red Sun Rising. A complete mini-campaign set in the Lunar Dara Happan city of Serris, a tough independent city which lies in the shadow of the Red Moon. Although written for HeroQuest it has converstion guidelines for RuneQuest.

OpenQuest Adventures. This book is an eighty page collection of scenarios and articles designed to show how OpenQuest can be used for different flavours of fantasy gaming. Within its pages you’ll be able to visit Ancient Rome, enjoy a short dungeon crawl, experience the horrors of a small hell and even the joys of the original D100 adventure setting Glorantha!

Also Gloranthan Adventures 1: New Beginnings is now available in print via DriveThruRpg.com for the first time.

Go grab them at these following outlets

HeroQuest Glorantha Review

HeroQuest Glorantha Cover by Jon Hodgson
HeroQuest Glorantha Cover by Jon Hodgson

OK this is a follow on from the Preview I wrote back in November of last year, when I got the artless & basic layout version. I’ve now had time to digest this and the final illustrated version, which I’ve got in pdf from the pre-order (back in April some time).  Now you too can own it as the game has gone on general release via publisher Moon Design’s Glorantha.com  :)

The structure and content is the same as the preview version, so if you want a run down of what’s in the book chapter by chapter I’ll refer you to that.

Art and Production. Rick Meints’ high standards of layout shine through the book.  The text flows nicely and is readable.  Lots of relevant highlight boxes (now in colour) pop up and bring to the reader’s attention little chunks of Gloranthan lore. The art is a mix of black and white illustrations and glorious full colour pieces.   There’s a large chunk of art that’s lifted from the Guide and past RuneQuest releases, but when its such good and seminal stuff, such as the Cosmology piece which shows the structure of Glorantha or the Garhounds Contest from RQ3’s Sun Country,  you can’t grumble.  Also bear in mind that this is a game that is meant to be an all in one starting point for Gloranthan newcomers, who probably haven’t got the guide or Glorantha’s back catalogue and it makes perfect sense. But there’s also a bucket load of new stuff. Jan Pospíšil has illustrated every single culture that is described in the Creating Your Hero chapter.  This is indicative of the whole book. Where a section of could do with an illustration its got one. HeroQuest Glorantha is one of the most richly illustrated RPG books out there, without being needlessly so.  I can also not finish this section without mentioning the marvelous new maps of Glorantha (by Colin Driver) and Dragon Pass (by Darya Makarava).

PDF bookmarks. The pdf is fully bookmarked by chapters and sections, and important things like maps and timelines get their own bookmarks as well. The Table of Contents is hyperlinked so you can click on an item and be whizzed off to the relevant page. So job done here :)

HeroQuest Glorantha as a game system. This is the bit that really gets me excited. HeroQuest 2, the system’s basic generic version, never got me excited to run a Gloranthan game. I did and it worked well, but overall the book was trying to be all things to all people. Which is fine for a generic system, but at the time I bought it to carry on my existing Gloranthan campaign.  HeroQuest Glorantha fixes that ‘meh’ feeling and replaces it with a big whoosh feeling. Again my earlier preview gives a blow by blow run down of changes and how the system works, but overall the game system and how it meshes with Glorantha is much better explained and illustrated.  Also a lot of the fat from HeroQuest 2 (what little there was) has been trimmed. Top marks goes to the worked series of examples which make up Samastina’s Saga that go through the entire book and really illustrate the heroic and mythical nature of the game.

Background information. This is a big win in this book. Because of HeroQuest’s concise and rules light approach much of the 260 pages is setting information. The world gets a through introduction. There’s enough detail about the magic of the world and  example cults to cater for most players. Dragon Pass gets its own Gazetteer with local heroes getting enough detail so that they are playable.  Lunar Magic gets a full write up, which means that you can play an Orlanthi vs Lunar campaign straight out of the box (which is kinda the default setting for Glorantha, due to its past which stretches back all the way to Dragon Pass boardgame published in 1981).  There’s even a straightforward introductory adventure that cleverly works as tutorial of how to write Mythic Fantasy adventures set in Glorantha.  There’s enough information in HeroQuest Glorantha so that you could run it for years, and build upon its firm foundations from your own ideas (“Your Glorantha May Vary”), but you’ll probably want to buy the expanded background books (such as Sartar: Kingdom of Heroes) because you want more. It’s a hunger I can well appreciate :)

This is the book that I’ve wanted for years. Not just for myself but so I can show other people how cool Glorantha is and for them to have a credible game that they can pick up and play without being forced to buy obscure or out of print supplements to get the full experience.

Now its here :)

 

Hearts In Glorantha blog