This is a preview of the HeroQuest Glorantha Gen Con 2014 Draft. Its a 192 page artless document with a basic two column layout out iin pdf format. I got my copy because I was a high level backer of the Guide of Glorantha and while the draft is complete its currently in layout with a release date later this year.
Overall it is not a complete revision of the HeroQuest 2 system, but more a tweaking in line with how Jeff Richard and a close circle of Gloranthaphiles play it (playtesting seems to have been very closed, restricted to people who regularly play HQ). The adoption of the “As you go” method for character gen as standard (with some tweaks) is a good example of this. So if you are looking for a radical rewrite of HQ2 this isn’t it. Its not going to stop detractors being critical of it. but its a good attempt at streamlining it , like Mythic Russia, which should make it a happier remix for a lot of folk. Its also nice that Jeff has sorted out his Gloranthan Magic rules and stuck them in once place
Its 40% bigger than HeroQuest 2 and most of the ‘new’ content comes from is all the Gloranthan material. If you want enough background material so you can go play out of the box, this book actually does it. The rules light nature of the HeroQuest rules allows them to cram in lots of Gloranthan goodness and make this a bloody good go at an introductory Gloranthan RPG. Whether or not its a successful one depends on how newcomers take it to their bosom.
Ok looking at it in more detail chapter by chapter
Introduction (3 pages)
Provides an overview of the book, gives a quick summary of the key concepts behind Glorantha and highlights the fact that you need to think in story terms to get the most out of the game.
The World of Glorantha (3 pages)
A short history of the world, a brief rundown of the current age’s HeroWars key events, and then quick run down of Technology, Society and Money in Glorantha which cements the idea that Glorantha is firmly a Bronze Age setting.
The Runes (4 pages)
This section is the first really indepth look at Glorantha. Given its length it’s not too heavy reading. It’s quite important since the Runes underpin the workings of Glorantha and are key to understanding the supernatural forces of the setting. Also its necessary player reference because each character has three runes associated with them.
Dragon Pass and its Environs (9 pages)
A brief overview of the default setting of Glorantha, that touches all the important places, people and includes a timeline, giving beginning Narrators and players a head start and enough to get going with the setting.
Creating Your Hero (20 pages)
This is the inevitable character generation chapter where you get a real sense that HeroQuest is not like other RPGs. You see where other RPGs may merrily get about the business of having you roll statistics and working out skills based off some cultural or occupational package, HQ gets you thinking about your character’s Abilities, which are things that you use to solve problems. Anything from “Sword and Shield Fighting” to “Dara Happan Paper Folding” can be picked up as an Ability if it is important to the character. Then to model the unique character archtypes that exist in Glorantha each character has three Keywords one for Culture (of which eight human cultures from the Dragon Pass/Prax region and nearby neighbours are detailed), Occupation and Magic. They are like a package of Abilities for the character. So if you have an Occupation of Warrior you have implicitly implied by it that the character can fight, use armour and the required psyche to survive the horrors of war. HereQuest Glorantha allows you to have Breakout Abilities that are advanced independently from the Keyword, so for our warrior example you could have Broken out the Sword Fighting ability to give it extra points. Abilities are usually ranked 1-20 and rolled against on a D20, with rolling lower than the Ability score granting a success. Additional points can be added to the Abilities at character gen which means that its value goes above 20, at which point the Ability is said to have got a Mastery which denotes an automatic success. It denotes characters who under normal conditions simply do not fail in using that Ability.
In addition to the character’s abilities and keywords, using the new “Create Your Hero As-You-Go” method (which is actually an expanded and tweaked version of the method of the same name in HeroQuest 2), you get to choose three Runes that your character is Associated with as well as a Community you are a member of, a Distinguishing characteristic and three flaws. All these are Abilities. Nowhere on the character sheet are Hit Points, damage ratings or any other trappings of traditional roleplaying games. The method gives you a clear idea of what your character can do, some pointers about where they stand in the world, but leaves you to explore and fill out the character through play.
In this version of HeroQuest Relationships, Communities, in a much easier to understand form, and Supporting Characters (in the form of Followers and Companions) are given much more space and their importance to the characters emphasised than they were in HeroQuest 2. In Glorantha the ups and downs of your home communities support and who your enemies and allies are is very important to character’s story.
This chapter ends up with six example characters (enough for a full six player convention game 😉 )
Game Mechanics (22 Pages)
This is the meat of the game system, the Contest rules. Contests are not like standard skill tests of other Rpgs. They are abstract affairs where Abilities are thrown at problems from a sword fight to a philosophical debate. There are guidelines of when to use the one-roll Simple Contest, which model very quick decisive actions, or the multi-roll Extended Contents which model very dramatic sections of narrative that require back and forth actions between the participants. This chapter also details the Consequences of Victory and Failure. Without Hit Points or equivalent measures to track success/failure, HeroQuest has a table of Consequences that looks at the difference between successes rolled of opponents. This is part of the fine of art of HeroQuest GMing that confuses some people, what type of contest to run and how to apply consequences. HQ Glorantha is crammed with lots of examples of the rules/guidelines and ends the chapter with an eleven page example the rather appropriately EPIC Battle of Auroch Hills.
Tactical Options (2 pages)
This chapter details extra rules/guidelines for players who want more options for their contests.
Surprisingly the rules for adding points from another relevant Ability, known as Augmentation, are in this chapter. So much so that I initially wrote them into the section above. Augmentation was open to player abuse in 1st Edition HeroQuest, since multiple Abilities could be used, and one of the big changes in HeroQuest 2 was how it was severely reigned back in only to apply to one Ability subject to the approval of the GM.
Augmentation allows you to add points to the the main Ability you are using in a Contest from another. For example you could use your Remain Calm in a Crisis Ability during a rather hectic sword fight to augment your Sword Duelling Ability. You conduct a very quick Simple Contest to determine if that Ability is actually relevant, and the level of success determines the number of points that it adds. Other characters can also use their abilities to augment yours. A supporting character for example could use their Shout Very Loudly ability to distract your enemy.
There’s a couple of other rules that used to be in the core Contest chapter, such as stretches, which are now in this optional chapter. Even if that these rules are still part of the core set up, it makes reading the Game System chapter a lot easier than HeroQuest 2.
Hero Points (1 page)
This important facet of the game gets its own chapter, which in my opinion is a good thing for the purposes of clarity and ease of reference during play. Hero Points are often described as the currency of the game since they can be used to increase success (giving those really heroic effects or simply rescuing the character from catastrophic failure) and are used to develop the character (although don’t mistake them as pure experience points, their effect is more subtle).
Recovery and Healing (1 page), Running Contests (1 page), Assigning Difficulty (3 pages) all focus in the subject of their title and expand and explain these areas.
The Pass/Fail Cycle (3 pages)
A much maligned tool now firmly marked as optional. Considered a helpful aid for running adventures by some, to prevent every Contests being won without much difficulty and only formalising what GMs do naturally i.e. set winnable target numbers, then set a high target numbers so the players get a taste of defeat before letting them win again at the end of the adventure. I’m not a fan, so I can now completely ignore this chapter and then move on to…
Gloranthan Communities (7 pages)
This chapter is another one that focuses on rules already introduced earlier. It is a nice chapter which shows how you can use communities to support the characters, what happens when the characters ask for too much, and the general ebb and flow of their fortunes with lots of Gloranthan examples.
Gaming Tips. (2 pages)
An advice chapter, which personally I found nice but not a bit detached from the rest of the rules
General Comment on the Game System:
So that’s it in just under one hundred pages, and under half the book, is the Game System. If you were expecting a full revision as elegant as that from Spirit of the Century (Fate3) to Fate Core, you’ll be disappointed. It’s a nice reorganisation of the rules presented in HeroQuest 2 with a focus on Glorantha.
Right back to the preview
Magic and Cults (2 pages)
Kicks off the large section on Gloranthan Magic with an overview of the different types of magic available in the setting and presents a breakdown of the sources of magic by Culture
Basic Magic (half a page, if that)
Glorantha has long has had a reputation as a setting where everyone has some magic. This short and sweet section elegantly explains how. Remember I mentioned each character has three Runic associations? Well when the characters become adults and are initiated into the ways of their culture, they gain the ability to use magic from their Runes. In game terms this means that they can use their Runes to augment mundane abilities, so a Movement Rune can be invoked in a running contest to boost the speed of the character. Characters can also have Break Out Abilities based off their Runes, which can be used on their own.
The next couple of chapters follow the a format of introducing then detailing the rules of a particular approach, listing a couple light examples before doing a detailed write up of a Cult that uses the approach. Each chapter is peppered with flavour text (such as “What the Priest Says” sections that fans of the old RQ supplements will be familiar with) and examples.
Spirit Magic (5 Pages)
If you want magic from the Spirit World, Spirit Charms ( which seem to a renaming of Fetishes from earlier editions), details on Fetches, how to become a Shaman and how you join a Spirit Tradition (the default organisation for teaching spirit magic), its all neatly explained in this chapter. It rounds out with The Praxian Tradition as a full example.
Rune Magic ( 6 pages )
If you are familiar with Theist or Divine Magic from previous editions, this is what the magic that comes from the Gods is called. It firmly ties it to the idea that the Gods represent the fundamental building blocks of Glorantha, the Runes. It builds upon the method of Basic Magic, to expand and power up magic that comes from the Gods based upon the Feats they performed in Mythology. It explains how characters become Initiated into the secrets of the God, then become Devottee’s where they literally embody the power of their deity.
The next 19 pages are dedicated to full write ups of Ernalda (Earth Goddess), Orlanth (Storm God), and Issaries (Communications and Trade) and Humakt (Death God) and the The Severn Lightbringers myth which is central to all them gets a one page. Curriososly Waha, the Praxian nomad god, is also in this section, were perhaps being a Spirit Tradition it would be better placed after Spirit Magic?
Sorcery (3 pages)
Wizards and their mouldy old books full of spells (Grimnories) are the focus of this Logical approach to magic. Sorcery works around applying one of four ‘Logical’ principals to channelling the power of the Runes. These principals are Summon/Dismiss, Command, Combine/Separate and Tap.
Lhankor Mhy (4 pages)
Fans of previous editions like myself, might express a certain amount of surprise at the Orlanthi Knowledge God being the example of Sorcery, rather than the atheist Wizards of the West, but it makes sense (the clue was the beards wasn’t it?) and fits in nicely with the other full write ups (got a player coming over from D&D itching to play a Wizard point them in the direction of Lhankor Mhy, while fighter types can go for Orlanth).
Lunar Magic (4 pages)
Apparently this is a cleaned up version of the write up in Pavis Gateway to Adventure, and a good strong write up of what can be a confusing fourth approach to magic (although anti-lunars consider it an aberration of chaos). How lunar characters cast Glamours in accordance to the phases of the Red Moon is dealt and subjects like the Chaos Bat and Illumination are touched upon in a way that gives you a good start with them.
The Seven Mothers (4 pages)
This missionary group of deities whose magical conspiracy inside of time birthed the Red Moon Goddess is now the starting point for all Lunars who then join a sub-cult. I’m a big lunar fan and this nicely clears up all my questions I have about the Lunar Religion, which can be confusing and contradictory in a story sense, and makes it very clearly gamable.
HeroQuesting (8 pages)
This final chapter of the Magic section details yet another fundamental but traditionally confusing element of Gloranthan Gaming. Yet again it makes it clear and makes it useable at the gaming table. HeroQuesting is how the characters interact with Gloranthan Mythology, e by travelling to the Hero Plane, embodying their chosen deity and replaying the myth with magical knowledge being the reward for success. More so than any other chapter the example HeroQuest given illustrates the rules concepts being used.
Overall Comment on the Magic section
For me this is worth the price of admission alone. It not only clarifies my understanding of the Magic rules and makes whole areas of them playable, where before it was a bit shaky, its something I would pass a new player and confidently let them read.
Two chapters round out the book
Gloranthan Creatures (12 pages)
All your favourite Gloranthan Monsters neatly categorised into types (Chaos, Spirits, Elder Races etc) and briefly detailed. This chapter covers a lot of ground due to the rules light/stat less nature of HeroQuest.
Gaming in Glorantha (9 pages)
This brief but indepth chapter concerns adventure creation and nicely shows you, the example builds up to be a fully playable adventure, how to create a truly Gloranthan adventeur which riffs off all the appropriate themes.
Appendices (16 pages)
A: Calendar (2 pages) explains the magical seasons of Glorantha.
B: Equipment (3 pages) a short but Bronze Age flavoursome equipment list.
C: Languages in the Dragon Pass Region(1 page).
D: Glossary (3 pages) a collection of game terms used both to describe the game system and Gloranthan concepts.
E: Bibliography (1 page) of books that have inspired Glorantha.
F: Other Glorathan Material (blank except for a short intro in this draft)
G: Quick Reference. A collection of all the tables used in the game six pages long.
Character sheet, a simple but functional one.