The Heights of Orlanth @ Glorantha Games 2020

I’ve finally pulled my finger out and at the eleventh hour, I’ve offered the following for Glorantha Games, the vrtuall version of the Glorantha convention normally held in Birmingham UK.

The Heights of Orlanth
4 players.
Having escaped the massacre of their phalanx after the fall of Pavis, the Lunar Tarsh officers had thought they were walking through the magic mirror in the ruins of the Lunar College of Magic’s secret complex and stepping out in their homeland of Tarsh. Instead, they are somewhere in Sartar, looking up at a massive rock that reaches into the sky that the locals call “The Heights of Orlanth”. One of them helpfully says a quick short cut home is up there on its summit.  The fact that this expert is a duck called Crontas the Windlord doesn’t fill them with optimism. But as elite followers of the Lunar Way they are used to strange magical happenings, and these are desperate times.
No familiarity with the setting, Lunars or the strange ways of ducks needed for this game of RuneQuest Glorantha. Just the willingness to get stuck in and engage with a rather strange set of characters in weird circumstance

I’ve previously run it as a 13th Age Adventure, and it was a complete hoot. I’m running it now as a RQ G game, partly out of curiosity on how it will compare but also because its now the sequel to A Dry Run in Prax, which is a RQ G adventure. Like Dry Run it will be appearing in Hearts in Glorantha #8 (more about that in a different post).


The Long Way Home Part 1 Preparing the Way

HIG issue 8 cover by Dan Barker

HIG issue 8 cover by Dan Barker

I have a big confession to make here. Despite many convention games I’ve not run a Gloranthan Campaign since about 2010 when I ran a quick HeroQuest game to playtest material in the Book of Glorious Joy, Jamie “Trotsky” Revell’s non-canonical vision of the Gloranthan West.  That was a ton of fun, a sort of Harry Potter Collage of Loskalm for wannabe heroes, exploring the marshes on the edges of the college’s grounds and encountering Viking Ducks! Before we ended up fighting spirits and going a bit investigative in a grungy medieval take on the setting which was more Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay than Glorantha. We took a break from me writing the games and played Pathfinder due to me being in rented accommodation as part of a nine-month house extension. When we got back into the home game, it was a virtually new line up of players for whom Glorantha was a hard if not impossible sell. Plus I’d burnt myself out in the previous decade.

Even before Covid-19, I was planning a resumption of gaming online, due to face to face being currently impossible at home due to my family circumstance. Several of my d101 projects kind of demand long-form playtesting. But Glorantha wasn’t on the radar, and certainly not RuneQuest. Go back to playing a game I moved on from a good 20 years ago, despite a fierce love of it (I had the best years of my gaming life in the 90s running an RQ 3 game damnit!), no way? But I’ve had a winning streak of online games of my D100 systems (OpenQuest / Skyraiders of the Floating Realms ) and that as well as having several members of the Grognard Files gaming community, who are a refreshingly cheerful bunch made up mainly of recent returnees to the hobby who like their games old. So suddenly encouraged by my recent runaway success of getting players for games that I would have struggled at conventions, and heavy interest from a couple of the players (Mitch and Doc) suddenly I have an ongoing campaign.

My current plan is to run a short mini-campaign which started with a convention scenario I have already run several times – A Dry Run in Prax.  Then from there move on my old home campaign of Karia, that was the basis of my 90s RuneQuest 3 game.

Reason for this:

  1. Get the players and me up to speed with the new RuneQuest: Glorantha system. Personally, speaking my head is still in the land of the glorious, but in places fatally flawed, RuneQuest 3.
  2. To work out how the group’s playstyle. Was it going to be gritty-roll-the-dice-and-die wargaming, were each hit point was logged, each hit-location roll significant, that choice of battle magic or a more laid back lazy style of storytelling where there may only be three rolls all session (that, to be honest, is what I prefer).

You’ll see a lot of this in Hearts in Glorantha since I’ve already come up with some ideas for articles as well as the scenarios/encounters we play out as well. In fact, A Dry Run in Prax is going to feature in Issue 8.

Next post >> Session 1 A Dry Run in Prax.

Toran Deathfinger

HIG issue 8 cover by Dan Barker

HIG issue 8 cover by Dan Barker

The centrepiece of issue eight is the scenario I’ve been running at conventions/online since RuneQuest Glorantha came out, a Dry Run in Prax. It takes a group of six Lunars, from Tarsh, who are trapped on a rocky outcrop in the wastes of Prax at the start of the adventure. Each character has a quick background, their answers to questions about the current situation, and a list of what they think of the other characters in the party. This is all to quickly introduce the players, be they longstanding Gloranthafans or newcomers, to this group of interesting and diverse characters.

Here’s a quick preview of one of them, the group’s Humakti, because everyone wants to be a Humakti, it’s all about the Swords 🙂

Toran Deathfinger

Initiate of Humkat/Regimental Champion


Toran is a grim and steadfast embodiment of the God of Death Humakt. They have died their hair black, painted their nails and lips with black makeup. They wear a black hooded robe. Their Humakt is a mix of the Lunar view, where Humakt is the embodiment of unavoidable death, and the Orlanthi one held by the Tarsh peasantry who see death as an everyday occurrence for both them and their livestock, so worship him to keep him away from their homes. Toran joined the Bastards after a family tragedy at home back in Tarsh, which they never ever talk about.
Like most Humakti they are obsessed with their sword (“this is my sword, there are many like it, but this is mine”)

What are your views on…

So, what do you think of life in the Lunar Army?

It’s home, it deals in death. Its where I want to be.

What do you think of the Praxian Animal Nomads?

I don’t think about them, I just kill them when they get in the way of my sword.

How do you feel about the expulsion of the Red Moon Army from the walled city of Pavis?

You win some, lose some.

What do you make of your current situation?

We are in a tight one to be sure. Everyone is tied and someone is going to mess up. I best be ready with my sword for when they do.

How desperately do you want to go home to Lunar Tarsh?

Home is wherever I lay my sword.

What is your biggest worry at the moment?

I am completely devoid of worry. When you are Dead you know no Fear.

What do you think about your companions?

Toran Deathfinger Initiate of Humakt and Warrior/ Regimental Champion (Me).I don’t think about ‘me’ much, except in a strange third person. I am filled with the oblivion of death. When I become a Sword of Humakt (Runelord) “I” will cease to exist.

Yarnal Farseer Initiate of Severn Mothers, Noble/Morale Officer. She is obviously mad. She was annoying when she was trying to turn the locals to the Lunar Way, before the Battle of Pavis. Now her poor mind has snapped and she believes she is turning into the Red Goddess!

Jarvel Moonglow Initiate of Issaries and Noble/Regimental Scribe and Quartermaster. A weak warrior who can barely lift his sword, but he knows more about our current situation than he lets on.

Benitu Badtooth, Initiate of Eurmal and Bandit/Probationary Scout. A worthless scumbag with no honour.

Nelda Sternmother. Initiate of Seven Mothers and Warrior/ Regimental Punishment Officer. Almost as good a fighter as me but distracted by her duties.

Ora Sunbright, Initiate of Yelm/Regimental Scout. A strange one. An ex-grazelander who rode into Tarsh when he was a teenager and fought with us in the wars against the Sartarites. Doesn’t say much but deadly with that bow of his.

Hearts in Glorantha #8 is coming this June

HIG issue 8 cover by Dan Barker

HIG issue 8 cover by Dan Barker

My friend, and Gloranthan Tribe Minster, Dr Moose says that once you are a Gloranthafan, you can never really get away from Glorantha and that it eventually drags you back in when you try.  Well, that is certainly the case here, and after a hiatus of only six months, I’ve decided to get back to work on Hearts in Glorantha and Gloranthan Adventures. Part of this is due to the rather strange times we are in giving me time and space to work on D101’s Gloranthan Fanzines alongside the other work that I’ve got on.

There will be some changes to how I put together HiG and GA.

First off, I won’t be doing an open call for submissions. The fanzine will be done more in-house, with me contacting writers/authors that I want to work on it. With the Jonstown Compendium up and going I feel that’s a better place for Gloranthan fans who have a quick, intense burning desire to get stuff out there quickly.

Second, with RuneQuest Glorantha well and truly out now, both zines will use that system as its default. It’s not to say that I won’t publish HeroQuest or 13th Age Glorantha. I’m currently more intrigued by the new edition of RuneQuest as well as it being something that I’m enormously familiar.

Finally, each issue of HiG will have a theme by default. Previous issues of HiG had themes that emerged as the submissions came in. Now that I’m doing it in-house so to speak, it helps to have a unifying theme to keep the team of contributors on track.

Finally, artists Peter Town and Dan Barker are drawing for the next issue of HiG #8. Here’s a preview of Dan’s front cover, which should give you a pretty good idea of this issue’s theme 🙂

The RuneQuest Slipcase has arrived

RuneQuest is a roleplaying game that I have a long history with. It was one of the Big Four RPGs that Games Workshop used to have the licence for, after Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson (UK) picked it up from Greg Stafford (the game’s creator/publisher) when they were the only European Games Company at one of the early GenCon’s in the 70s.  Fast forward forty odd years and the latest edition is out.and in a word it’s GORGEOUS!

The main rulebook has been out for some time since last summer along with the pdfs of the Bestiary and Gamesmasters Screen Pack, but now all the books are available in print and as well as separately they are available in a heavy-duty cardboard slipcase from the Chaosium web store

I’m sure I’ll do a full review here at some point, but if you are interested in a quick appraisal of the three things you get in the slipcase.

Main Rulebook: All the rules that the players and GM need to play/run the game. At its heart, it’s RuneQuest 2 with a smattering of new rules (Runes and Passions being a big one), which may put off some folk expecting a streamlined modern take on the ruleset. But its instantly familiar to old hands like myself. I ran a convention game pretty much straight off, without having to absorb 400+ pages, like the game had never gone away. Also its newcomer friendly, with all the Glorantha you need being hard-baked into the rules. In my opinion its the best out of the box representation of Glorantha ever.

Gloranthan Bestiary: This 202 page book is a feast of Glorantha’s weird and wonderful creatures. It also includes monster cults for playable monsters like Uz (Trolls), Elves and Ducks. Yes, there are ducks 🙂

Games Master’s Screen Pack.  Other GM’s Screens have Dragons and scenes of adventurers fighting. Not this one,  it has a scenic picture of one of Glorantha’s greatest mythological landscapes, the Gods Wall which shows all the sun-worshipping Dara Happan Deities in their correct hierarchal positions, in a massive fresco carved into a cliff overlooking the sacred river Oslir, that was commissioned by Yelm the Sun-god himself. It not only fits in with the concept of a screen perfectly, but it provides a good talking point for new players. “What the heck is that?” they will go, and the resulting discussion will give them a good idea that they aren’t in their typical fantasy setting anymore 🙂 The contents of the rest of the pack are: A Gloranthan Calendar, Two versions of the character sheet (the plain one that is in the rulebook, and a rather colourful one), a big a3 map of Dragon pass in colour, a double-sided map of the Colymar Tribal lands, a map of the city of Clearwine backed with another map of Dragon pass, all the pre-gens from the main rulebook as separate handouts, a npc sheet, and finally, a booklet of GM reference tables  and an adventure book of 123 pages, that has a starting setting of the Colymar tribe and three adventures.

A Dry Run in Prax

So I’ve decided to run some RuneQuest Glorantha at Furnace 2018 at the beginning of October. This introductory post is the first in a series where I post about my experiences, prepping and running the game.

It’s going to be a one-shot war-movie inspired game, with all the characters being soldiers from Lunar Tarsh trapped in the wasteland of Prax after the Lunar defeat and expulsion from Pavis, which has happened in the timeline of the new game. Here’s the full pitch that I’ve given for the convention’s game programme.

So “General” Baldrox is dead. Good riddance.

You can just leave him there in the dust and let the vultures eat his corpse (or maybe not, perhaps even Vultures have taste). Now your unit from Lunar Tarsh,survivors of the fall of Pavis, can make a run for home. The problem is that your group is known as Baldrox’s Bastards amongst the locals, home is hundreds of miles away across enemy territory, and supplies and morale are running low. Your only hope is to make it through the desert from the hole you are currently hiding in. Avoid the Beast Riders who are hunting you. Pray you don’t stumble across any foul chaos monsters. Then you might be able to find the testing ground that Sorcerers of the Imperial College of Magic set up in the Wastes. Perhaps they have a Moon Boat which you can sail all the way home?

So chin up solider. The Red Moon Will Rise Again!

This is a game using the new RuneQuest Glorantha rules. No familiarity is needed with either the setting or the rules (although if you are familiar with Call of Cthulhu you are halfway there). Be aware you are playing the villains of the default set up, in a game that riffs of the tropes of spaghetti westerns and World War 2 Movies from the perspective of the Germans.