CHA4028 RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha – Chapter 12 Rune Cults Q&A

Answers by Jason Durall, RuneQuest Line editor


Initiates

Orlanthi Initiate and Lay Member numbers

In Orlanthi society (not the world) how many adults are Initiates? How many adults are lay members of cults?

Most members of a cult are lay members, with a small portion becoming initiates, and an even smaller subset becoming Priests, God-talkers, Rune Lords, Rune Priests, and a tiny few becoming Rune Lord-Priests.

Do you need something more specific than that? Exact numbers? Population distribution? 

You’re the GM. You can decide those figures.


NPC Initiates

What are the non-PC initiates like? That is, we know the PCs are “exceptional.” What are non-exceptional Initiates like? How many Rune Points do they have, for example?

They’re not seasoned adventurers, and most likely are farmers, crafts- or trades-people. They likely have 1 Rune point and special Rune spell chosen based on personal or professional need, or something specific to their role, based on their cult and community.

What are the qualities that define “exceptional” when it comes to being an Initiate? What are the qualities of being a non-exceptional Initiate.

They’re not adventurers.

The rules are written (I think!) to establish the Player Characters — and so mechanically we only have the information for exceptional people. Imagine the GM wants to understand why the Orlanthi of Dragon Pass that are around the PCs are like so he can create the culture and society that the PCs live within. In terms of Initiation, Rune Points, and Spells, what are the non-exceptional NPC Heortlings of Dragon Pass like?

Creating NPCs

Are the character creation rules regarding Rune Points and Rune spells  in RQG general principles for anyone growing up Orlanthi in Dragon Pass, or are they specific mechanics applicable to creating PCs alone?

This is a rules question as much as a setting question, because the GM needs to know how to build NPCs. If a different set of rules apply to creating NPCs, what are those rules? (Even accepting the fact that in RQG every NPC is a living breathing individual, and so everyone is unique, are there any general principles are guidance?)

We’ll be discussing this more in the Gamemaster Sourcebook and the Dragon Pass Sourcebook, but much of this kind of specific detail is really up to the gamemaster to determine. What role do you want an NPC to have? What function are they serving in your adventure or campaign? Why wouldn’t you consider those to be the primary concerns when creating an NPC? 

For specific examples, look to the adventures and source material in the Gamemaster Screen Pack, which covers a great many non-exceptional characters from townsfolk, guards, herders, farmers, and their ilk, all the way up to Queen Leika.  

This is also the kind of general setting material the GM should be crafting based on their own needs, not really the stuff of a rules clarification thread.


Initiated and Initiates (pages 269 & 73)

Page 269 in the RQG book: “Most who belong to a cult are lay members, without any authority or position within the cult.”

Page 73 in the RQG book: “Nearly every adult is initiated into the cult of a specific deity.”

Which is it?

You’re confusing being initiated into a cult with being an initiate of that cult. Most everyone in the world is a member of one cult or another, a lay member. Only a small number take the test sacrifice a point of POW and gain a Rune point, and still fewer go on to become Rune Masters or God-talkers within that cult. 

I agree that the word choice on page 73 is confusing. A clearer version might be “Nearly every adult is a member of the cult of a specific deity.” 

For the purposes of player character adventurers, all are considered to be initiates, so the sentence on page 73 applies specifically to them.


Common Rune Magic Box (page 275)

First bullet changed to “…Divination, Sanctify, and Summon Cult Spirit.” (Part of Second printing corrections).


Rune Priests (page 275)

Further Training and Experience (page 277)

Page 277: Further Training and Experience topic, 2nd paragraph, last paragraph changed to “…occupational skills (see Experience Between Adventures, page 416).” (Part of Second printing corrections).

Rune Priests earn a 1- pt increase in cult spirit magic every year, does this mean Bladesharp 6 would ‘tick up’ into Bladesharp 7? Is this also the intent for how spirit spells are learned at increasing variables? You find someone with a Bladesharp 7 and they can improve your Bladesharp 6 to 7?

The 1-point increase is determined by the player and approved by the gamemaster, and is applied to one spell.

It might mean an existing spell increased by one level, or a new spell is gained from the list of existing cult spirit magic spells. 

You learn to improve your spirit magic by finding a teacher and paying them to teach you. Like any subject, they must know it themselves. 

The gamemaster should determine how available the teaching is and whether anyone in the desired area knows the spell at the desired level. It might be that some of the cost in L is for this research. It might also be that in some cases, a spell’s higher level is only available from pretty rarefied sources. Someone with Bladesharp 7 is going to be a pretty intensely dedicated warrior, and might not have the time to spend it teaching magic to newcomers.


Spell Teaching (page 277)

Does a Shaman, Priest, or Spirit teaching a spirit magic spell loose the knowledge of the spell when they teach it? 

No. Why would they?


Rune Lords (page 278)

Improved Resistance to Magic (page 281)

First sentence replaced with “A Rune Lord always resists magic with their species maximum POW and not their current POW.” (Part of Second printing corrections).

Spell Teaching (page 281)

Does a Shaman, Priest, or Spirit teaching a spirit magic spell loose the knowledge of the spell when they teach it? 

No. Why would they?


Further Training and Experience (page 281)

Rune Lords earn a 1- pt increase in cult spirit magic every year, does this mean Bladesharp 6 would ‘tick up’ into Bladesharp 7? Is this also the intent for how spirit spells are learned at increasing variables? You find someone with a Bladesharp 7 and they can improve your Bladesharp 6 to 7?

The 1-point increase is determined by the player and approved by the gamemaster, and is applied to one spell.

It might mean an existing spell increased by one level, or a new spell is gained from the list of existing cult spirit magic spells. 

You learn to improve your spirit magic by finding a teacher and paying them to teach you. Like any subject, they must know it themselves. 

The gamemaster should determine how available the teaching is and whether anyone in the desired area knows the spell at the desired level. It might be that some of the cost in L is for this research. It might also be that in some cases, a spell’s higher level is only available from pretty rarefied sources. Someone with Bladesharp 7 is going to be a pretty intensely dedicated warrior, and might not have the time to spend it teaching magic to newcomers.


Do Rune Lords always need a Charisma of 18?

No, but almost all human Rune Lord cults do. 

The core book deals exclusively with human adventurers.

They [Rune Lords] must possess a CHA of at least 18.

Requirements for Rune Lords, page 280

However, some cults (e.g. Humakt, Kyger Litor, and Zorak Zoran) mention this requirement specifically in their cult write-ups, suggesting that it may not be a requirement across all cults.  

It is clarified where it seems necessary.

In particular, this requirement is a problem for Tusk Riders (and some breeds of trolls) who cannot achieve a CHA of 18 (due to having 1D6 or 2D6 for CHA).  

The requirements for the Leaders (Bloody Tusk Rune Lords) do not include CHA. See page 70 of the Glorantha Bestiaryfor more info.

For Kyger Litor, becoming a Karrg’s Son (Rune Lord) requires a CHA 18+, which pretty much limits it to Mistress Race and dark trolls. It is much easier to become a priestess in this cult, with no CHA requirement. 

For a Death Lord in the Zorak Zoran cult, the requirement is the same.

In the adventure booklet, Xiobalg is described as “ready to claim Rune Lord status on his return to the Ivory Plinth”, yet he has a Charisma of 4, suggesting the CHA 18 requirement might not apply to the cult of the Bloody Tusk.

See above. 

It’s not intended to be equitable: these harsh gods want the most charismatic leaders to serve in positions of power within their ranks. 

That said, it is ultimately your RuneQuest, your Glorantha. An exceptional character can potentially have the requirements waived through notable service to the god and/or the cult, or through some other exemplary attributes.


Becoming a Chief or High Priest (page 282)

Change in requirements

Qualify to Found Own Temple of the Cult: To do this, a Rune Priest or Rune Lord must have a minimum of 15 Rune points and 90% ability in three cult Knowledge skills. This often requires the permission of the High Priest, which is easy to get if the Priest goes somewhere else to set up the temple, and has sufficient funds to do so.

replace with 

Qualify to Found Own Temple of the Cult: To do this, a Rune Priest or Rune Lord must have the support of at least 150 lay members and initiates that will follow them to the new temple. This often requires the permission of the High Priest, which is easy to get if the Priest goes somewhere else to set up the temple, and has sufficient funds to do so.


Cult Rune Spell Use Box (page 283)

Example, second sentence changed to “She has gained the Summon Air Elemental special Rune spell directly from Orlanth.”third sentence changed to “…from that subcult, and gained Increase/Decrease Wind as a member of the Orlanth Thunderous subcult.” (Part of Second printing corrections).


Temple Sizes (page 284)

How does one set up a new shrine for a Rune cult?

The book talks about this being a thing one might be asked to do by one’s cult but only details of how to start a spirit shrine are given.

This is a task beyond any hard-and-fast rules set. You’ll need to work with your gamemaster to determine the costs of the physical location, the social/civil negotiation required to build it, the procurement of labor and materials, and the process of having a Rune Priest or God-talker come in and Sanctify the place. If in doubt, consider it a case of casting a multi-point Sanctify with Extension to last at least a year. The particular god may have requirements above and beyond these, such as Ernalda demanding an underground chamber, Yelm an eternal fire, etc. 

The upcoming RuneQuest Campaign Guide contains a bit more about temples and shrines, with some ballpark prices, but does not go into great detail.


Wyters (page 286)

Wyters spend POW instead of Rune Points to cast spells. 

Do they have a means of recovering POW other than normal POW gain rolls? If so what is it, if not what is their POW gain roll?

Until we go into more detail on wyters, assume that wyters may have POW restored by their bound priests sacrificing POW to them.

 (if they can not recover Rune Points more quickly, that would seem to make using the POW of a Wyter that way a desperation move for a community)

Exactly so. The wyter is a guardian, not a weapon.

Some of the wyters also have a separate number of Rune Points listed – what does this mean, if they don’t use Rune Points to cast spells?

Those wyters described with Rune points can use those Rune points in place of characteristic POW, and can recover their Rune points in the same fashion as adventurers. 


Chalana Arroy (page 290)

Chalana Arroy’s Favored Passion

  • Loyalty (temple) on page 74
  • Love (any) on page 290

Why does the detailed cult description lack the Loyalty (temple) ?

An oversight.

You can add any Passion at any time, if it makes sense, so if there’s an issue like this, just automatically add it at 60% (p236-237).


Engizi (page 292)

  1. Cult seems to have no Worship (Engizi) cult skill. Which is strange, because how would the cultists get their Rune Points back in that case? Is that intentional?

Oversight. They should have it.


Issaries (page 298)

Trader Prince (Rune Priest) Goldentongue Subcult (page 298)

Why are the same Enchantments that are already listed as part of Issaries Rune magic above listed once again under this subcult?

An error, delete them.


Waha the Butcher (page 306)

Shaman Membership (page 306)

“The Waha cult has shamans instead of Rune Priests. Any Waha initiate who becomes a shaman qualifies for this status.” – I am not 100% sure what I am reading here, it sounds a bit like it is saying “if you become a shaman, you’re a shaman”. I assume the distinction is that if you are an initiate of Waha and become a shaman (the same way you would become a shaman in other cults), you immediately qualify to be a Waha-shaman which is equivalent to Rune Priest level in other cults and comes with all the responsibilities below? And does that mean you could be a Waha initiate and shaman and chose NOT to take on this extra layer of responsibility or does it happen automatically?

It means that for Waha, being a shaman is the same as being a priest. They’re the same thing. You can’t pick to be one and not the other.


Yelm (page 306)

The introduction lists, in order, five subcults of Yelm: Youth, Archer, Warrior, Teacher, Elder. The following sections then detail Youth and Archer (Initiate), but the Warrior subcult (I assume that Warrior is the cult for Sun Lords, but it doesn’t say) and Teacher subcult (is that the cult for the Golden Bow shamans?) are not explicitly mentioned at all, before it returns to Elder (Rune Priest). You expect all the subcults listed by name and order as they are mentioned, in the introduction, but that doesn’t happen.

Yeah, that one’s a bit funky, and the titles aren’t represented very well in the ranks. 

  • Lay Member = Youth 
  • Initiate = Archer 
  • Rune Lord = Sun Lord / Warrior 
  • Shaman = Golden Bow / Teacher 
  • Rune Priest = Elder

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