CHA4028 RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha – Chapter 14 Shamans Q&A

Official Answers by Chaosium

This covers Chapter 14, pages 350-364

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Spirit rune What is a Shaman?351
Spirit rune Tools of the Shaman351-352
Spirit rune Path to Shamanhood352
Spirit rune Student352
Spirit rune Assistant Shaman352-353
Spirit rune Vasana’s Saga 1627, Sea Season352
Spirit rune The Horned Man353
Spirit rune Shamanic Skills353-354
Spirit rune Axis Mundi354
Spirit rune Becoming a Full Shaman354
Spirit rune Stage One—The Departure354
Spirit rune Stage Two—The Crossing354
Spirit rune Stage Three—The Cave354-355
Spirit rune Stage Four—The Ordeal355
Spirit rune Stage Five—The Reward355
Spirit rune The Fetch355-357
Spirit rune Benefits of Being a Shaman357
Spirit rune Shamanic Abilities360-362
Spirit rune Disadvantages of Becoming a Shaman362-363

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Tools of the Shaman (page 351)

The reference to page 318 points to the Rune Spell Axis Mundi, which does not mention the Spike at all.

page 354,  top of the right column displays a boxed text with the title Axis Mundi. Am I correct, that this boxed text should be referenced in the Tools of the Shaman text instead of the Rune Spell of the same name?

Yes, the text should refer to page 354, not page 318.

Assistant Shaman (page 353)

Assistant Shaman Discorporation

Shamans can simply discorporate, everyone else can only do it with a spell. What about assistant shamans? Can they discorporate at all? And if not, how can they ever become shamans, since discorporation is part of the process of becoming a shaman? And if they can’t go on the spirit plane, doesn’t that make it a lot harder for their shamans to teach them?

Assistant shamans can discorporate through use of the Discorporate spell, whether casting it on themselves or having someone else (like their shaman) cast it on them. 

Both Daka Fal and Waha have it as one of their special cult Rune spells. That’s why. 

A full shaman may have both the Rune spell and the inherent ability, which is tremendously useful. Both take an hour-long ritual, but the Rune spell costs 1 Rune point to cast, while the special ability uses 5 magic points. Depending on the circumstance, either method might be desirable. 

Assistant Shaman get one free point of Pow per year (page 354 RQG). Is that in addition to any pow gain rolls or does it replace one of the six possible? (I would assume the sacred time one if so) 

It’s not a POW gain roll, it’s an actual free point of POW, no roll required, so in addition to POW gain rolls.

Does an assistant shaman retain their +1 spirit combat damage permanently, even if they are no longer actively acting as assistant to a shaman, and are no longer actively pursuing a career in shamanry?

If they are not actively acting as an assistant shaman:

An assistant shaman must spend 90% of their time with their mentor shaman. They may take a Loyalty (Shaman) Passion starting at 60%.

Assistant shaman, page 353

they do not get the returns in the following paragraph, including the +1. There will obviously be a roleplaying opportunity with the shaman mentor…  

Becoming a Full Shaman (page 354)

When an apprentice shaman becomes a shaman, what happens to his Loyalty: Shaman score? 

Nothing. The Loyalty is to the individual, not to the rank or the relationship. 

Becoming a Full Shaman / Stage Three—The Cave (page 354)

The fetch adds its POW to the shaman’s POW against any contests involving POW vs. POW struggles.

Stage Three—The Cave (page 355)

Does that only apply during the awakening process, or is that a power that also applies after a character becomes a full shaman?

any – ideally that should be repeated on page 356, What the Fetch Provides the Shaman.

Becoming a Full Shaman / Stage Four—The Ordeal (page 355)

The Bad Man

RQ Rune Fixes – 8th December 2019

The final ordeal to become a shaman is the confrontation with the Bad Man. The rules included only his POW and not his Spirit Combat skill. The complete stat block for the Bad Man is:

The Bad Man
POW 35
Spirit Combat 175%*

*Please note that Rune Fixes – 3rd July 2018 incorrectly lists The Bad Man’s Spirit Combat at 165% (corrected 8 December 2019)

Note: Combat with the Bad Man does not result in loss of magic points from either side. If the Bad Man wins a round of spirit combat, the would-be shaman gets a shamanic taboo. If the would-be shaman wins a round of spirit combat, they gain a shamanic ability without needing to take a corresponding taboo.

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It’s a bit difficult to follow, am I right in understanding that the shaman cannot fail this stage? It goes on for 1D6 rounds or more, the shaman gets either a Power or a Taboo each round, and that’s it?

When I first read it, I came away with the impression that you could attempt to become a shaman, fail it at the Ordeal, and then try again when your master deems you worthy again. Now, on re-reading it, once you’ve made your roll of (average of POW+CHA)×5 or whatever roleplaying satisfies the GM, that’s it. You’re going to be a shaman. The only variables are how good your Spirit Dance roll is to get a toasty Fetch, and how many times you beat the Bad Man in the ordeal.

Is that correct?

The assistant shaman can’t fail, other than to lose all of the 1D6 rounds of combat. They don’t lose any magic points. It is sorely a game of “Chicken”, to test the prospective shaman’s fortitude by seeing how many taboos they will be willing to take.

Do the shaman abilities taken cost characteristic points? I’m assuming not but it isn’t totally clear to me.

  • In Stage Four—The Ordeal, any shamanic ability received is free of cost.
  • In Stage Five—The Reward, a shamanic ability is chosen, free of cost.
  • Once the stages are complete, any new shamanic ability must be paid for.

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A few questions about the process of becoming a shaman and the ordeal in particular, so as I understand it:

  • The Horned Man has a power of 35, which translates to a spirit combat skill of 175%

The Bad Man, you mean. See page 355. It’s a common mistake.

  • So anyone fighting him in spirit combat will be fighting at there skill -75%
  • Which in most cases in a 20% or less skill for the want to be shaman vs 100% skill for horned man
  • The ordeal goes on for 1 to 6 rounds which means, which means most shamans will get around 3 restrictions and the one usual ability.

All correct, aside from Bad Man being a different entity than the Horned Man. 

  • What happens on a tied round where both pass skill?

Stalemate. Nothing happens.  Quote

  • If the shaman breaks off at the end of a round , does he fail becoming a shaman or just loose the opportunity to gain more shamanic abilities?

No further abilities or taboos are granted and the spirit combat ends. On to Stage Five. 

The Fetch (pages 355-357)

The Fetch / What the Fetch Provides the Shaman (page 356)

Can shamans fetch cast spells like allied spirit can? I mean to a different person than her own shaman… Can Fetch cast for example Protection-2 to a warrior next to shaman?

No. The shaman is in the Middle World, the fetch is in the spirit world. Unless of course the shaman has an ability such as Materialize Fetch.

Spell Strength vs POW roll

Does a shaman’s fetch’s POW add to theirs for the purposes of a Spell Strength vs POW roll?

Yes. See Stage Three—The Cave (page 355): “The fetch adds its POW to the shaman’s POW against any contests involving POW VS. POW struggles.”

The Fetch and Charisma

Part of Rune Fixes – 3rd July 2018

A shaman gains use of the fetch’s CHA for storing additional spirit magic spells. However, this does not affect the spirit combat damage done by either the shaman or the fetch, which is based on their personal CHA+POW.

Example: Vishi Dun is now a shaman and has a fetch with a POW of 11 and a CHA 18. His personal POW is now 18 and his CHA is 15. Vishi does 1D6+6 damage in spirit combat and his fetch does 1D6+1 damage.

Fetch’s Magic Point Usage

When discorporate, the shaman cannot use the fetch’s magic points to defend or attack, though they can use the fetch’s magic points to fuel spells.

A discorporate shaman does not use their fetch’s magic points for defense while traveling in the Spirit World.”

Fetch and Discorporation, page 356

The shaman may always draw upon the fetch’s magic points in spirit combat, but not for attack or defense.”

Fetches and Combat, page 356

In these sentences, I cannot understand what “attack” and “defense” means. It seems to be a legacy from RQ3. If not so, please show some examples or clarifications.

Defense = casting defensive magic to protect yourself from harm. 

Attack = casting offensive magic to cause another being harm.

Fetch’s Magic Points Recovery Rate

The fetch’s magic points regenerate at the normal rate, in parallel with the shaman’s. If the fetch’s POW is 12, for example, it regains 1 magic point every two hours.

What the Fetch Provides the Shaman, page 356

This additional POW regenerates magic points at the same rate as the shaman’s own magic point regeneration.”

Second POW, page 358

These rules seem to contradict each other. I wish you would clarify the recovery rate of the fetch’s magic points.

Use the fetch’s POW to determine the fetch’s magic point recovery rate.

Benefits of Being a Shaman (page 357)

Discorporation (page 357)

2nd paragraph, delete the sentence “Every additional magic point spent during the ritual increases the time that the shaman can remain discorporate by one hour.” (Part of Second printing corrections)

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If my discorporate shaman is hanging out in the Spirit World, can he see or interact with the Middle World?

In other words, can he discorporate, wander into a nearby cave, and return with a complete inventory of its occupants? I believe he can count the spirits and get a sense of their POW, but can he see whether that powerful spirit in the corner is a Dark Troll, a Human or a Broo? Ok, ignore the Broo, he’d sense the Chaos rune, but you get the idea.

If he wishes to engage in spirit combat, he needs to become visible in the Middle World. If he does so, does the Middle World then become visible to him?

This is up for the gamemaster to determine based on what abilities your shaman is bringing to the table. I would definitely have them sense the spirits of living beings, and would make a more detailed assessment based on circumstances. Is the shaman using Second Sight? How magically potent are the cave’s inhabitants? Are any of them Rune Masters? 

RuneQuest, page 366, covers spirit combat between entities in the Spirit World vs. the Mundane World in detail. Discorporate beings are “spirits” as discussed in the last paragraph of the first column. 

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Expanded Charisma (page 357)

How can a shaman’s fetch  improve their CHA? Can they or are you just stuck with the CHA it started with?

There are no current provisions in the rules for increasing fetch CHA.

We encourage enterprising gamemasters and players to determine possible options. 

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Learning Spirit Magic (page 357)

A shaman may learn any spirit magic spell desired (unless a specific spell is forbidden to the shaman for other reasons, such as a cult restriction or taboo) and without cost. The shaman merely goes to the Spirit World to speak with the relevant spirit, and then makes a focus for the spell. A shaman can do this once per day.

Learning Spirit Magic, page 357

How does this work for variable spells? Can my shaman pitch up in the spirit world and learn Bladesharp 15 if he wishes?

Or is there a limit on the power of these variable spells?

Yes, but each point takes up a point of CHA:

Limits to Spell Holding

Each point of spirit magic requires 1 point of CHA. An adventurer’s maximum potential spell capacity equals their CHA.

Limits to Spell Holding, page 354

The visit to the spirit world once per day is an abstraction of the whole process on page 374. It assumes that the shaman has a good knowledge of their spirit world, knows their way around and has a good collection of Spirit Vortices. The Red Book of Magic further defines what they can teach:

shamans can teach any common spirit magic spell (those costing 250 L or less, see page 109).

The Red Book of Magic page 107, From a Shaman.

This usually limits variable spells to 1 or 2 points.

Points50 L75 L100 L
150 L75 L100 L
2150 L225 L300 L
3300 L450 L600 L
4500 L750 L1000 L
5750 L1125 L1500 L
61050 L1575 L2100 L
71400 L2100 L2800 L
81800 L2700 L3600 L
Variable spell costs

In the case of Bladesharp 15, the shaman would know a very good Death Vortex and/or I would get them to do a search of the spirit world. As a suggestion, modify the Spirit rarity table on page 375 to reflect the spell cost or make up you own: 

Spirit RaritySpell CostModifier
Very common1-2+20%
Very rare12-14-30%
Unique15+ / Cult special -50%
At an appropriate spirit place(see Spirit places)+20-50%
An example

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Teaching Spirit Magic (page 358)

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?

Shamanic Abilities (page 360)

Please note that all of the Shamanic abilities are personal, so not transferable.

Soul Expansion (page 361)

delete “This improves his chance to increase POW by experience.”

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If Soul Expansion does not increase the chance to increase through experience, how does a shaman ever take advantage of the expansion? How can POW increase from 21 to 22 if the chance to increase is zero?

Is it just the “default” 5% chance?

Currently yes.

Spell Barrage (page 362)

How do Spell Barrage and the Common Divine Spell Multispell interact with each other?

They would stack, if the gamemaster allows it. 

When trying to stack them, determine which are the Multispelled spells and which are the ones due to Spell Barrage.

The Multispells are treated as separate instances and the Barrage is all-or-nothing.

Spell Extension (page 362)

Are there any conditions on this ability?

The shaman can maintain one spirit magic spell indefinitely in effect per point of Spell Extension. The shaman can drop the extended spell at any time, and recast it when desired. The spell can be dispelled normally, of course.

Spell Extension, page 362

When considering the above situation?

All of the Shamanic abilities are personal, so not transferable.

We went back and forth with our GM whether we could get the party shaman to buff 4 PCs with semi-permanent Mobility spells during travel, and several other pretty cheeky strategies.

The shaman can maintain Mobility on themselves indefinitely. Remember to have Spell Extension at level four, assuming it was their first ability would have cost (1 to 2 = 1, 2 to 3 =2, 3 to 4 = 3) 6 characteristic points.

Could a party or PC pay a Shaman to cast a spell / bless them with Strength for a whole season? If they were part of the actual party i assume it would be easier. 


Note that the Shamanic Abilities list is not inclusive, there are many other abilities possible. A version of Spell Extension that works on others should have restrictions on who the targets are (such as the shaman’s assistants only) or cost a point of POW to form a permanent bond with the shaman, etc.

Possession (page 360)

Does the Shaman gift Possession allow covert or dominant possession. I’m assuming dominant is the default but would a shaman be able to go covert and hide within the person he attacked. Once they  came round they could perhaps ride inside to penetrate a place normally protected by magical alarms or perhaps emerge to suddenly take over the body at a strategic moment? 

I think it’s pretty straightforward. Maybe future expansions to the shaman ability rules will allow for special cases like that. On the other hand, the gamemaster is well within their rights to allow it desired, such as on a critical or special success with the resistance roll.

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Does the Shaman have the same limits on using the unfamiliar body as other spirits given it’s normally a shape he’s familiar with?

No. The Shamanic Possession (p360) works on a “per hit location chart” basis so it means they’re familiar with their own rough body shape. 

Spell Extension (page 362)

Also part of (Part of Rune Fixes – 3rd July 2018)

The shamanic ability Spell Extension allows a shaman to maintain a spirit magic spell indefinitely until the shaman chooses to drop the spell. The shaman cannot forget a spell while it is being maintained with the Spell Extension ability.

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Is that shamanic ability for a specific spell named at the point of taking the ability or can it be used for any spell, chosen when casting it? 

It’s not tied to a specific spell. Just one at a time.

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