Jeff Richard is one of the regular posters in the RuneQuest Facebook Group. here’s some of his recent RuneQuest posts, only Jeff’s replies are included where relevant. Facebook membership is required to access the originals.
As an aside, I often post notes or things that I am working on that I think people will find interesting or useful. But I am posting this material without edits or revisions – they are all notes or works in progress. If people really expect me to edit or revise such ephemera before I post it, I am probably not going to post such things.Jeff Richard, 2021
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Monomyth Art WIP V
The Monomyth is beginning to fill in! As always courtesy of the amazing Agathe Pitié!
Monomyth Art WIP IV
Humakt with Heler and a few other Storm Gods! A tiny closeup of part of the piece by the amazing Agathe Pitié.
Monomyth Art WIP III
Just so folk know what I mean when Agathe Pitié is working on a HUGE depiction of the Monomyth, here is an overview of it:
Monomyth Art WIP II
The Myth continues – the Storm Gods refuse to be put in place and Yelm is struck down by their leader, Orlanth. The Gods War rampages across Glorantha. Again, part of a huge piece by the amazing Agathe Pitié!
Missing pic to be replaced
For the Thunder Brothers are like the Maruts and accompany Orlanth to war.
The collective offspring of Orlanth are worshiped as the Thunder Brothers (which sometimes include Orlanth’s storm brothers as well). They have immense power and are his aspects, companions, manifestations, and messengers. They are very violent and aggressive, and armed with lightning and thunderbolts, or with terrible swords. They split the clouds so that rain can fall, and are capable of shaking mountains and destroying forests.The Thunder Brothers are usually shown as a collective of storm gods, numbering between three and sixty. They are often led by Vinga. They are the source of Summon Large Air Elemental.
Vinga is an incarnation of Orlanth. That can be described as Orlanth transformed or Orlanth’s daughter. All the same thing.
Will there be a Credo game version for Glorantha debating the nature of Vinga? No. Gloranthans wouldn’t even consider this a matter for debate. Whether an aspect is referred to as the god or as a child or tool of the god is a matter of poetry, not theological doctrine.And that is one of the huge problems I think we moderns have with mythology. We approach it as dogma and doctrine – or even more painful, as some kind of computer code – and forget that it is poetry.
Monomyth Art WIP I
The amazing Agathe Pitié is working on a huge spread of the Monomyth for the Cults Book. I thought you all might like a few sneak peaks of the WIP!Today’s sneak peak is from the time when the Earth Goddesses brought forth life atop the world, and when the Sky Gods were able to keep everything in its place.
New Battle Rules for RuneQuest
So last night I was play testing the new Battle Rules for RQ and Pendragon, and we opened up with the Battle of the Queens. And it was an interesting insight into how little it takes to make a bunch of Lunar magicians really kick ass on the battlefield:
1. Mindblast and Madness are two of the most devastating ranged spells in RQ. As Neil worked out, their effects are not easily dismissed (there are few magical spells that get rid of them, but Dispel or Dismiss Magic does not work). They are relatively low cost (2 Rune Points).
2. The Schools provide Discorporate – that means that the Lunar magicians can have their spirits flit around the battlefield and then launch volleys of Madness and Mindblast. A group of 50 can easily break a regiment of normal soldiers. And funny, that is pretty much exactly how the Minor Class works in WBRM.
3. Red Goddess initiates can really manipulate spirit magic in obnoxious ways, as long as they have magic points to burn. Presumably there is some means of channeling worship magic points into storage, bound spirits, and all the rest of that RQ mechanical jazz.
4. Illumination lets us work with cults that normally couldn’t be done – especially Chaotic cults. Let’s summon Thed (as a spirit cult) and do a mass volley of Fumble spells. Or something else similarly horrible.
Finally, the Red Goddess’ hero quests and followup by Lunar magicians mean the magicians might have a pretty decent “map” of how cults tie into each other. This isn’t the sort of “I know Orlanth’s kryptonite” stuff that folk on forums seem fascinated by, but far more practical stuff, like knowing that there is a deep association between Anilla and Mastakos. Not only does that get you Teleportation, but it could potentially get you driving Orlanth’s chariot!
What made me very happy about this is how nicely it dovetails with WBRM.
Madness and Mindblast are BRUTAL spells!
So Sartar has a population density of about 10 people per square km, and Lunar Tarsh about 18 people per square km. Esrolia is WAY more densely settled. North Esrolia has only about 3000 km2 (or less than half the area of Sartar), but has 500,000 people. That’s 166 people per square km. If we remove Nochet from the mix, it is still about 130 people per square km.That’s Nile Valley density. That’s the Low Countries in the Renaissance.
So everywhere you go in North Esrolia, there will be settlement and intensive agriculture. There’s no “wild land”.
Heortland, in contrast is about 38 people per km2, which gets us in the vicinity of Roman Italy. It is much more settled than Sartar, but far less than Esrolia.
So it means that Heortland under Belintar has become a settled land, with lots of village, but spaced a little further apart than Esrolia, and more on the population scale of the Sartarite clans (around 1300 on average). But most of the plateau is now agricultural land.
So in Heortland, there’s been quite a lot of deforestation on the Heortland Plateau. Since the Dragonkill War, the population of Heortland has probably more than doubled since its Second Age height.
So as we are looking at population numbers and area, it is worth looking at some of the cities:
- Boldhome: 350 hectares. Population 11,000
- Other Sartarite cities: 25 to 50 hectares.
- Population: 1200 (Alone) to 4000 (Alda-Chur).
- Furthest: 130 hectares. Population 20,000.
- Nochet: 600 hectares. Population: 100,000+
- Old Pavis: 1905 hectares(!). Population unknown.
So comparing sizes, Boldhome is a MUCH bigger city in area than Furthest. The Main City plus the West, East, and Top Pockets occupy about 100 hectares. But the whole valley is probably closer to about 350+ hectares.
As an interesting point in comparison, here’s the size of several ancient world cities:
- Alexandria: 236 hectares (not including palace or Pharos)
- Antioch: 375 hectares
- Athens: 120 hectares
- Autun: 200 hectares
- Babylon: 500 hectares
- Jeusalem: 110 hectares (including the Temple and Herod’s Palace)
- Londinium:135 hectares
- Miletus: 100 hectares
- Ninevah: 720 hectares
- Palmyra: 130 hectares
- Pompeii: 65 hectares
- Rhodes: 388 hectares
- Rome: 360 hectares (within the Servian Wall).
Of Boldhome the valley is about 350 hectares. Much of that is grassland or pasture. Think an Alpine valley like the Lauterbrunnental.
Boldhome has walls just at the mouth of the valley. he mountains ARE the walls of Boldhome.
How much of Boldhome’s area is actually livable, as opposed to cliff or hillside? About 350 hectares of valley bottom.About 350 hectares of valley bottom.
Before the Dragonrise, Boldhome had a Lunar garrison and a military commander. Shortly after the Dragonrise, it didn’t.
A few notes on Belintar that folk might find interesting:
Belintar was a wise and beneficent being, with no grudge against the innocent, and a keen mind in marshalling his resources. In the councils of Belintar, one of the seats was filled by a troll, sometimes a Mistress Race troll, sometimes a dark troll. Other seats were filled by the Orlanthi, the Ernaldans, Caladra & Aurelion, the Triolini, and the Godless.
Belintar made little material demands on the peoples around the Choralinthor Bay, only that:1. They send their tribute like everyone else. This tribute is both material and magical.2. They obey his trade laws. Local rulers must guarantee the safety of passing caravans against robbers and brigandage, they must maintain roads and bridges in exchange for tolls and taxes on transit trade. 3. Send the requisite troops to his army. The God-King maintained a small but flexible professional army and a large navy.Belintar largely let the locals rule themselves – and gave them a little boost in resources and organization. In the end, that’s all the Sixths are (and I am rapidly reconsidering use of terminology like “governor”). In each Sixth, Belintar recognized the local ruler and gave them protection and additional resources.If this looks a lot like what Sartar established in Dragon Pass, that’s because Sartar based a lot of his policies on that of Belintar. In fact, the traditional Holy Country take on Sartar is that he was the agent of Belintar who was sent to civilize Dragon Pass, but then declared independence with his own apotheosis.
THE MASTERS OF LUCK AND DEATH
Belintar is a living god in the material world. He has a divine self that has existed since 1318, and is recognized by all the gods of the Holy Country. He also has a mortal self, that lives, ages, and dies. The Tournament of the Masters of Luck and Death is held to select the new incarnation of Belintar. This is a magical contest, that sometimes has military dimensions, sometimes has gods and monsters participate and more. The winner of this contest IS Belintar but also themself. He or she gains access to Belintar’s soul, and adds their experiences, personality, and knowledge. This is not possession – more like an incredibly powerful Allied Spirit or Fetch. Upon death they become Belintar in the God World, each incarnation adding to the god.Now if this looks familiar – it is. You should immediately think of two other rulers that more or less operated this way: the Only Old One and the Red Emperor. This system worked fantastically for over a century, but I think the first creaks showed up with Sartar’s mission to Dragon Pass. Belintar violated his own trade laws in the 1520s when he allowed (or even ordered) the Kitori to seize the trade route between Dragon Pass and Karse. Nonetheless, Belintar was still able to support Dormal in the Opening – which might really be the last hurrah of the God-King. Sure he was still powerful enough to easily route the Red Emperor at the Building Wall Battle – and I think the Red Emperor was completely outclassed there – but Belintar had become stagnant, even senile, and did. not recognize how much the world had changed.Jar-eel ambushed Belintar as he performed rites in the Otherworld. Lunar spies had mapped out parts of his route and Jar-eel, a heroquester on par with the original incarnation of Belintar, dissected the God-King and hid his parts in the Lunar Otherworld. When the Tournament of the Masters of Luck and Death was held in 1616, there was no Belintar to join with.
The royal roads belong to the Prince and travelers and their property are under the protection of the Prince while they are on the road. Tolls on goods moving along the road are collected at various points, this is largest source of revenue for the Prince. For much of Sartar’s history, such revenues made the Prince richer than most Lunar satraps. At the entrance to each city and a few other toll stations (such as at Roadend and Dangerford), scribes and their guards assess a toll on the caravan. These tolls are sizeable (typically 2% to 5% of the value of the goods at each station) but ensures that the caravan can travel along the road without interference from the local tribes. A caravan traveling from Furthest to Karse might add another 50% to its costs through tolls, but can expect to still make huge profits; the tolls are the price of safety, security, and speed. Few experienced merchants complain much as long as the tolls are kept to these “reasonable” rates.If the caravan tries to avoid the toll and bypasses the road, then the local tribes can impose whatever “toll” they desire (often tribal raiders simply take the caravan goods and ransom the merchant). In addition, there are tolls on ferry crossings, bridge crossings, and market taxes. This system was maintained with varying success during the Lunar Occupation.
Belintar is gone with the commencement of the Hero Wars. Jar-eel has changed things and they will not return. Period.
And by 1621, the unity of the Holy Country is shattered. Completely.
He’s not coming back, any more than the Council of Friends can be restored. Maybe there might be something new that resembles the Holy Country (in fact I am pretty sure of that), but Belintar and his magic is gone.
It is important to keep in mind that from 1318 to 1616, the Holy Country maintained an astonishing amount of internal peace. The largest internal conflict involved the Volsaxi about a generation after Belintar became a god – which was basically the Orlanthi being Orlanthi. The Volsaxi kings quarrelled with the Durengard kings about who ruled Heortland. By 1460, that conflict had largely petered out.
But after 1616, war, disorder, and invasion came to the Holy Country. The unity is gone, and things won’t go back to how they were. The Golden Age is over and the Lesser Darkness is upon us.
So if you imagine how this system would have worked in its prime – let’s say around 1550, when Tarkalor was here.Belintar resides in the City of Wonders. This is a marvellous magical place, where the gods themselves wander freely. Beings no longer present or even possible in the mundane world can be found here. Even with the Closing, there are guests from far off lands, Teshnite and Seshnegi nobles, Lunars and others. Belintar speaks with the gods and spirits, and works to keep the divine world and the material world in harmony.It is important to think of Belintar as a priest or a living god, rather than as an administrator or politician. Belintar doesn’t have politics. He does what is necessary to keep the mundane world in harmony with the divine – while also keeping the divine world from tearing apart the mundane world. He says something – well, you just follow it. Belintar just *knows* things – secrets, mysteries, impossible stuff. And he is friendly with all the gods of the Holy Country – Orlanth, Ernalda, Caladra&Aurelion, Choralinthor, the Lightbringers, you name it (yes he has a few enemies too, but they are important to be enemies of).So if the Queen of Esrolia has a problem, she just takes the Rainbow Bridge over to the City of Wonders, and asks Belintar what to do. He’s the Great and Terrible Oz! He’s got councils, with a mistress race troll, with Wind Lords, Earth Priestesses, Twin Priests, and zzaburi. And more. Sometimes Belintar shows up in your city, with demigods and spirits in his entourage. He plants a garden or stamps his foot and a spring appears or satisfies a dozen priestesses in the fertility rites or whatever miracle is needed and then returns to the City of Wonders. He admits guests, speaks with them, and then disappears again, leaving you puzzled about what he exactly meant by that and how did he know it? There is nothing “ordinary” about him at all.
What was the Lunars issue with Belintar? Just territorial aggression that he resisted? He was a problem on every level. For most Lunar leaders, the Holy Country was a matter of growing concern since 1500 or so. The Heartlands were shipping tons of silver every year to the merchants of the Holy Country, and getting spices, herbs, wine, textiles, etc. in return. The Sartarites were getting a big cut of that silver, making them a growing threat to the Lunar Provinces. But the Holy Country was getting the rest of it.Magically, the Holy Country was a threat – it was a Proximate Realm, like the Silver Shadow or Glamour. Its presence blocked the expansion of the Glowline and stopped the rise of the Red Moon.Ideologically, it was a problem. The Lunar Empire already has a God-King who sits atop the Axis Mundi and communicates between the divine and mundane worlds. Belintar did the same – and very successfully. Given the Red Emperor’s universal claims, the presence of Belintar was intolerable.
And it should be observed that after Harrek the Berserk sacked and pillaged the City of Wonders with King Broyan’s aid, the city sank and disappeared from the world. It is no more. Like at Atlantis, it has disappeared from view.
So not only is there no Belintar, but there is no City of Wonders either.
That’s a general theme in Greg’s stories – nothing made in Time lasts forever.
Belintar, the Lunar Empire, the Council of World Friends, the Empire of the Wyrms Friends, even the Middle Sea Empire. All were examples of what mortals can do, but also examples that nothing lasts forever.
To me, this gives Glorantha great meaning and power – unlike say Middle Earth, where caretaker stewards might rule Gondor for 14 centuries, until an unbelievably distant descendant of the ruling house from over a thousand years ago shows up. First that the stewards ruled that long while keeping the steward appearance (even Rome’s republic lasted only 5 centuries before it became a Hellenistic kingdom) and second that anyone would care about Aragorn’s lineage at that point.
Senile is the word I like to use. But at some point, even Belintar is no longer balanced. The Tournament is supposed to produce an incarnation strong enough to not be overwhelmed by Belintar – but that started to break down after the Opening.
Why the hostility between the Volsaxi and the ‘Governors’ (or whatever the title is – Prince sounds likely to me)? Whitewall is the traditional cult and assembly center of the Hendriki. Durengard is the cult and assembly center of Heortland. The Volsaxi refuse to be tributaries of Heortland (although I am pretty sure they paid their tribute to Belintar after their restoration).
So if you wanted to find some way to restart the Masters of Luck and Death – I’d suggest the following steps:
- 1. Get back all the parts of Belintar that Jar-eel dissected and scattered with guardians. They are in Lunar Hells, on the Red Moon, with Yara Aranis, and in a necklace around her neck.
- 2. Lift the City of Wonders from the bottom of the bay and rebuild its wonders.
- 3. Redo the original deeds of Belintar, more or less, and gain the submission of ALL the rulers of the Sixths. And do it fast, because Harrek has a good claim to be the Ruler of the Seas, and by 1628 Argrath is one of the rulers. Not to mention Queen Samastina, who is no nostalgist.
Similarly, want to resurrect the Only Old One? Find all his parts wherever Belintar hid them. Rebuild his Palace of Black Glass.And get all the tar out of his stairway to the Underworld. All of it.
I pity any poor bastard who is trying to stop Jar-eel the Razoress on her own top-tier heroquest, supported by the all the magical resources the Red Emperor can throw behind her. You are better off trying to physically move Kero Fin.
Jar-eel is powerful enough that just a manifestation of her self is nearly powerful enough to wipe out the household of Prince Kallyr. And that’s basically her projecting herself from a great distance. She’s one of the most powerful and skilled hero questers in all of history. Think Arkat-tier.I would have trouble imagining the Earth Temple in Esrolia doing that. They’ve got bigger problems – first and foremost how to stop Harrek and his Wolf Pirates.
Being as Argrath is real close with Harrek, the *obvious* thing for Queen Samastina would be kissing and making up with what’s left of the Red Earthers, and then with the Lunar Empire?
Greg once theorized it was possible Belintar was from the future or far past. future, no. But there are hints that he might have been originally from the Second Age. Or just elsewhere. But nobody knows where he came from. And that’s important. He may have been a god learner who escaped by passing outside of time and losing all connection. He may have come from outside.His being unknown (even to himself) is a part of him. some mysteries shouldn’t be answered!
The Prince of Sartar comic strongly hints that he was Artmali No it doesn’t. I wrote it, and made no such hint. why do you have to choose an origin? Having none is key to understanding the character. Giving him one takes a key part of Belintar away. The correct answer is He is the Stranger. The Only Old One – no slouch at secrets – had all of Hell search for the answer. They failed. The moment you give Belintar an origin – he is no longer Belintar. And this is a key insight for anyone paying attention.
Sun Dome, Sartar
As an aside, it is probably worth marvelling at how remarkable an architectural wonder the Sun Dome Temple in Sartar is. With a dome approximately 30 meters in diameter, the Sun Dome Temple stands some 45 meters high, making it larger than the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. It is comparable in size to the ziggurat of Ur or Pantheon of Rome.It was far beyond the Yelmalio cult to build, let alone pay for. But was within the resources of Prince Tarkalor, the King of Dragon Pass, although it is his single greatest building feat. Greater than the tower that bears his name or the road to Whitewall or even the port of Karse.
Tarkalor was of course a great builder – he built the road to Whitewall, the road between Wilmskirk and Duck Point, financed the port of Karse, built fortifications, buildings for guilds, commoners, and the beggar’s bed-row too. And more too! But the Sun Dome Temple was likely his greatest project. And in Sun Dome County they still speak in reverence of that great prince of Orlanth Rex, Tarkalor Trollkiller.
I present to you a Shield Maiden of Yelorna by the amazing Loïc Muzy!
I think the real regret is that Yelmalio has become completely uninteresting and ineffective. That’s a very strange characterisation of Yelmalio. Yelmalio is one of the most interesting cults in Glorantha, and his heroic stand against the Darkness, wounded and bleeding, is mythologically very powerful.And just wait until you see how his cult functions in Dragon Pass. It is quite different from the hinterlands of the world.
Hero Wars Campaign
The approach is the same as in a game like Pendragon (where Arthur, Lancelot, Merlin, etc. are NPCs). Here’s the advice the forthcoming RQ Campaign book has:
We encourage you to include well-known Gloranthan characters and events in your campaign. Their presence adds to the players’ experience and lends authority and authenticity. However, their inclusion always threatens the worst. For instance, what if Gunda the Guilty is facing the adventurers in battle and happens to roll a 00, while the adventurer rolls a critical success. What should you do? Here are some suggestions:You can fudge: “Well, a blow like that would have killed any normal mortal twice over, but not the mighty Gunda!”You can invoke a deus ex machina: “Gunda reels, but a spectral armed woman rides down from the sky. Everyone make a Cult Lore lore – it is one of Humakt’s choosers of the dead! She kneels over Gunda to tell her that it is not yet time to join Death, and kisses her gently on the lips. Gunda wakes, slightly dazed.”How about surprise: “Gunda’s body falls to the ground. When you move forward to loot the body, make a Homeland Lore roll – made it? You realize this isn’t Gunda! Someone is wearing her armor and carries her weapons, but it is definitely not her!”Or do nothing. Change history. “The terrible Gunda the Guilty, boon companion of Harrek the Berserk, is dead.” And we pity the killer – as Harrek the Berserk will stop at nothing to avenge her death.You can even resurrect the character! Some characters like Argrath, the Feathered Horse Queen, Sir Ethilrist, and Jar-eel have escaped the Place of the Dead before and can do it again, others might be resurrected by their followers or community. “Sometime after the battle, you hear that Harrek traveled into Hell to rescue Gunda the Guilty and fought Death himself to do so. Despite bringing her back to the world of the living, the White Bear has announced that he shall kill everyone involved in Gunda’s death, and that he intends not only to kill them, but their families, and even their neighbors!”Most characters are dispensable anyway. Only the death of one of the five main characters would extensively change the campaign plot. And even that is not inviolate – although it does create additional work for you as your campaign will go in a very different direction without much guidance or support from published materials.Changing history requires some forethought, but nothing requires you to follow the campaign to its predestined end. You may decide to throw predestination to the wind, let any player-character become the Prince of Sartar, and maybe even allow someone else to marry the Feathered Horse Queen and become the King of Dragon Pass. In the end, this campaign is yours to decide what you make of it.
The Hero Wars themselves are the wars between Sartar and the Lunar Empire. Here’s a super quick overview:
Hero Wars Campaign Overview
The Hero Wars are thirty-year conflict that ends the Third Age of Glorantha. The player characters play adventurers amidst a massive, world-wide struggle of magic, myth, and military that spills over from the Mundane World into the Hero Wars, and even threatens the eternal stability of the Gods World. Before the struggle is over the adventures must make decisions that will affect their survival, their society, and indeed the entire cosmos.
The campaign is presented in five phases, with two phases taking place prior to the default campaign start.
Lunar Occupation (1602-1621).
This is the period of Lunar domination in Dragon Pass. The end of the phase has the Lunar Empire in seeming final triumph.
During this phase, the Lunar Empire suffers numerous reversals, while its foes seek new weapons against it.
Prince of Sartar (1625-1629).
This is the default start of the Dragon Pass campaign. The phase begins with the destruction of the Lunar Army in Dragon Pass with the Dragonrise. Sartar is liberated and Argrath rises to power. The phase ends with Argrath marrying the Feathered Horse Queen and becoming the King of Dragon Pass. This is the default starting point of the Hero Wars campaign.
King of Dragon Pass (1630-1643).
This phase sees Argrath as ruler of Dragon Pass. After nearly destroying itself with a civil war, the Lunar Empire desperately tries to recover its position but is defeated. In the end, Argrath adds the former Lunar Provinces to his empire.
Twilight of the Gods (1644-1655).
The Lunar Empire strikes back with a vengeance, using Chaos and weapons taken from strange realms. Sartar is defeated, and a desperate Argrath performs a mad Lightbringers Quest that changes the world. Nightmares awaken, sheets of ice cover much of the world, and mutual enemies recognize each themselves as mirrors of each other. The phase ends with the destruction of the Red Moon and the rise of the White Moon.
Is there going to be a Hero Wars campaign book? Yes there is. Been working on it for a couple of years. Most of it is done – once Sartar is out, I hope to finish it up to tie into WBRM. Think of it more like Boy King than the Grand Pendragon Campaign.