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
Newest at top, oldest at bottom.
An interesting snippet on Homeric kingship directly of relevance to Orlanthu tribal kingship:
The terms basileus and basileia are usually translated as “king” and “queen,” but not correctly so, if “royal” persons from dynasties are understood. In the epics, a dynastic context applies only to Priamos in Troy (Il. 20.215–41) and, in Greece, at most to Nestor (Od. 11.241–54, 281–6) and Agamemnon (Il. 2.100–8), whereas the majority of the basileis, like Achilleus, Diomedes, and Odysseus, hold their positions as a result of personal efforts, capacities, and wealth. They are best in war and in council and they maintain networks with other basileis outside of their own realms. Within those realms, they are not the only “kings.” Other leading men hold the same title, though they are personally inferior.11 The idea of a ruling dynasty seems so insignificant, say on Ithaka, that Odysseus’ son is not even a candidate for the leading position at first (Od. 1.394–8). So the term basileus does not assume our concept of monarchy but depends on the ideology of the “best” man.
As an aside, most Gloranthan gods are not viewed as moral exemplars by their worshipers. Orlanthi readily acknowledge that when Orlanth used Death on Yelm that was a Bad Thing (although we cheer him on anyways!). That deed broke the world, and ultimately, Orlanth went on the Lightbringers Quest to restore the world.
Even the Lunars acknowledge that the Red Goddess did things with Bad or Dangerous consequences. These deeds might have been necessary (like Orlanth killing Yelm – the Emperor needed to die for the cosmos to develop), but they weren’t Good.
In short, few Gloranthans worship the gods because they view them as their moral superiors (indeed many mortals consider themselves morally superior to the gods). They worship the gods because they are powerful entities that define the cosmos and can aid and protect you, and if you don’t worship them, you better have other protectors.
This is a hard thing for many modern Westerners to wrap our minds around. Surely Orlanth must be morally superior to us to be King of the Gods? Well not really – he’s king of the gods because he is powerful and has allies among all the Elements and Powers.Now Orlanth is morally superior to most other gods because he did undergo the Lightbringers Quest. That’s a BIG deal. In the end, he made compromises other gods might not have – and he changed as a being. But that’s after he made himself king of the gods and all that jazz.
Humanities complaints that the gods aren’t fair is as ancient as humanity itself. Wisdom literature then often smacks humanity with a “how quaint it is that you attempt to measure Nature itself with your artificial ethical yardstick,” and then the gods smack humanity again.
So to say Zeus is a jerk is beside the point. You ever seen a tornado up close or been in a strong earthquake? Is the tornado a jerk when it destroys my house? Especially if it might have been possible for me to make sure that the tornado didn’t destroy my house by regularly offering Mr. Tornado God a sheep or two?
I might still say that – and we have plenty of examples of people in the ancient world doing just that – but our ancient world magic wasn’t as effective as our imaginary Gloranthan magic!
Yes, you forgot to give Mr. Tornado god his due. Or you blew off his priests. Or any of the ways the gods get offended.
What we all know is that Mr. Tornado God doesn’t decide not to smash your house because you are such a swell moral person but because you gave Mr. Tornado God his due. And you might be a swell person and REALLY piss off Mr. Tornado God.
The point of all of this is that Gloranthans generally don’t expect their gods to be moral exemplars. They expect them to be powerful, useful, and to honour the bargains you make with them.
I’ve been in plenty of earthquakes, a flash flood or two, near a tornado (in rural Oklahoma), and a volcanic eruption as a kid. I have a good idea what annoyed gods can do!
Humakt strictly follows his code of honor regardless of cost to himself or others. He brings death, often without mercy or concern for ties of kinship or friendship, He revels in war and destruction, and is the reason that all mortals will die. He sure as heck is not Neil Gaiman’s goth Death.
This may be my single most repeated used reference picture in all of RuneQuest.
I present to you the Monomyth, illustrated by the amazing Agathe Pitié. Look at this wonder and be astounded!And it will be a fold-out in the Cults Book. Along with all the amazing pieces by Loïc Muzy. And more. We are getting near!
Although we say Agathe was the artist, in truth this piece decorated the Royal Palace of Boldhome. The real artist is unknown. Based on the content and theme, I believe it was commissioned circa 1630 by the King of Dragon Pass, although the heavy Esrolian influences support the idea that this is an earlier piece, from perhaps the reign of Tarkalor or Terasarin. However, based on the similarity this fresco has with the Boldhome Codex, I still think a later date is correct. But who really knows?
In this piece, we can see the full story of the Gods Age, made up of countless smaller stories that we can combine together.
Now this is how I see Gloranthans viewing their cosmos. You might be an initiate of Orlanth but you acknowledge the existence and power of an entire tapestry of deities. You accept more than “just” the myths of your god, but an entire kaleidoscopic array of mythic deeds that made the world what it is.
This an aspect of polytheism is something many modern Westerners have difficulty with – grasping the idea that there are many many gods. I might have my “personal deity” but I acknowledge and accept the existence of countless others – including deities that might be enemies of my own personal deity.
And the Monomyth is nearly complete, courtesy of the amazing Agathe Pitié!!!!
Today is the first day of Spring, and so Voria gives you her blessings! By the magnificent Loïc Muzy for the Cults Book.
On another forum people were asking how the militia trains. I think the answer is interesting enough that I’d turn it into its own post rather than have it hidden in comments (I really should do that more often).The militia musters together each Fire Season and learns to fight together. They aren’t drilled so much as learn how to gather together in groups, how to fight with sword and shield (this is organised by the Orlanth cult after all), how to march in groups, etc. They have foot races, wrestling matches, boxing, swimming contests, and other athletic competitions. They engage in mock single and group sparring contests, with anywhere from one to ten contestants on a side. The wealthy engage in hunts from horseback or chariot races. The tribal king oversees this, participates in it – and there are many opportunities to bond with the tribal war leaders.During this period, the tribal assembly is held. So you can see that there is going to be a bias towards the tribal king at the assembly – but if the tribal king is a poor war leader or otherwise has upset the rank and file of the tribal militia, this can be really disastrous.The next season, many of these same youth participate in games to honour and please the Earth Goddess. That’s your real contests where you might get a wife or husband, or win some prize from the Earth Priestesses!
But you can imagine there are these athletic competitions, contests, and mock combats going on in every valley in Sartar during the summer. Some tribes might give prizes that attract spectators.
In early Earth Season, a biennial competition is held to celebrate Orlanth’s wooing of Ernalda. One of the events is to run along the royal road from Two Hour Town to Boldhome wearing full armor. Those who can make the race in two hours or less are given great honors.
I think the biggest thing they do is compete, spar, and get used to doing things in groups. So lots of sword fighting (with wooden weapons), javelin throwing, wrestling, boxing, pushing games, foot races, etc.
You spend much of Fire Season doing militia service – patrolling, etc. But the tribal muster is probably only a week or three, and is combined with the tribal assembly (and may have once upon a time been the same thing). Then you go back to your village.Then in Earth Season, you see many of your tribe again when you go to the Earth Temple for festivals celebrating the goddess. But that is again for only about a week at most.
The “Elmal cult” (aka Yelmalio) is not involved in training Orlanthi militia.
Clans group together as a tribe for matters of war.
A free man is expected to own a sword and shield. Yes, spears are trained as well, but those without a sword are looked down upon.
A sword is something that is likely passed down from generation to generation. It is a mark of being a free household – that someone has a sword and can use it.
SARTARITE TRIBAL ASSEMBLIES
King of Dragon Pass and Thunder Rebels presented Sartarite tribal assemblies as pretty standardised events, like some small town city council meeting. However, in truth there’s little difference between a Sartarite tribal assembly and the militia mustering.
Able-bodied adults are required to perform labor or military service on behalf of the clan. Service is typically owed to the clan chieftain, who in turn owes it to the tribal king, and on to the Prince.
Representatives of the clans meet in assembly with their king and tribal council. This coincides with the militia gathering, and the clan militias often attend the assembly. So if you want to think about what happens at the tribal assembly – you have the militia mustered, led to the assembly place by their chiefs. The militia – along with any other free members of the tribe – meet in assembly with the king and the tribal council, who offer sacrifices to Orlanth Rex and the tribal guardian (wyter). Disputes are raised and resolved, but a big part of what happens is a ceremony showing the connection between the assembled people and their tribal leaders. The assembled people then do their militia service or labor for the benefit of the tribe. What is important is this is the one time of the year all the free members of the tribe can assemble AS the tribe – it is a sort of political ceremony, that reinforces their communal identities as members of the tribe.If you assume every free member of the Colymar tribe shows up, that’s a little over 6100 people. I personally imagine it normally about half that or less.As these are Orlanthi, the assembly meetings vary wildly in nature and decorum. Sometimes the assembly has the real power, sometimes the tribal king has the real power. Sometimes the assembly is raucous and uncontrollable; sometimes it is just a rubber stamp. Sometimes the assembly threatens to kill the leaders; other times they tolerate no dissent. Sometimes the assembly tells the leaders no; more often the assembly and the leaders are in some sort of agreement. Sometimes votes are counted; more often it is based on shouts and spear-waving. During the reign of King Kallai Rockbuster, the Colymar assembly tended to follow whatever the king wanted. They’d gather, show off their weapons, and cheer on the king. During Leika’s first reign, it was more unruly and confrontational. There were more obvious divisions within the assembly, and they were more vocal. Ultimately a faction ended up forcing her out and exiling her in favour of Kallai’s son Blackmor. In Leika’s second reign she is much more cautious about the assembly and careful coopts it.But remember, the assembly always includes hundreds, maybe even thousands of armed militia. And most of the time, they vote by banging their weapons. So they are not a group to take lightly. And meanwhile you also have the women of the community – the priestesses, the wives, the mothers, etc. I suspect that they ululate in support or opposition, and urge on the warriors one way or another. And meanwhile the tribal council are typically some of the most magically powerful members of the community. In short, I can imagine that most assembly meetings are ceremonial, but when they go bad, they can quickly go VERY bad.
I used to serve as a Special City Attorney for a number of small municipalities. Needless to say, the idea of doing those meetings in front of hundreds, maybe thousands, of armed men, and with proud women pushing them on, would be challenging! And keep that in mind when it comes to tribal politics.
Which is why these Orlanthi leaders need to demonstrate their martial bona fides – if they successfully lead these warriors in battle they are more likely to follow them. And show up with armed retainers and priests.And the importance of giving out gifts! But of course that means you need to have gifts to give out. Which is a big resource the Prince has – plenty of goods and money!
Now keep in mind that city assembly meetings are like this as well. And potentially more contentious. So you can see what the Princes of Sartar have to deal with! and that means that Orlanthi politics are as turbulent as their gods.
So these assemblies are part religious ceremony, part market and law court, but at their core is a big event where the tribe displays itself as a tribe.
Now Sartar as a whole doesn’t have that happen very often. Arguably Kallyr did that in Sacred Time 1625 with her Short Lightbringers Quest. She doesn’t muster the “nation” again.Argrath likely has to confront a mustered Sartarite “nation” in 1627 when he arrives in Boldhome, and again in 1628 when he prepares to march into Tarsh.
The Orlanthi have very few slaves. But they do have a fair number of “semi-free” people. Mainly tenants, labourers, and other folk without strong kinship alliances or property.
This is a person who is not property but is not a full free member of the community. A client of another person is typically semi-free as they are not independent of their patron. They are bound to their lands or professions, or work somebody else’s land, livestock, or workshop and are usually unable to leave without permission of their lords. They do have some legal rights and are protected by their patrons.
Well if you have a courtyard 200 meters square, you could gather every Orlanth initiate in Sartar, and give them room to clang their weapons and shout.City Court in New Pavis is big enough for 2500 people to assemble beneath the Pavis Temple. The People’s Square in Boldhome is big enough for every Orlanth initiate in the kingdom to assemble outside of the King’s Court.These assemblies are not necessarily intended for participatory democratic meetings!
Orlanthi assemblies are not some kind of Athenian democracy – they are where the community gathers, with weapons, and their leaders find out if they have support.
This is why Orate is an Orlanthi cult skill.
A little preview of a world full of gods. By the amazing Agathe Pitié of course. A little less than half of the monomyth here.
Wow, just got in some of the newest art for the Sartar Book. If you think Ossi Hiekkala‘s mercenary picture (attached) was good, then WOW you are in for a treat!
The Sartar book will have the definitive look on the Sartarites – and presents them as being their own culture. Also I have already learned things from the art!
For example, purple is associated with power and authority. This dates back to the EWF (and maybe even the HCLG).
You can really tell a Sartarite’s status by their clothing. Except when you can’t!
It is one of those general rules, with some pretty remarkable exceptions. So in general, a Sartarite advertises their social status with their clothing and jewellery. An Earth Priestess or tribal king is immediately apparent. The wealthy display their wealth – it is a thing of pride.BUT… there are some cults or religious reasons to do the opposite. The Wind Lords that go totally naked (although they usually display their status through jewellery). The powerful Swords of Humakt who cover themselves in ashes. And that sort of thing – but they are advertising their religious devotion through the absence of normal status markers.
Visually there is pretty much nothing Scottish about them.
Hrestol was the Ascended Man, son of Froalar, last of the Secret Keepers, and of Xemela, He is the great hero of the West and was born during the God Time. During the Great Darkness, Hrestol prayed to the Unknown God, who sent the gods to destroy the Devil and bring forth the Dawn. A year after the Dawn of Time, Malkion appeared to Hrestol, then a noble warrior of Seshnela in the service of his father. With the wisdom he gained, Hrestol killed the goddess Ifttala, the daughter of Seshna Likita and mother of the Pendali people. Hrestoli died, was judged in the Underworld, and made his way back to the world of the living. He was banished from Seshnela for his crimes but accompanied in exile by the best of his people. Hrestol traveled to Brithos, Akem, and the Vadeli islands, teaching his insights to all who would listen.Hrestol taught that the old Malkioni philosophies were destructive to man’s eternal soul and happiness. He taught how to achieve eternal Joy through unity with the Invisible God. Hrestol shook off the old limitations of caste that Zzabur demanded, in favor of the deeper truths of the world, and became the first Man of All. All modern sects of the Malkioni stem from Hrestol’s original contact with the Eternal World.Most modern Malkioni are lay members of Hrestol’s cults; comparatively few initiate to his cult, even in Loskalm. The cult imposes a stringent code on its initiates and demands that they:
1. Uphold justice and fight injustice. The Hrestoli ultimately must determine what is Just and what is Unjust, and fight for what is Just. This includes an obligation to protect the weak (especially women and children) from the strong, but generally excludes barbarians and the Elder Races; indeed this obligation is often celebrated by fighting monsters or Krjalk. Justice is considered more important than such virtues as Loyalty.
2. Sacrifice oneself for the good of others. A Hrestoli is expected to sacrifice themselves to uphold Justice.
3. It is the responsibility of mortals to make a world they can live in.
This creed was formed in the early Dawn Ages when humans were weak and few. Its focus is always towards humans, their survival and later their dominance, rather than on co-existence or cooperation with the rest of the cosmos.Initiates of Hrestol do not lose RIGHTNESS when they violate caste restrictions in the service of Justice. Hrestol is associated with Runes of Man and Magic.
Initiates may sacrifice POW for Rune Points. Hrestol provides the special Rune spells of Dismiss Magic, Shield, and Spirit Block.
This is not for the cults book but for later.
Ultimately, the reason people follow Hrestol’s path is the same reason Hrestol himself did – in order to make sure Justice is not sacrificed to Caste.
Initiation into the Invisible God cult is a prerequisite for full membership in Malkioni society. Initiation follows several years of caste education and training. Each caste has their own set of rituals,Once a person initiates into a given caste, they cannot join a different caste – except by means of the Hrestol cult.
Each caste has duties and restrictions which must be maintained to remain a member of the caste. This is represented by the RIGHTNESS characteristic for Malkioni initiates. Initiates start with a RIGHTNESS of one. RIGHTNESS may have a score greater than one, representing the initiate’s reserve of righteousness. If a character’s RIGHTNESS is less than zero, that character may no longer use any caste magic or special abilities and risks being thrown out of their caste and exiled from Malkioni society.RIGHTNESS may be increased by adherence to caste duties and restrictions in adversity in ways that create difficulties for the character and make the game more entertaining. Examples include a talar refusing to perform menial labor even though their survival might depend on it, or a dronar refusing to touch a weapon even in self-defense. The gamemaster should not award RIGHTNESS for good dice rolling, simple puzzle solving, ordinary combat successes or any other of the minor accomplishments that might occur during the course of a session.RIGHTNESS should be reduced by the gamemaster for transgressions against any caste duties and restrictions.For each circumstance, the gamemaster should warn the player that a given action will result in an increase or decrease in RIGHTNESS. If the player insists, then RIGHTNESS should be adjusted accordingly.Initiation into the cult of Hrestol can mitigate this, as a Hrestoli initiate does not lose RIGHTNESS for any action that upholds the Hrestoli code. However, if they violate their caste restrictions in a way that does not uphold the Hrestoli code, they still lose RIGHTNESS.
EXPULSION FROM CASTE
A character with a zero RIGHTNESS characteristic is no longer in good standing with their caste and cannot use any caste special abilities (such as a talar’s Forced Command ability or a zzaburi’s ability to store magic points in the Spirit World) until their RIGHTNESS is positive.A character with a negative RIGHTNESS may be expelled from their caste by their elders. If this happens they are no longer accepted as members of Malkioni society. If they can get their RIGHTNESS back to positive, they can submit themselves to caste elders to be brought back (this is often called “Return to Rightness”). The elders may impose penances, fines, and other punishments as a condition for return. Until then they are viewed as outlaws, barbarians, or even krjalki (monsters) by other Malkioni.Some sects do not permit a character to return to their caste once expelled. For the Brithini, expulsion is permanent and always results in death.
CASTE RESTRICTIONS AND SPECIAL ABILITIES
Each caste has restrictions which must be followed to maintain their RIGHTNESS. Some castes have special abilities – magical abilities of the caste members. If they are expelled from the caste for any reason, they lose all special abilities of that caste.
RUNE SPELLS AND DIVINE INTERVENTION
Unlike other cults, the Invisible God does not provide Rune spells, Divine Intervention, or allied spirits.
From time to time it is worth reinforcing the scale of Dragon Pass and the Holy Country. So basically, Dragon Pass is about the size of Northern California from the south shore of Lake Tahoe up to the Oregon border.
So at the beginning of the Third Age, imagine plenty of refugees fled from the Sacramento Valley to Sacramento and down to places like Stockton or San Francisco, similarly plenty of folk fled from the coast to places like Medford. That’s the scale we are operating on. These refugees spend the next two centuries in Esrolia and Heortland – and may not have been the ancestors of the people who returned to resettle Dragon Pass in the 1300s and 1400s. They aren’t keeping some giant notebook about the secrets of ancient tribes from a thousand or two thousand years ago. They might have the equivalent of Claudius Ptolemy’s Geography, with the names of places from the Second Age, but these are just names, with little attached to it:
And so those early settlers might have referred to Ogorvaltesland, Storn, and Selkos – pretty quickly they replaced those names with more useful ones: Balmyr, Colymar, the Far Place.
But now it is centuries later, and those old names are largely forgotten, except by a few sages and scribes.
So in this map, Nochet is placed at about San Francisco. Sacramento is somewhere around in the Stygian Marshes north of the Shadow Plateau (which seems right to me). Heortland is out in the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas. Stormwalk Mountain is somewhere in Yosemite National Park.Kero Fin is somewhere in rugged Plumas County. and it looks like the Shaker Temple is somewhere near Mount Lassen (also seems appropriate). Furthest is somewhere around Mount Shasta, and Mirin’s Cross is at Grant’s Pass.Whitewall is at Lake Tahoe – which is a world away from San Francisco. Clearwine is somewhere in the Sierra Valley, and Boldhome itself would be east of Reno. Dagori Inkarth is out in the Black Rock Desert (also seems right to me). Pavis County is somewhere out in the wastes of central Nevada.And Arcata is deep in upland Aggar!
KETHAELA – THE THIRD AGE
After the Dragonkill War, the Only Old One proved himself to be a troll in magical contest with Kajak-ab Brain Eater and so shared rule of Dragon Pass with the leaders in Dagori Inkarth. This led eventually to the first troll civil war in Dragon Pass which weakened the Shadowland trolls greatly. The westerners called upon Lightbringer worshipers to free them from the Shadowlands and again the troll region declined in size. With both seas and Dragon Pass closed to all useful trade, Kethaela was surrounded by poor kingdoms whose residents viewed the Shadowlands as rich prey. Internally, the humans of Kethalea fought amongst each other over the rich fields of Esrolia, until that conflict sputtered out in 1168. Though much of the former richness was gone with the absence of trade, much of value was carried off in plunder during those years. Yet no one invasion was more significant than the appearance of a single, lone stranger.Belintar was a human being who swam ashore from the deadly sea at the Rightarm Island of Sindpaper one bright morning in the year 1313. He had great bearing and power, and quickly proved he was no mere pauper washed ashore. He undertook great trials and travels, and he made important friends quickly. His origins have remained unknown, though all hell knows that the Only Old One tried.Belintar revealed that he had come to depose the Only Old One and liberate the land from darkness. He did this through the process of mustering ancient allies on Heroquests and opposing the magical forces which aided the Only Old One. Belintar called forth many of the Silver age heroes, plus others of a more recent or different origin. The process was long and difficult. At one point, Belintar was slain and completely devoured. But in the end, he succeeded. He met the Only Old One himself in combat and cast him down and cut him into pieces. Then he pulverized the Palace of Black Glass, covering all the Shadow Plateau with dense, heavy black sand which smothers most life. He made other changes in the land too: raising Loon Island and creating the City of Wonders in the center of the Mirrorsea; digging the New River to divert the Creek-Stream River to flow into the Lyksos River past Nochet, among others. He then took the title of God-King and began his rule.The ascension of the God-King in 1318 also marks the beginning use of the term Holy Country to describe this land. Belintar first used it in his proclamation of rule and the tribes all about echoed it, for the land was kept holy by the rites arranged by the God-King. It prospered internally and cowed all who might think to invade it. It sent messengers and merchants outward to the west, through Nimistor to Ralios and beyond.The Holy Country contained many old secrets which people sought. The investigations of the Jrusteli and the Empire of the Wyrms Friends had unleashed terrible powers which changed the face of the world. Heroquesting had explored and released many ancient things which were blamed for the terrible state of life in the Third Age. Thus, most people shied from investigation and heroquesting. Yet such forces cannot be suppressed by official decree nor unnatural fear once they are remembered, and folk across the continent again used them, carefully.In contrast, Belintar encouraged exploration of the mythic paths that tied the Holy Country together. Belintar himself explored the Other Side many times and each time proved himself worthy of ruling over a part of the population. He divided the Holy Country into six sections – one dedicated to each of the five Elemental Runes, plus one for the Invisible God of the humanist sorcerers. None were equal in either size or splendor, yet each of them were filled with miraculous holy places whose names are known throughout the speaking worlds. They were:Caladraland, the Sixth of Fire;Esrolia, the Sixth of Earth;Heortland, the Sixth of Air;Right Arm Islands, the Sixth of Water;Shadow Plateau, the Sixth of Darkness; andGod Forgot, the Sixth of the Invisible God.At the center of it all was Belintar and his magical palace at the City of Wonders. From here, he arranged the rituals and ceremonies that tied the Sixths together and blessed the whole land.The extensive cross-cult communication and interaction under Belintar’s patronage resulted in a mythical synthesis that defined the elemental progression as a continuous cycle rather than as a mere set of oppositional conflict. Belintar’s elemental synthesis enabled the six parts of the Holy Country to work together – not only politically and militarily, but magically and mythologically. Under his enlightened rule, the gods of the Holy Country cooperated for the maintenance of the individual, the Holy Country, and the cosmos. The Holy Country became a land of myth and wonder, where the myriads of religious rites brought the gods down weekly, and where magical roads crossed land, sea, and air.In 1336, Belintar “used up” his body the first time and the first of the Tournament of the Masters of Luck and Death was held, which resulted in his divine soul blessing a new body. The Tournament of the Masters of Luck and Death was part of Belintar’s elemental synthesis. It recharged and made necessary changes to the magical pathways that united the Holy Country’s mythological landscape.Although the seas had closed, the merchants of Ralios still desired goods from the Holy Country. Bold adventurers set out from Ralios, through Pralorela, and eastward through Maniria, toward the fabled Holy Country. Over the years they settled several strongholds to look out for their interests. Over time they came to terms with their neighbors, either by conquest, absorption, or assimilation. A series of old chivalrous families, called the Trader Princes, held a chain of forts stretching from Bastis to Esrolia. Their farmers retain their worship of Orlanth without rancor towards (or interference from) their Malkioni overlords.Dragon Pass had been closed to all humans by a powerful draconic curse in 1120, and since that time only non-humans had lived there. The Beast People, a polyphyletic people, were allies to the Only Old One and fought for him against the usurper, Belintar. When Belintar won and became God-King, the Beast People, like many others, chose to withdraw and observe from the safety of the curse in Dragon Pass.What is interesting is that their hero, Ironhoof the Centaur, had already allowed some humans to dwell within their area. He had dubbed them the Grazeland Pony Breeders, and they were a peaceful people who loved horses above all else in the world. Whether this was known to the Only Old One is not known, but the God-King’s scouts who entered the land in 1325 were quite surprised. Ironhoof claimed that the human presence was an example of his personal magic, and that the God-King would do well to stay out of Dragon Pass. Belintar agreed, and the Stone Cross was erected to mark the boundary. Ironhoof was very proud and gained much fame for this, but the God-King never exhibited any territorial aggression and was pleased to have the Grazelanders and the Beast People as his allies to the north.More settlers in Dragon Pass came from Heortland and Esrolia. Many of the Orlanthi sought to worship their gods without Belintar’s interference. Some gathered at the ancient sacred fortress of Whitewall and rebelled. Others left Heortland and resettled Dragon Pass. Dragon Pass was eventually filled by other people as well, migrating from the north. They founded the kingdom of Tarsh in 1330 and fought a famous war against the growing Lunar Empire. During this time, the God-King resisted several invasions, and proved the immense power of his land. Belintar insisted upon strict neutrality in all things. Tarsh agreed, and so the Holy Country became a tacit ally.Other kingdoms rose and resisted the Lunar Empire for a time, but Tarsh fell in 1490. Belintar supported Sartar’s quest to become King of Dragon Pass, and he aided that kingdom against the Lunar Empire. So, the neutrality of the Holy Country came, once again, into question. But this time there was a new factor, for the seas were now open.Dormal the Sailor was an intrepid hero, fostered by the benevolence of the God-King’s rule. Upon the researches of others, he dared to brave the deadly seas. Others had tried often, and always failed, before him. Many methods had been tested. Dormal, with the guidance of his friends and the divine guidance of his heart, tried and succeed.Dormal maintained that his success was built upon a few simple factors, and as long as they were maintained then other men could sail as he did. These factors include: ship design, a particular stout ship with sails; propitiatory worship, especially to the Water gods; and formal cooperation among the crew. Dormal drilled these things into his followers and, in 1580, sailed out from the City of Wonders west to the city of Handra, went across the ocean to the Three Step Isles, and navigated back to the Holy Country. A second fleet was built, and the hero went again to Handra to teach them his secrets. From there he sailed further westward, and Dormal the Opener spread his knowledge along the coast. His secrets were quickly institutionalized to become the Dormal cult, and the hero sailed westward into the sunset and legend. His followers continued onward, often with less pure motivations that their founder, and human navies once again roamed the waters of Glorantha.The original fleet built by Dormal remained in the Holy Country. When Dormal left Handra, the Holy Country fleet sailed in, proclaimed the laws of the sea as determined by their fleet and magic, and proceeded to stake claim to the waterways of the area. Their claim extended westward and south to the coasts of Ramalia and the Three Step Isles, and to whatever eastward lands their exploratory vessels discovered. Colonies were established in Teshnos and Jrustela. However, after a fleet was sunk by the Kralori in 1588, Belintar decreed that his navy would conquer no more.
And what’s going on in Maniria, you might ask.
The early Third Age was spent stabilizing the lands from the disasters that ended the Second Age. As is common in such turmoil, Chaos found the opportunity to strike and grow. Mallia spread wide her maw, broo raped their way to strength, and a small ogre kingdom tried to gain ascendancy along the Vankthi River before being smashed by otters, newtlings, and an unusual collection of werebeast magicians summoned for the special occasion.The people sorted themselves into four generalized groups of people, based primarily upon their region and favorite deities. They spoke the same language and knew generally of their common heritage, but thought more of their immediate concerns rather than long-range ideals.The first group were the coastal and island dwellers. They were mostly survivors from the sinking of Slontos and eked out a poor living with farming. Herding was more successful, but failed to provide enough wealth to support cities. The ruins of Hermat, an ancient Pralori city in ages past, were used as the seat of power. Their favorite god was Voriof, the Herding God, and Humakt was their god of war.The second group were the tribes of the Noshain River through the fens. They favored Orlanth as King of the Gods, though they had no king themselves. They could not afford to worship the lesser deities of the Lightbringer Pantheon. They were, however, friends with the cult of Noshain, god of their river. Noshain’s cult was exclusively in the control of the otters who guaranteed or withdrew protection of the humans’ rafts and canoes. The playful otters did not bother to oppress with their position of superior communications, and so the peoples were peacefully knit together, plagued only by their daily lives and human jealousies.The third tribe was the Sarbosi River peoples. They lived in tiny hamlets within the marsh and along the lower river, and in fishing villages along the higher, dryer portions. Their favored deity was Sarboai, the River God that they loved, but they also offered great propitiatory rites to the nameless Spirit of the Marsh, a formless and fearful entity which could control the mud sharks, crocodiles, will o wisps, giant frogs, giant herons, giant whirligigs, eerie mists, dense fogs, and mysterious sounds. It was the Spirit of the Marsh who caused the land to turn to reed and reed to turn to water in the spring, and then change all of the channels of a well-known river when no persons were there to know.The fourth group were the conservative Pralori in the dryer parts of the region, living in small bands and following the herds of elk from hill to lowland each year. They still worshiped Pralor and Foundchild the Hunter God, and trusted shamans to keep them safe from trouble.These groups spoke with the same accent, and they preferred to cut their meat in certain ways, or to use different rites in propitiatory sacrifices. But disunity was their most common feature. The Noshain group had at least twenty chieftains who each swore to his own independence, while the traditionalists in the hills were uncountable family bands who met and dissolved according to season or occasion. Their fractured independence was common to all of them.Southward, beyond the rugged Soft Hills, the land of Ramalia was a larger grouping of Slontan survivors. The region was untouched by the disasters, but refugees and raiders had reduced their population. Many kinglets, often bearing ancient titles, waited in their quiet land, listening to philosophers wonder at their sorry fate, and each year beggared themselves with expensive sacrifices to the terrifying ocean in hope that they would be spared their ancestors’ fate.To the west Tarnin’s Forest had grown in strength. The Aldryami reached from the Soft Hills to the southern edge of the Noshain River and New Fens.The Elk Hills were, as before, the hunting grounds for barbarians from Pralorela and from Helby in Ralios.To the east were the Wenelian barbarians. They were mostly forest dwellers, descended from mixed Pralori, Entruli, and Slontan stock. They were mainly Lightbringer worshipers.Handra Liv was a slave from a land in Ralios, sold as a child to a boatsmith and as a youth to a boating company. She spent years at the oar, plying the rivers and lakes of Ralios until she and her fellows were swept up in the slave revolts of 1150 which swept the lakes of Ralios. Handra was one of thousands who plundered Helby and one of hundreds who managed to escape two years later when heavy horsemen arrived to settle the dilemma. Handra led a loyal band southward through the Elk Hills where some of them found their old people. Handra lived for a while among the traditional Elk peoples, but could not resist the call of the Sarboai River.Handra went to a place she blessed as the Source of the River, and there found a shrine to Diros, God of Boats. This was also the ancient place where Diros had left the waters to trek overland, and so was already powerful with the spirit. Handra Liv then proceeded downriver, pointing to trees which Diros had shown her in a vision. These were chopped down and sent floating upon the river. Where they all landed was decreed another holy place, and that is the high point boats can sail, called Highwater. There Handra Liv built a boat from the wood she had gathered, and Diros was pleased to see another shrine set up. Then Handra sailed downriver to the mouth of the Sarboai, where it joins the Noshain. There she called together all the people and beings she could find, and together they made a wonderful floating temple to Diros. Handra taught people how to make better boats, and how to worship the boat god. She pleased the otters by making them supreme River Priests in their river, with no other race allowed, though other races are priests on the tributaries.Handra Liv then sailed downriver with many craft, until they lost sight of both riverbanks and though they must be entering the dreaded ocean. The waters were both muddy and salty when the flotilla was attacked by a kraken and half the loyal boatmen lost. The magical effects of Zzabur’s curse took effect then as they abruptly found themselves sailing towards their river again.There were some islands nearby and Handra Liv instructed everyone to land on them. They erected another temple to Diros there, the Mouth of the Noshain. The river god answered his summons, and told the prayers which he and Diros had once before made 270 kilometers away from there. A new pact was made, and Handra Liv was awarded High Priesthood of the Noshain.Handra Liv ruled for 93 years. By that time there were many boats plying their ways along the rivers, aided and guarded by proper worship of the gods. Trade, meager as it was, moved along the waterways. Towns grew up, especially in the northern regions around Highwater where good trekked overland from Ralios.
About the year 1300 a previously sporadic trade emanating from the east, past Wenelia, began steadily entering the New Fens. This was carried overland by Issaries merchants from the Holy Country. This was an unheard of place, but people soon learned that a stranger had swum ashore from the inhospitable seas and, with much labor and several lives, established himself as a God-King, of the region and instituted a new way of life. The Shadowlands, which had been ruled by the Only Old One and his trolls since before the Dawn, was cast down forever.Highwater became an important post along this land-based route. It was also the first site to fall to the adventurous nobles from Ralios who sought to get rich on the route. These Trader Princes established bases through the north of Pralorela and Wenelia to the Holy Country, and for centuries prospered. At first the occupation of Highwater caused consternation among the river peoples, but after wars and invasions proved their eternal cost the inevitable compromise was reached. The rulers of Highwater endorsed the river cult and the city became the unofficial capital of the region.The press of civilization moved downriver and wherever there was trade or worship there were small towns. Better places fostered larger populations, and the Seven Isles, at the Mouth of the Noshain, was in an excellent position.Seven Isles was puny by most city standards, but it was the largest city on the coast for many hundreds of kilometers. Its boats also ventured for short distances along the coast, and the residents made contact with newtling groups who lived even further away and who claimed to be in contact with the Deep Sea people, the Triolini.In 1580 a ship, propelled by sails, approached the Seven Isles from the sea. It was larger than any boat men knew, and everyone recognized the craft of a god. Some thought it was Diros arriving once again.It was not the god of boats but the god of ships. This was the craft of Dormal the Sailor, who brought new secrets and a cult to the city of Seven Isles. He offered to sell them the secrets, and a long period of peace, for great treasure and wealth. He received it, and kept his word, then recruited many young people and creatures for his crews and sailed off with two ships. Seven Isles quickly set up their religion, built a ship, and tested their faith.Dormal’s words were true. No black fog enveloped them, no mysterious force turned them about. More ships were built and a small flotilla sailed eastward along the coast, towards the direction Dormal came from. They found other small cities like their own, who were also building ships but were slower since they lacked the resources of the Seven Isles. The flotilla reached the Holy Country, where Dormal came from, and paid homage to the God-King and the High Priest of Dormal.Trade began, and was established with cities to the west as well. In 1583, an army from Ralios moved over the Elk Hills at the request of the Prince of Highwater, and landed into boats to sail south. The intent was to seize the Seven Isles and take control of all the resources of the Noshain. But there was quick resistance, and the invaders were destroyed. A Seven Isles force was sent northward and seized Highwater with aid from the citiens. The Malkion temple was razed and the ashes sent to the wind. An Orlanth Temple, with other shrines in it, was established.Seven Isles continued its growth, but its leaders did break away from Highwater. The distance was too great, and Seven Isles profited from the inland contact but was rightfully preoccupied with the seas. Highwater lost its importance as a stop along a profitable trade route and dwindled in size. Most people moved to Seven Isles, or more popularly called Handra, which welcomed them and their wares.When Sartar fell in 1602 many refugees moved south into the Holy Country, but for many there was no welcome for them there. Unrest grew, and many followed their instincts to Seven Isles. A considerable refugee population was established and many wandering exiles have found their way there.
So one thing you should be able to glean from this is that the Trader Princes are “a series of old chivalrous families” reinforced by bold adventurers set out from Ralios.
Now thinking about that whole scale thing, here’s something that was posted on BRP Central – it shows the coast of Maniria from Ramalia to the Holy Country, superimposed over real world areas (Aegean, Southeast US, Great Lakes).
So putting things in perspective, the Choralinthor is smaller than Lake Erie but bigger than the Marmara Sea.
So from Nochet you could see the towers of City of Wonders, if it wasn’t that Holy Island was in the way. Or from Karse, if it wasn’t that Sober Island is in the way. You can definitely see the City of Wonders from Seapolis and Rhigos.
It is about 72 km from Nochet to the City of Wonders, and only about 60 km from Karse to the City of Wonders.If I recall there is actually a dangerous festival-competition where athletes swim from Nochet to Holy Island (12 km distance).
SO in the Third Age you get a movement of mixed peoples from Esrolia and Heortland into Dragon Pass. As the Beasts already occupied Beast Valley, the settlers Esrolians ended up either going into the Dragonspine Hills (and being forced to submit to the rule of the Grazeland Pony Breeders) or went into valleys around the Quivin Mountains. So the Sartarites are likely a mix of Heartlanders with Esrolians.Because of the cataracts on the New River between the Runnel and Lysos Rivers, the Creek-Stream River is not as good a route as one might think. Beast People and trolls pose problems for caravans, which the route using the Sartarite roads avoids.
KETHAELA – THE SECOND AGEThe Shadowlands continued their political existence through the next five centuries as the world changed all about them. The Waertagi were driven from seas by the navies of the Jrusteli priest-magicians of the Middle Sea Empire. The Empire of the Wyrms Friends formed in Dragon Pass. Both of these organizations were co-existent with a philosophy of magico-religious scientism wherein bands of heroquesters consciously penetrated the Other Side to serve their own needs. In the Shadowlands these needs were filled sufficiently by the ways of Argan Argar whose Palace of Black Glass was ever open to those who dared to enter. In the Shadowlands, the ancient powers and heroes remained strong.Both the Jrusteli and the Empire of the Wyrms Friends sought to maintain a loyal power base in Kethaela. It is, after all, the crossroads of the continent, and though every power lusted for it and occasionally made a military or magical bid for it, none wished to close or ruin it.Thus the Shadowlands filled political, religious, and mythical needs, and remained intact.The hubris of the great experimental empires wreaked great destruction on the peoples of Kethaela. Scholarly Riots erupted frequently in Nochet, as followers of the Knowing God were outraged by the use the Jrusteli made of their knowledge. In 849, the Goddess Switch in Slontos caused widespread famine in Esrolia. In 907, the Two Year Winter brought snow to Caladraland and even the Islands. Ten years later, the Windless Typhoon devastated Esrolia and Caladraland (although Heortland was undamaged). During the disintegration of the great experimental empires, the Shadowlands grew stronger as the Only Old One played upon their weaknesses and needs. The Only Old One turned to destroy those foes who lived nearest to him. These were the cities of Jadnor and Lylket, both of which fell to local forces, and the Clanking City, source of so many legends.The Clanking City was built at the tip of the Left Arm Islands by the inheritors of Jrusteli knowledge and magic. There the residents put their minds and ideas together and discovered some wondrous properties. They built mechanical war machines and mass produced magical items of war. Around 907, they awakened Zistor the Machine God, a great mechanical being that could move about, think for itself, work magic, and even reproduce itself. All the ancient gods howled against this outrage and thus began the final downfall of the Jrusteli as all of their foes allied for this one purpose. Many peoples, human and otherwise, came to tear down the city, and for ten years the city successfully resisted all attacks. Its final destruction is the inspiration for epic literature.In 940, the Closing reached Kethaela and shut it off from the seas, ending the Jrusteli threat. In 1035, the Hendriki seized parts of Esrolia. Through cleverness, marriage, and conquest they took control of the coastal cities of Rhigos and Storos, but Nochet kept its independence. In 1042, the Empire of the Wyrms Friends destroyed itself. The Only Old One supported the remaining peoples and gave particular aid to the liberated Beast Peoples. He extended his protection far into the lands to the north and west as well. In 1050, Lodril erupted in rage and fury out of the Vent. The focus of his devastation was directed towards Slontos and the God Learners, whose lands sunk beneath the seas, but eruption shook all of Kethaela. Human life was nearly extinguished in Caladraland except for a few pious families who took shelter in the Solung Plateau. A ten-foot-tall wave of earth passed through Esrolia, knocking down almost everything, followed by a smaller ripple. The resulting ash cloud blotted out the Sun for the rest of the year and the subsequent famines brought all of southern Genertela low. Many humans fled to the land of Kethaela when the Invincible Golden Horde approached from the north after 1100. They found homes, but were never able to achieve political independence, and disappeared from history, absorbed into existing tribes. In 1120, the Invincible Golden Horde tried to destroy the ancestral nest eggs of the original dragonewts and triggered the Dragonkill War. The Dragonkill was named for what the monsters did, not what they received. Countless True Dragons flew to Dragon Pass and exterminated all human life in that ancient land. A line of stone crosses were raised by the dragonewts, to mark off where humans were forbidden to pass.
Now it is worth looking at Slontos at the same time:SECOND AGEThe Second Age began slowly through all the world, and little of great note occurred for many years. The Pralori lands grew more populous and there was great cooperation between them and the River Otters.The River Otters were an ancient and shy race which had heretofore preferred the sanctuary of isolation. As a people they were known, and many individuals had been noted in the previous Age. But they were badly hurt by the Gbaji Wars, for the otters were among the first peoples betrayed by the evil god and slated for destruction.The otters were friendly with the Pralori, and with them established a genial and informal network of communication in the fens and upon the rivers.The newtlings at this time dominated the coastal regions, the Mournsea Bay, and the river mouths. They were more friendly with the coastal peoples. The newtlings had a scattered population which was loosely organized under an ancestral theocrat.The coast regions past Pralorela were the first place to gain international interest. With newtling and Triolini aid they often attacked the coastal shipping which went past. This eventually angered the king of Seshnela whose tax revenues were being reduced. He sent a brother, an army, and a fleet to suppress the raiders. He did, and also established a naval base of his own. His name was Nelom, and he was the first of many people to bear the title of Prince of Slontos.Slontos was the name of this land given by the Seshnegi. The Seshnegi were part of the greatly expanding Jrusteli, or God Learner, Empire. They had great resources at their command and exploited them mercilessly. The aristocratic warriors of Slontos quickly captured most of the best lands in the Slontos peninsula and islands, and began planting colonies along the rich rivers of the region.There was much conflict between the Slontans and the Pralori. The Elk People and the Otter Folk were no match for the Slontan wizards though. The barbarians were driven back from the rivers. They often were ruled by the valley dwellers as well, and some discovered that it was better to live in peace with these rich owners of plenty than it was to fight and raid them. Many Pralori joined the forces of the invaders, and their cultures joined and blended.Slontos was eventually ruled by an Archduke whose powers were imperial in nature. His main occupation was to collect taxes, guard his shipping, and fight off the occasional raider who had not accepted the Jrusteli way of life.The Archduke kept reasonably good relations with the Only Old One of the Shadowlands. This ancient demigod ruled a nation of trolls and others and made his land a dark and superstitious place, jealously guarding the divine wonders beyond their border. There were certainly wars, some even terrible, but no Jrusteli even managed to conquer the trolls who could simply run away, deep in impenetrable holes, where they would await their allies from Dragon Pass. These allies, members of the Empire of the Wyrms Friends, rode upon dream dragons and brought dragonewts and Beast Men. These creatures, once allies of the god Gbaji, were more than the Jrusteli dared to conquer, and so the Empire of the Wyrms Friends maintained an uneasy peace with the Jrusteli Empire. Their major difference was that one was sea-based, the other land-based, and so the worst confrontations of colliding cultures was avoided.The Jrusteli did establish some colonies in the fringes of the Shdaowlands. Jadnor, Lylket, and Zistorwal were the best known.The people who moved up the Noshain River were called the Thomali. Thomal was an old leader whose people ruled the regions south of the Noshain, and whose people carried their traditions northward into the valley and befriended some of the peoples. The northernmost region of their lands was called the North March where it bordered the Pralori lands, but the Pralori and natives called it Thomali.The rulers here were generally worshipers of the god Malkion, the presiding deity of the Jrusteli beliefs. They exploited the many resources they found, often using novel methods which they learned from some faraway land. In Thomali the rulers became experts at draining the marsh with dykes and canals, exposing huge expanses of rich land for farming. Thomali was a rich and expansive place in those days. The major drawback for the Pralori was that the Jrusteli of Thomali far preferred their old newtling allies over the otters, who were forced further and further upriver for refuge.The fault of the Jrusteli Empire lay in its lack of respect for the world and for the elder powers. They defeated them in magical and physical battles, then thought they could bend and contain those primeval forces as desired. They tried to do so, but the ancient gods bent only so far before snapping back with a crushing blow wherever they were blocked.The sea creatures were the most hurt by the Jrusteli a few centuries earlier, and they were among the most crushing in vengeance. They enlisted or tricked the aid of Zzabur, the god of sorcerers, who in turn cheated them of their desires for his own ends. Before the wizard’s curse struck them, though, the sea people had done their work.The places which supplied most harm or insult to their foes were struck the worst. This included all the major naval centers in the west of Genertela. Among them were the Seshnela peninsula, Jrustela, and the Slontos peninsulas. In each case and unyielding force of demigods sailed ashore and caused immense energies to be freed which shook these lands, toppling cities and slaying many thousands. They produced great rituals which summoned hidden powers of the deep. Tidal waves paved the land, sea and windstorms pound the coasts, volcanoes erupted and showered the land with fire and ash, and finally the Earth Mother herself groaned and turned over. Sramak, the sea, cheered and rushed in to cover her. The land sank, waters rushed in, and another civilization was lost at the bottom of the Mournsea. The mouth of the Noshain River was moved another hundred kilometers inland.The wizard Zzabur closed the oceans to all surface trade. This wreaked the Slontos economy long before they were ruined by war and magical catastrophe. The Archduchy was broken by internal dissent. Thomali, sensing the disaster brought on by their rulers, rebelled to establish themselves apart from the destruction to come. Instead of the gods delivering their works, the humans did it. The leaders were killed, their city ruined. Without central organization, the canal and dykes fell into disrepair, and the fertile expanses of exposed marshland was once again claimed by the spirits of the marsh.The disaster which sunk Slontos devastated the peoples of Pralorela as well. Many refugees crowded the small towns and villages seeking aid. Other inland tribes, including the normally quiescent elves of Tarnin’s Forest, grabbed the opportunity to plunder their traditional enemies.The end of the Second Age found Pralorela once again in the state in started in. A fear of the ocean was upon the people now too, for it had once been a couple of hundred kilometers away but was now upon their doorstep.
So if you remember my comment on Jadnor and the Volior River, that ends up being roughly the border between the Middle Sea Empire and the Empire of the Wyrms Friends. Called Kotor, this area is alternatively a battleground and an exchange of ideas and goods. It plays an important role in the transmission of the Monomyth between the Jrusteli and the Empire of the Wyrms Friends.
I suggest you keep an eye on that area was Kotor in the Second Age as it becomes the Solanthi and Ditali lands in the Third.
As an additional aside, remember that EVERY HUMAN that resided in Dragon Pass in 1120 is gone by the end that year. There are no human tribes in Dragon Pass that have an unbroken history to before the Dragonkill. There are a few temples that claim to have been active during that time (Shaker’s Temple, Puppeteer Troupe) and their claims are likely true, but it could also mean that their members were not human at that time.So if you are living in Sartar in the Third Age, you are not likely the descendants of Ogarvaltes or Ulanin or whoever. Any more than modern Poles are the descendants of the Vandals.
Are the River Otters large intelligent otters or Hsunchen? Large intelligent otters.
Miskos was abandoned after the Vent erupted. Even though most of the ash went westward towards Slontos, there was still a tsunami that hit Miskos hard. It was abandoned and Backford founded.
HISTORY OF KETHAELA – THE FIRST AGEKethaela is an ancient name for the region now called the Holy Country. The land was named for the goddess Ketha, the wife of Entru and mother of Entruli, who came from this region but left for the West. There are many myths of this area and its creation. These myths include the making of the Mirrorsea, Ezel, the Footprint, the Stormwalk Mountain, the Palace of Black Glass, the Shadow Plateau, the Vent, and many other minor places.The history of the region boasts a period between the Unity Battle and the Dawn called the Silver Age to mark its increasing splendor. Under the guidance of the Only Old One, the many races and tribes of Kethaela and Dragon Pass formed a council to speak to each other and work out the problems of their mutual defense. This was the Unity Council, or, as it is sometimes known, the World Council of Friends. At the Dawn, the peoples of the Unity Council spread throughout the world bringing the news of the Lightbringers to people still in hiding. At first even the Elder Races cooperated with each other, as they had in the Unity Battle, but eventually the unity weakened.The dwarves of Gemborg were the first group to dissent. Their leader, Martaler of the Blazing Forge, and the Only Old One fought hand to hand, and the Only Old One proved he was no troll, for iron did not burn him. But the Mostali master still rebelled, and his human followers used volcanic powers from their area to drive off troll armies in 123.Despite such occasional setbacks, the Dawn Council sent many missionaries and peoples out into the world to free them from the fear and ignorance which spread everywhere during the Darkness. Parties from Kethaela set off westwards into the lands of the Entruli and the Pralori with mixed success. These people were famed for their hatred and violence. It was only when King Lalmor set off with his tribe, the Vathmai, and reached Slontos in 115 that the Lightbringers were firmly entrenched into the culture of the region.In the First Age, Kethaela was commonly known as the Shadowlands. The Only Old One preferred to surround himself with trolls, who loved him most dearly. To outsiders, trolls seemed to rule this land. Merchants rarely penetrated inland past the coastal cities of Nochet and Karse, and Goldentongue merchants spun haunting tales of wild Dragon Pass, deeper in the mountains. In the contemporary maps made by sea-goers, all the areas beyond Dragon Pass were labelled “Krjalki,” a Western word meaning “chaos monster” or “demon.” The map makers never visited there, but heard only stories of Lightbringers who hated the distant Pelorians.The Shadowlands were a brooding and menacing entity for peoples who sailed past this coast. The trolls treated fairly with any ambassadors who came to them, but official policy was to defend the region against the forces which might come from the south. The trolls had no delusions about being able to expand into the lands of Slontos, while the humans there had no grandiose or foolish ideas about moving against a land ruled by trolls where the light did not work right and whose humans claimed a friendship with the dragons that lived in the north.The Waertagi were the common boat people on the sea, and found eager allies in the Mirrorsea. The Triolini there preferred their watery cousins (the Waertagi) to the Only Old One, a male demi-god who was a son of Argan Argar. The Only Old One thereby lost a valuable subject but gained a loyal ally. The Waertagi asked to set up some trading ports in the area which were graciously allowed.The island peoples thrived tending to the coastal commerce of the region. They never developed any major cities of their own but instead had a loose confederation of islanders who elected an annual Son of Choralinthor who dealt with the shipping authorities in Slontos for tribute and hiring.When the High Council of the Lands of Genertela sought to create a new god, the trolls and Heortling tribes left, resulting in the Broken Council. The Only Old One remained loyal to the trolls, and armies from Kethaela were among those which opposed Gbaji and were defeated at the Battle of Night and Day in 379. Kethaela was conquered by the Broken Council’s forces and placed under the rule of Palangio the Iron Vrok, a cruel warrior backed up by terrible magic. Despite great efforts, Palangio never succeeded in destroying the Only Old One and his Palace of Black Glass. Though there were some bandit groups, such as the Hendriki, who evaded capture, the rule of Palangio was largely complete and peaceable. Great caravans and armies marched from Kethaela to bring the bright word of Chaos to Slontos and beyond. In Dragon Pass, Harmast Barefoot gathered allies and, in 420, became the first mortal to follow in Orlanth’s path and travel the Lightbringers’ Quest. The strength of the Iron Vrok weakened in 432 when distant Slontos fell to the approaching army of Arkat Chaosfoe. The Waertagi had been raiding sporadically throughout the period, but now the raids were bolder and came more often.When Arkat and his main army arrived in 433 to liberate Kethaela, he was opposed by a great force, though less than Palangio had hoped. Many of his subjects stayed away, such as the volcano priests of Caladraland; or were occupied by other foes such as the Hendriki in the Storm Hills, the Slontos army to the west, or the trolls who seemed to be everywhere. Arkat’s landing was successful, the dwarfs retreated to Gemborg, and Palangio was forced north toward Dragon Pass.Arkat the Heroquester had taken great pains to make his landing successful. He mastered the art of heroquester and demonstrated his great courage by undertaking the tasks again and again. He often visited the Other Side to speak to or return with the spirits and heroes of old. In Kethaela, for example, he summoned forth King Heort, Vogarth Strong Man, and Tessele the True, all Silver Age heroes who had vanished from life centuries ago.By heroquesting, Arkat assured himself of superior knowledge, surprise, and regenerative strength for each step of his increasingly difficult campaign. To enter Dragon Pass, he mustered ancient allies of his Unbreakable Sword, and later he called forth all the troll heroes he could remember. With an army of Orlanthi and trolls, Arkat crossed the Dragonspine in 437 and continued his war into Peloria.Arkat was no conqueror and tried to leave behind a stable government everywhere he went to ensure continued cooperation in his war against Chaos. The Only Old One was reinstated as ruler of his land and it was again called the Shadowlands.
Vogarth was the Strong Man. He was huge, strong, and generally kind, but noted for his dull mind as well as his great power. He was the strongest man in the world.He did many great deeds. The Strong Man was always ready to engage in challenges of strength. A huge stone giant once came and threatened the Only Old One, who called for Vogarth’s help. He came running and cracked the stone giant with his hammer and saved the Only Old One. He threw a dragonship onto the Palace of Black Glass, and the trolls ate the Waertagi. Another time he challenged Jeri Babo, called the Immovable Person, and pushed him off his chosen place. Another time, he carried the wondrous Living Stone Tree from the Footprint to Queen Merngala’s palace. She took him as her husband for while, and had him build the walls around her city.
In modern Esrolia, his is a cult of oiled and perfumed bodybuilders, who work out in the buff in the plazas of every Esrolian cities. Pumping Bronze!
Now something that always gets overlooked is the importance of Slontos in early Kethaelan history. From something I have posted elsewhere:At the Dawn the Elk People, the children of Pralor, were the residents here. Their population was thin at first, but the relative ease of the Dawn Age allowed for population expansion in all directions. Clans and families migrated in all directions until they came into conflict with neighboring peoples.The traditional foes lived to the south and were called the Entruli. These were a branch of the Mraloti, or boar-folk, who had survived the Darkness in relative strength and delivered their civilization to their cousins after the sun rose. Thus, the Entruli ruled all of the peoples to the south.The Entruli valued their civilization highly and looked with contempt on their neighbors. They coveted the lands inland from their civilization, and were happy to combat the Elk People for it. The Pralori, in their turn, were glad to gain the wealth of civilization through plunder rather than work. Thus, the region quickly reverted to the combats and troubles off the Darkness, as if nothing had changed since the Gods War.In the year 97, the Entruli did what the Pralori could never do. Their ruler broke an ancient taboo which angered the gods. A great flood came rushing upon the land, drowning everything in its way and destroying the land. Only the capital, Porluftha, escaped because a Kolat clung madly to the buildings and held firm as the water washed over him. The city and its ancient inhabitants were preserved in a great air bubble undersea, lost to the outside world, undiscovered for many years.Without their traditional dynasty, the Entruli treated each other like foes. The Pralori plundered often, the Entruli destroyed each other’s strongholds, and it seemed as if a powerful Elk person would become leader here easily.Instead, there came a leader who was related to the old Entruli dynasty. He and his tribe came from the Shadowlands, where the Only Old One ruled over a nation of trolls and subject populations. A time had come when the Only Old One offered many of his subjects their freedom if they left his lands, or else commanded them to accept his rule.The leader was named Lalmor, and his tribe were the Vathmai. He united the Entruli, helped them rebuild their strongholds, and led them to a great victory in driving off the Pralori. He arrived in 115, was finished with his victories by 122, and died in 138.King Lalmor’s arrival was more than simply a unification of the Entruli peoples. He brought a new religion with him, and he was also aided by many inhuman peoples. Lalmor came from Dragon Pass, where the Unity Council had been formed and where they worshiped the world-saving Lightbringers. Lalmor brought worship of Orlanth and his pantheon. With these new cults he was clearly ascendant.When the Lightbringer missionaries left the coastal Entruli lands and moved to enlighten the Pralori they were, in general, well received. The Pralori recognized the superiority of the new gods over their own animistic spirits. It did not unify the tribe, not did it split it.The Lightbringers faith did not ensure the unity of the Entruli. After the death of Lalmor in 122 the Entruli heirs divided his lands into several kingdoms. Some were coastal and thrived upon the increasing sea-trade borne by the ship-living Waertagi race which ruled the surface waters. Some were buffer states between the coastal cities and the inland barbarians. Others were barbarian kingdoms living in woods and plains.The Entruli and Pralori mixed in many places, blurring their original tribes and creating peoples who did not worship the animal gods Entru or Mralota or Pralor. These nations took the names of their kingdoms, such as the Ramalians and Wenelians and Manirians. In Pralorela the people continued to be called that ancient name through the whole period.The Pralori first contacted the cult of Nysalor when missionaries from the north brought word and gifts of their new god. Like many places in the world, Pralorela was being swept by an awful plague which devastated the people. The Nysalor missionaries could heal it, and they could also cure many other ills. The Pralori were quick to adapt to the cult, and its subsidiary gods.The Nysalorean Pralori united under the religion, and they also chose to worship the gods who were friendly to Nysalor. Thus, the cult of Yelm gained an ascendancy among the Pralori which it had not enjoyed before. Some allies, most adventurous mercenaries, were gained from norther peoples from Ralios. The Yelmite Pralori attacked the southern kingdoms, and there began another long and terrible war. Some of the Vathmai nations also embraced Nysalor, and the Pralori claim that these southerners were the first to use the Dark Side of their god to gain their own ends. This is discounted by most scholars, but it is certain that this whole region was embroiled in an increasingly difficult and vile war. One instance is recorded of a Nysalorean army meeting a Gbaji army on the field, and in the fight everyone was killed except the priests of both cults.Pralori armies aided Tanisor, a leading nation of Ralios, when they fought against Arkat, an enemy invader from a distant land. The Pralori army, like so many others, was crushed.Eventually the forces of Gbaji the Deceiver gained the upper hand. Many Chaos creatures, especially the vile broos, were increasing in the land. People seeking a decent way of life were driven to a smaller and smaller region. Kaxtorplose, the sacred city of the demigod Kaxtor, was one of the last places which remained untainted by Chaos as the wars raged. Thus Ralios fell to the cleansing armies of Arkat but the Pralori and Entruli were all but devoured.Arkat’s cleansing scourge went far and wide. He arrived in Pralorela by land and sea, in Waertagi ships carrying Seshnegi and Brithini troops, and in great columns of Lightbringer barbarians from Ralios who follow the Unbreakable Sword. They concentrated on relieving Kaxtorplose, and then on liberating the centers of coastal population. Some Pralori, huddled among the refugees of Kaxtorplose, agreed to help convert their people away from the evil god. They were aided by the remnants of the coastal population in this. Their main gods were the Lightbringers, who refused all contact with the gods of Light and of Chaos, and also the religion of Malkion in its Brithini and Seshnegi form.The cleansing of Pralorela was never as complete as anyone wished. When Arkat slew Gbaji in 450 and ended the cosmic battle, this land was still plagued. The natives did their best, but the broos could always find refuge in the marshes, and the natives were never dominant enough to force a final solution. The region became popular for all peoples seeking Chaos to destroy, and who had the time and courage to search the treacherous marsh. Many Pralori were proud to be among those hunters over the generations, and they were also experts at marsh survival and so gained great local fame and riches.The end of the First Age saw the region little-changed from the Dawn. The people were slightly more educated in the ways of the cosmos and new gods were worshiped. They owned some manufactured goods, plundered from the coast and handed down over the generations, but they had no great cities of their own, nor any inspired leaders to lift them from their squalor. But the people were not unhappy, and lived good lives when they were not harassed by enemies.
This is a fascinating map that shows how interconnected those areas were. Caladraland extended to the Pelushi Volcano and served as a buffer between Wenelia and Esrolia. “Haraldland” is now the Old Woods and Longsiland, and Kotorsland is what is now the Ditali and Thomble.A Lightbringers dynasty ruled in Herolal and Wenelia, originally from the Unity Council lands.
But you can see how closely Esrolia and Caladraland are linked to this.
Now pay attention to Jadnor and the Volior River – this ends up being an important cultural mixing zone for the next thousand years.
Now Herolal gets conquered by the Broken Council around 401, and Maniria by 413. These campaigns were, I believe, spearheaded by Palangio the Iron Vrok. A crazy period when Dara Happan mystics commanded armies with Storm cultists, dragonewt mercenaries, iron dwarfs, and elf bowmen.
This was all part of the research Greg did into his Harmast story. Greg ended up writing more about the First Age than he did about the Third.
And one last snippet for you all:THE HOLY COUNTRYBelintar was a human being who swam ashore from the deadly sea at the Rightarm Island of Sandpaper one bright morning in the year 1313. He had great bearing and power, and quickly proved he was no mere pauper washed ashore. He undertook great trials and travels, and he made important friends quickly. His origins have remained unknown, though all hell knows that the Only Old One tried.Belintar revealed that he had come to depose the Only Old One and liberate the land from darkness. He did this through the process of mustering ancient allies on Heroquests and opposing the magical forces which aided the Only Old One. Belintar called forth many of the Silver age heroes, plus others of a more recent or different origin. The process was long and difficult. At one point, Belintar was slain and completely devoured. But in the end, he succeeded. He met the Only Old One himself in combat and cast him down and cut him into pieces. Then he pulverized the Palace of Black Glass, covering all the Shadow Plateau with dense, heavy black sand which smothers most life. He made other changes in the land too: raising Loon Island and creating the City of Wonders in the center of the Mirrorsea; digging the New River to divert the Creek-Stream River to flow into the Lyksos River past Nochet, among others. He then took the title of God-King and began his rule.The ascension of the God-King in 1318 also marks the beginning use of the term Holy Country to describe this land. Belintar first used it in his proclamation of rule and the tribes all about echoed it, for the land was kept holy by the rites arranged by the God-King. It prospered internally and cowed all who might think to invade it. It sent messengers and merchants outward to the west, through Nimistor to Ralios and beyond.The Holy Country contained many old secrets which people sought. The investigations of the Jrusteli and the Empire of the Wyrms Friends had unleashed terrible powers which changed the face of the world. Heroquesting had explored and released many ancient things which were blamed for the terrible state of life in the Third Age. Thus, most people shied from investigation and heroquesting. Yet such forces cannot be suppressed by official decree nor unnatural fear once they are remembered, and folk across the continent again used them, carefully.In contrast, Belintar encouraged exploration of the mythic paths that tied the Holy Country together. Belintar himself explored the Other Side many times and each time proved himself worthy of ruling over a part of the population. He divided the Holy Country into six sections – one dedicated to each of the five Elemental Runes, plus one for the Invisible God of the humanist sorcerers. None were equal in either size or splendor, yet each of them were filled with miraculous holy places whose names are known throughout the speaking worlds. They were:Caladraland, the Sixth of Fire;Esrolia, the Sixth of Earth;Heortland, the Sixth of Air;Right Arm Islands, the Sixth of Water;Shadow Plateau, the Sixth of Darkness; andLeft Arm Islands (usually called God Forgot), the Sixth of the Invisible God.At the center of it all was Belintar and his magical palace at the City of Wonders. From here, he arranged the rituals and ceremonies that tied the Sixths together and blessed the whole land.The extensive cross-cult communication and interaction under Belintar’s patronage resulted in a mythical synthesis that defined the elemental progression as a continuous cycle rather than as a mere set of oppositional conflict. Belintar’s elemental synthesis enabled the six parts of the Holy Country to work together – not only politically and militarily, but magically and mythologically. Under his enlightened rule, the gods of the Holy Country cooperated for the maintenance of the individual, the Holy Country, and the cosmos. The Holy Country became a land of myth and wonder, where the myriads of religious rites brought the gods down weekly, and where magical roads crossed land, sea, and air.In 1336, Belintar “used up” his body the first time and the first of the Tournament of the Masters of Luck and Death was held, which resulted in his divine soul blessing a new body. The Tournament of the Masters of Luck and Death was part of Belintar’s elemental synthesis. It recharged and made necessary changes to the magical pathways that united the Holy Country’s mythological landscape.
The story of Belintar is of course woven together with the Mythos that I previously posted.
Some of you might find this interesting – it is a common version of the myth cycle told in the Holy Country. You might consider this the Esrolian version of the monomyth.MYTHOSIn the earliest remembered stories this land was simply part of the Earth at the base of the Spike, where dwelt the Celestial Court and the Elder Gods. When the Gata warmed with life, it was Esrola who occupied this rich and fertile soil. Gata gave birth here to twin daughters, Asrelia and Ty Kora Tek, who dwelt deep within the Earth. Gata gave the sacred and beloved Earth to Asrelia, and Ty Kora Tek went even deeper down until she came to the Underworld.Asrelia had many lovers, and with Lodril had twin daughters, Maran Gor and Ernalda. When Ernalda came of age, Asrelia gave the sacred Earth to her. Ernalda lived here and the land north of the Spike became known as Ernaldela. Ernalda’s beauty and bounty brought life to the land, she was the Earth Mother and Source of Life. Many suitors vied for Ernalda’s favors and she gave them freely. With Flamal she conceived Aldrya the Forest Goddess. With Hykim the Father of Beasts, she conceived Eiritha the Herd Mother. With other husbands and magical activities, Ernalda was responsible for most of the life on Earth. Among her favorites were the serpents that wound around her and whispered secrets to her.The Celestial Court handed rulership of the cosmos to Yelm the Sun. Ernalda was taken away by Yelm, but she was freed by the storm god Orlanth, who killed Yelm and began the Gods War. Orlanth later became Ernalda’s husband and King of the Gods. Orlanth was violent and unruly, but always a good partner and lover to Ernalda. Whenever Orlanth could not protect or provide for her, Ernalda took husbands that could.The Blue Dragon traversed Ernaldela, and a grand forest of Yellow Elves sprang across her land. Later, the Ocean of Terror sent his destroying son, the Raging Sea, the cover Ernaldela with his waters. Esrola was flooded by the slaying waters, but not before she had met one of the sea gods, named Faralinthor, in love. Together, they conceived a child whom they called Choralinthor.Orlanth defeated the Blue Dragon and the Raging Sea, and then the Storm King slew Faralinthor. The place where he struck them dried up and was covered with a great plain of salt. It is still visible under the water. The arms of the goddess and her husband are still visible as the marshy archipelagos which reach out to the sea.Orlanth appointed his son Vingkot to rule the peoples of Ernaldela. The barbaric splendor of the Vingkotlings defined the era known as the Lesser Darkness. The Vingkotlings fought many wars and founded many kingdoms. The royal line of the Vingkotlings, called the Kodigvari, settled at what is now Nochet. They invited many deities to live there, and built fine homes for Chalana Arroy, Issaries, and Lhankor Mhy, and many other deities. When the Great Darkness came and the world became untenable, Ernalda went to sleep within the Earth. Even in sleep, Ernalda mothered Babeester Gor, the terrible guardian of the Earth. Orlanth sought to fix the harm he had caused by starting the Gods War and departed on his Lightbringers Quest. The Vingkotlings tore themselves apart in a series of feuds that culminated in the Last Royal Betrayal, where the royal house of the Vingkotlings were all slain by Chaos. After the Last Royal Betrayal, the widows seized power for their own protection and founded the Queendom of Esrolia. When Darkness overpowered the world, the legions of Night came to surround the Spike. Argan Argar himself set up camp atop Esrola and the goddess went to him to plead mercy. Argan Argar told her to stand proud, for he would rather have her friendship than her fear. He became her lover, and their child was the Only Old One, who was made king of the land.Lodril was a spiteful and powerful god, and he attacked this place of darkness, but he was captured and subdued by Argan Argar and bound into servitude by that god of night. Lodril was forced to build the great Palace of Black Glass, wherein lived the Only Old One and his minions. It was a huge metropolis with tall slender spirals rising over spiked turrets of sharp obsidian. Its basement reached the Underworld and its tallest tower reached to the sky’s zenith until it was broken by the Sun at the Dawn.Another event which shaped the land occurred when the Storm Bull wrestled with a mountain god, twisted him into a corkscrew shape, and stuck him into the ground. This was the origin of ice-covered Stormwalk Mountain, where the sky bull herds are kept by Baskelos and Heort once took refuge.When Chaos came into the world, Larnste the Mover saw a squirming thing twisting its way through the land. He tried to stamp it out, making a great dent in the earth. The impact of his stamp raised the Storm Mountains, yet he did not kill the Chaos thing. Instead it bit and wounded Larnste. Poisoned ichor dripped to the earth and left oozing sores hurting all life within it. Larnste howled and limped off.A god looked down and saw the writhing horror, and he took Lodril’s Spear and struck it. The spear drove the monster deep into the earth where Lodril was freed from the spear and fought it. In exultant victory, Lodril burst forth again from the Vent, spreading molten earth and rocks all about and raising a huge pall of ash which poisoned the air. From within Larnste’s Footprint grew a foul mass of Chaos, slowly seeping and filling the deep print with vile horrors. Orlanth bent his attention toward the Footprint and blew the ash and rock down upon the evil mass. It had no effect on those places already polluted, but it covered all the living woods and creatures with ash. The god then used powerful magic to turn them all to stone. Thus, the Footprint now has a terrible Chaos nest at one end, but its spread is halted by the fossilized forest formed by Lodril and Orlanth. When the hordes of Chaos swept over the world during the Darkness, many gods fought back. The Only Old One was one, and he sheltered many who would obey him within his Palace of Black Glass. He founded the Council of Friends which fought the Unity Battle and defeated Chaos.
When did they stop calling it Ernaldela? It would appear that Esrolia became the preferred name under the Shadowlands. Esrola was the Only Old One’s mother after all. So I suspect at the Dawn, it was called Ernaldela or Esrola, but in the Second Age Esrolia is what it would be called “in Time” and Ernaldela in “God Time”.
MERNGALA THE GREAT QUEEN
Greatest queen of Esrolia, Queen Merngala was the daughter of Esrola. She wielded awesome Earth powers, gained when her goddess mother retired to the Land of Sleep. Her main residence was a palace on Lake Bakan where her army guarded the bodies of the dead. The site is now simply called Necropolis. With the Dawn, Merngala invited the Lightbringers back to Nochet. Merngala was a mighty priestess with many husbands and is the model all Esrolian queens are compared to. Some husbands were rivals for her at times, even murdering each other as Heort did to Panaxles, or were boon companions, as were Aram ya-Udram and Vathmai Entrulsson. Even the Only Old One was her husband. She had Panaxles and the Strong Man build the great walls around Nochet and invited the Waetagi to set up piers for the dragonships. Merngala had Sestarto decorate the city and temples with countless sculptures inhabited by the gods. She allied with King Heort but did not join his kingdom. Merngala is worshiped as the founder goddess of Nochet.
PANAXLES THE ARCHITECT
Panaxles was descended from the Stone-souled builders and was thus related to the dwarfs. His mothers were the Tilntae so prevalent and important in the early ages of the world. Panaxles lived atop the slopes of the Spike before the Great Darkness. When the Spike was destroyed by Chaos, Panaxles managed to land in the place known as the Broken Arms. He was captured by trolls, and made for them the Shadow Plateau to protect the Palace of Black Glass as a fortress against Chaos. The Only Old One set Panaxles free and he wandered throughout Kethaela during the Silver Age. Panaxles was the great builder of the period. He built the oldest sections of the temple at Ezel; the walls of Nochet; the palace of Queen Merngala; Whitewall; and many other famous buildings. Panaxles became a rival of King Heort over the affections of Queen Merngala, and built for her the great sewers that drain the city of Nochet. It is said that King Heort met Panaxles upon the day the sewers were completed and the first waters rushed through it. Panaxles mentioned his contentment with his creation; Heort agreed, yet added, “It is a shame it is so ugly.” Thus, began one of the most famous feuds of the Silver Age.
From the great Loïc Muzy I present to you the goddess Deezola! She gets a full long-form writeup in the Cults Book and I suspect she will be a popular cult!
I also very much love Hon-eel. And Glamour. And the Red Goddess of course. Irrippi Ontor is kind of weasel though. Just warning you!
The Runes of Deezola are Moon, Earth, and Fertility. She is associated with the Dying Moon.
The Seven Mothers need several gods to hold their Life Magic, which is one of the three main Runes of the collective cult. Death, Moon, and Life, after all. Harmony isn’t Deezola’s responsibility – that is Danfive Xaron!
Danfive heals your soul of criminality.
Not all Harmony deities are “healers”.
So you might be wondering what is with all these posts referring to White Bear & Red Moon?1. WBRM is the foundation for RuneQuest. It underpins what we are presenting in the new RuneQuest line and is key to understanding the Hero Wars. More than any single reference source, this is the one that lets you understand the inspiration behind the setting – and gives you a fell for the dynamics of what is coming.2. We are relaunching the game this year. Susan O’Brien and I have been working hard on giving WBRM the same sort of visual, graphic, and clarity upgrades that Galeforce Five recently gave the classic Dune boardgame.
As I work on the RQ Campaign book, the connection between it and WBRM becomes ever stronger.
WB&RM originally designated its counters with the runes we all know from RQ instead of the usual military iconography. Looking for a unique name for the RPG, and not wanting Greg’s work on the runes to go to waste, I cobbled runes together with heroic quests to get RuneQuest. You’re welcome.Steve Perrin, March 2021
Still pretty much the case, 45 years later!
THE RED EMPEROR
The Red Emperor was one in a long line of wizard kings, responsible only to their mother, the goddess of the Red Moon. The emperors were immortal in that no natural death could claim them, though they could be slain in combat. Because the dynasty was fanatical and warlike, many Moonsons descended to rule. They appeared identical, and each maintained the policies of his predecessors, so that it seemed that one man ruled for centuries.
The Hero Wars are traditionally said to have begun in 1625 with the Dragonrise and to have ended in 1655, and is said to have lasted thirty years. For comparison, the Grand Pendragon Campaign (from when Arthur pulls the sword from the stone to the final battle at Camlann) is from 510 to 565. Another good source of comparison – Alexander became king in 336 BC, died in 323 BC, and his dynasty eliminated in 309 BC.
The Hero Wars are long enough that folk fighting in the final battle might have been born during it – but short enough that folk who fought in the first battle might fight in the last.
Just as a soldier who might have fought at Chaeronea in 338, where Alexander’s dreams began, might have fought at the Battle of Ipsus in 301, where they all ended.
And so our adventurers, who might have fought their first battle at Auroch Hills, Pennel Ford or Dangerford, could possibly be alive to fight the Last Battle, in a world that is almost unrecognisable from its start, in part because of their deeds.
The Pendragon Campaign is just a bit too long for folk present at the start to be expected to be there at the end (they’d be 70 or 80 years old, which is very tough in Pendragon!). But the Hero Wars, it is perfectly possible for your 21 year adventurer of 1625 to be a powerful 51 year old in 1655.Although being dead is more likely.
I’ve posted earlier versions of this before, but I think this might be interesting to some. This is the edited and revised overview of the Sartar Army for the forthcoming reprint of White Bear & Red Moon.
THE SARTAR ARMY
During the Hero Wars period the army of Sartar underwent many changes. The general evolution of inexperienced tribal militia to veterans to exhausted and semi-rebellious mercenaries was probably inevitable. But the power and charisma of the prince kept him supplied with armies and warriors to fight his long war with Lunar Empire.Argrath began assembling his army soon after he was driven from his home on Starfire Ridge when he took refuge among the nomads of Prax. Most tribes there had strict laws and customs restricting any foreigner from holding a position of authority or power, but there were several secret societies whose membership crossed all social or political boundaries. Incredibly, Argrath worked his way to supremacy among three of them. These units, the Twin Spears, Sword-brothers, and Bullocks, formed the kernel of his Free Army. After he received the gift of the Dragon’s Teeth, Argrath returned to Dragon Pass.The native Sartar tribal militia and the first initial units of the Sartar Free Army and the Sartar Magical Union, reinforced by Praxian nomads and some Holy Country volunteers, carried the weight of the early fighting. Argrath’s successes and personal achievements led his people to become a unified and armed state at the pinnacle of their rush to power. During this time many local peoples were allied to him as well, like the Grazelanders and the Tarsh Exiles. As the lengthy war began to wear even upon the magically supported morale of the native populace, Prince Argrath was able to almost release them from their military responsibilities to him, letting them return to their homes and lands. Naturally, they continued to muster to the defense of their lands, but the brunt of the fighting even then was carried by the volunteers. The Sartar Free Army and Magical Union grew in importance. Militia units on campaign were paid as if mercenaries.The voluntary recruits for Prince Argrath’s army were remarkable even in their own time. Sir Ethilrist, who had seen many unique sights during his centuries of mercenary existence, observed, “The charisma and personal power of the Sartar Prince are incredible, excelling even my own during the flush of my youthful career.”These volunteers can be divided into two types. First, those who joined the permanent standing units assigned to the Sartar Prince’s command, such as the Antlercast or Eaglebrown. The other type are whole armies or units which came to Dragon Pass from all across the world. These include Gold Gotti, Tosti Runefriend, and so on.Collective, Argrath’s army formed a motley conglomeration, with many varying factors that defy a neat and easy organization, This is typical of the ever-present frontier spirit, and in it lies the basic strength and weakness of the entire army.
SARTAR TROOP TYPES
At the time of the Lunar Occupation, the Sartarite army was primarily foot. Since the return of Argrath, not yet Prince, to the hills of Sartar, the decisive arm of his army has been cavalry, not footmen. Ancient documents, from before the Lunar invasion, made great importance of Sartar’s shining ranks of spearmen, but the traditions which Argrath resurrected did not include footmen.The reasons for this are several:
1. The existing warrior structure of Sartar had evolved to become rich, mounted noblemen (called “thanes”) leading armed mobs of freemen;
2. Dragon Pass, and especially the traditional friendship between the House of Sartar and the Grazelanders, was rich in horses;
3. Argrath’s own life and training was among the animal-riding nomads of Prax (except for the three years he spent as a Wolf Pirate) and he made brilliant use of the cavalry at his disposal (however, Argrath’s generalship always made excellent use of the forces he had at hand, even second rate infantry);
4. The magical powers which Argrath summoned to his aid were closely bound with wild rampages and shock tactics. However, despite his decided bias for cavalry as the decisive arm, Argrath was not ignorant of the value of a solid infantry center. Whenever he did need infantry for some specific campaign, he hired mercenaries from the Sun Dome Temples, the Holy Country, Dragonewts, or his own tribesmen. Sieges were usually left to specialists which were organized and led by the famous engineer, Haraspac, rumored to be of dwarf blood.Argrath’s friendship with the dragonewts extended to wyrms and even dream dragons. Such draconic allies were increasingly common in his later campaigns.
SARTAR CITY MILITIA
When Argrath returned to Dragon Pass in 1627, Lunar influence was at a low, still recovering from the Dragonrise and having twice failed to reconquer Sartar. No puppet ruler sat in Boldhome. Instead, thieving regiments of tax collectors roamed at will, terrorizing the people and disrupting their efforts to organize. With a brilliant raid, Argrath succeeded in rallying enough support to drive the enemy out, and then turned to invade Lunar Tarsh. He raised the banner of Sartar, and re-established trade lines between Prax and the Holy Country. The tribes were organized into economic co-operative ventures, centered on the cities. Their troops formed the “militia” of the Sartar Army.
SARTAR FREE ARMY
The Free Army was gradually collected. It was made of up bandits and exiles, like the Thieves Arm and the Freedmen, or volunteers from elsewhere, like the Pavis Royal Guard and Gold-Gotti, a Wolf Pirate. Large clans, like Two-Ridge Farm or Colymar, or special organizations native to Sartar, like the Bush Children, were excluded from the militia and worked with the Free Army.Though Sartar had little in the way of arms manufacture, they traded wisely for bronze and good weapons. Their constant warfare also gained considerable booty from the better-equipped Lunar Army, so that many among them wore bronze breast-plates and greave. Also the constant fighting had brough about the evolution of some units which were regularly outfitted and trained. The success of Argrath’s army partially lay in its ability to imitate Lunar strengths, although these traditions were molded by the barbaric local flavor. Some of the regiments of his home army gained an independent status, so that the Twin Ridge warriors, once a band of tribesmen under a local chieftain, was later an all-volunteer unit of men from all across the world.
SARTAR MAGICAL UNION
The Sartar Magical Union was an extraordinary innovation of Argrath’s, first appearing at the Battle of Sword Hill in 1627, although its antecedents can be seen as early as the Battle of Pennel Ford in 1624. While the Lunar Schools are trained together and have comparable magical power, the mounted battalions that Argrath organized are a dizzying array of bush priests, Earth witches, twisted warlocks, wandering mystics, crazed holy men, and various masters of talismanic devices. Yet Argrath melded them together by creating new secret societies; it is a compliment to his skills that he put together such diverse and often hostile individuals to make compact and effective fighting units. This high understanding of magical principles should have been far beyond Argrath’s skill and experience.The more powerful magicians were relatives or incarnations of the Storm God, who heads the local pantheon.
The Barbarian Horde was made up of clans who owed Argrath loyalty, a debt, or were lured by the hope of Lunar plunder. Any reason easily excited them to battle, and when war gathered in Dragon Pass they mustered at the fringes awaiting opportunity or duty.
In many RQ campaigns, these are your adventurers. A given year your adventurers might have their own adventure, a battle or two, some community activity, and even a hero quest, as Argrath encourages would-be heroes to seek mythical powers for use against the Lunar Empire.In short, the Sartar of RQG has a very different pace and is a very different society from what is described in the KoDP computer game.
I dislike the Oriflam counters and am not going in that style. As I have William Church’s original pieces (including his variant pieces), we will work off them.
I greatly prefer William Church’s more ambiguous pieces to Oriflam’s Romans, Gauls, and Plains Indians. They are more player useful, less derivative, and a big part of the magic of the setting. So not surprisingly, they are what I will be working off.
Admittedly, some of them definitely did not hit the mark – like the Lunar mages. Or Gunda.
Here is a good idea what an officer of one of the city militia regiments of the Native Tarsh Corps would look like:
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- 2021-04 RuneQuest on Facebook April Highlights
- 2021-05 RuneQuest on Facebook May Highlights
- 2021-06 RuneQuest on Facebook June Highlights
- 2021-07 RuneQuest on Facebook July Highlights