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
The cult of Eurmal the Trickster is surprisingly important in Sartar. The Orlanthi hold that clowns and tricksters are essential in contact with the sacred. Laughter and humor are a part of every ceremony, even the most serious, because laughter opens and frees one from rigid preconception. Tricksters are needed in the most sacred ceremonies because the sacred comes through upset, reversal, and surprise. Orlanthi gods and heroes can be foolish in one tale and wise in the next, helpful and then villains.This may be tough to grasp with our Western ethics and morality, but the Orlanthi are perhaps more open to life’s multiplicity and paradoxes than we are. The sacred is both wondrous and terrible, and heroes like Arkat and Argrath represent both.
The Trickster as a cultural hero runs deep with the Orlanthi. Not just Eurmal, but Orlanth, Humakt, and all the Lightbringers have a touch of the Trickster. And that is perfectly accepted by the Orlanthi and held as an important part of their religious life. I think this gets easily missed by us Westerners who are often clueless to the nature of the sacred.
A social oddity and convenience for the Orlanthi, Clowns are Tricksters and, as such, can get away with almost any social disruption and trouble because of the useful functions they provide through showing what is serious, absurd, baffling, or wrong, fearful or comical about life and the cosmos. The Orlanthi recognize this as powerful magic that both disrupts and helps to maintain the cosmos.Another function of the Clown is that of public scapegoat, for whenever there is some official cause to find a person at fault the Clowns are the ones chosen. They may be outlawed, driven out of town, or (rarely) killed.Until they are used as scapegoats, Clowns can violate sacred laws freely while they carry out their ritual roles. However, Clowns are required to dress in special costume to enjoy this protection. Some initiates paint their body with black and white stripes, cover themselves with mud or filth, wear false phalluses, or simply wear their clothing backwards and inside out.Clowns sometimes appear—usually without invitation—at the ceremonies of other Orlanthi cults and mock them along with other attendees. At other public ceremonies, clowns may dance out of step, sing out of tune, and imitate cult and other societal leaders. They beg food, throw food away, or are gluttons. They even use magical regalia in inappropriate ways, engage in foolish, silly, or even obscene side-shows, often with respected members of the community.
Eurmal is outside of all social conventions, including gender. Tricksters are known to deliberately defy and even mock such conventions – even in the most sacred rituals!
Gorangian Bronzeguts the chief librarian of the Jonstown Knowledge Temple by the amazing Anna Orlova! One thing I love about this is that Gorangian is not a particular heroic figure, but is an example of an important member of Sartarite society who is not part of the martial aristocracy or the Earth temples. Not only that, Gorangian is originally from Esrolia – an example of the ties between Sartar and that ancient Queendom.
Scribes are, of course, an important part of Sartarite society, and many served the Princes of Sartar.
This is tied into Sartar’s position as a center of trade. The wealth generated by trade supports scribes in each of the cities (with the most being in Boldhome). This in turn means that there are scribes recording poems, histories, myths, mathematics, philosophy, wisdom literature, drama, and even prose fiction! There are nearly 1500 Lhankor Mhy initiates in Sartar (400 in Boldhome alone!), which means there is likely an impressive output of writing in Sartar.So I can completely imagine a Sartarite Herodotus who has traveled from Boldhome to Glamour, spent years in the Holy Country and Handra, and perhaps even sailed to Seshnela, Teshnos, or Jrustela, and is now composing their Histories. In fact, this would make a GREAT Lhankor Mhy character!
How many LM initiates would you expect the average rural clan to have? not many – I expect most people who want to be scribes go to the cities, where they have the temples, libraries, patrons, etc. Which is totally normal – just look at many Greek scholars who originally came from rural Greece, but ended up in Athens, Alexandria, Pergamon, etc.
So when you all imagine Sartar, remember also that this is also a kingdom of scribes, of texts, and of libraries. Nochet may have the equivalent of the Library of Alexandria, but Sartar then is Pergamon, with its great collection of texts and manuscripts.
The core of the Lightbringers Religion
Dragon Pass and the Holy Country are the core of the Lightbringers Religion. Now people always grasp that includes Orlanth and Ernalda, but do not underestimate the societal importance of Chalana Arroy, Eurmal, Issaries, and Lhankor Mhy. These six cults are the foundation of Orlanthi society and religion. Between two-thirds and three-fourths of all adults are initiated into at least one of these cults. In rural areas, Orlanth and Ernalda overwhelmingly predominate, but in the cities, there are nearly as many initiates of Chalana Arroy, Eurmal, Issaries, and Lhankor Mhy collectively as there are Orlanth and Ernalda.
people sometimes forget that Orlanth is also one of the Lightbringers – and that the Orlanthi religion includes the whole group at the centre. It is like someone focussing solely on Zeus and Hera, and forgetting about Dionysus, Apollo, Artemis, Athena, Hades, Poseidon, Demeter, Hesta, Aphrodite, and Hermes.
The Orlanthi are polytheistic, not henotheistic.
The Culbrea are an example of a Sartarite tribe under considerable distress as a result of the Lunar Occupation and Rebellion. There are four “stable” clans – the Elk, Jotaring (aka Two Pine), Lorthing, and Mathiording clans. They have an average population of around 750 each, with the Lorthing being the largest clan.Then there are five clans that have an average of 300 members each – too few to be a stable organisation. They are hunters, raiding bands, or religious orders more than stable social groups. They include the Barlamani, Blue Spruce, Orlamani, Owl, and Red Vireo Clans, and most are little more than a leader, his entourage, and their followers and supporters. For example, the Blue Spruce are the entourage of Elmalandti the Priest and household, while the Barlamani clan are now little more than the household warriors of King Ranulf. Unless things change dramatically, in the next few years I expect that at least two or three of these small clans to either disband or merge into other clans in order to survive.
I am very tempted to center my next RQ campaign on one of these “distressed” clans.
The Blue Spruce would be fun. A clan that has taken over one of the Principality’s defensive towers (Jarolar Keep) during the Rebellion, and are locked in conflict with the Telmori Tribe. Plus they have the best Christmas Trees in Sartar!
The distressed clans occupy contested or marginal lands
- Barlamani – Elendra’s Graze
- Blue Spruce – around Jarolar Keep (which they occupy)
- Orlamanni – between Hill of Orlanth Victorious
- FingerOwl – along the Owl Flight Crest
- Red Vireo – along the Old Saint’s Road
Glamour, not the Tripolis, is the cultural, religious, and political center of the Lunar Empire. Now over four hundred years old, it was founded by a polyglot group of devotees of the Lunar Way and ruled by Moonson, even during that brief time that a Yelmic emperor ruled in allied Raibanth. Moonson then became co-emperor and then sole emperor – think Nerva and Trajan. Imagine it now like Antioch on the Orontes (founded by Seleucus) during the Roman Empire, or Baghdad under the Seljuks.Furthest in many ways is the city most like Glamour. It was founded as a Lunar city about the same time as Boldhome was made Sartar’s city. It is was settled by folk from the Lunar Heartlands who followed Hon-eel to Dragon Pass. Furthest is not a Tarshite city so much as a Lunar city, and it operates somewhat outside the network of clans and traditional kinship groups that characterize most Orlanthi cities (although it has those too). A good real world point of comparison is Alexandria Eschate – aka “Alexandria the Furthest”. Between Furthest and Glamour are the Dara Happan Tripolis (well, two of the three – Alkoth and Raibanth), the beautiful artistic center that is Jillaro-on-the-Green with its Daughter’s Roads, and Saird. Mirin’s Cross by all accounts a city of administrative rather culture importance – like Mediolanum or Nicomedia under Diocletian.
Map of Antioch:https://img1.wsimg.com/isteam/ip/7c6f1586-73a8-4690-b246-321b19fabb51/antioch1.jpg/:/cr=t:14.93%25,l:14.93%25,w:70.15%25,h:70.15%25/rs=w:1280?fbclid=IwAR3NRtk7ISiw-CxebICyhRwLsdYo_LD0fsv7HXRjUa08Ligcb2KOJrfBAqM
Was it inevitable that the Lunar Empire would come into a death lock with the Orlanthi of Dragon Pass? Many historians think not – and until the Sixth Wane, many would assume that a renewed threat from the Pentan tribes would have been the greater concern for the Red Emperor. But after the Nights of Horror that threat was ended. There simply were no Pentans left – or at least too few to worry about. For the next century, the Lunar Empire was able to put the traditional Pelorian fear of nomadic nations aside and went adventuring. Unfortunately, those adventures started awakening more dangerous adversaries right about the time that the Pentans had recovered their numbers and their fears had finally dissipated. (See that use of the past tense?)
The Lunars and Chaos
The Red Goddess – a normally benevolent goddess, who freed Peloria from Carmanian bondage and liberated their minds from fear and hate – is a Chaos deity. She has the Runes of Moon, Chaos, and Life. This paradox is a source of her power, but also the source of the unwavering antagonism with the Storm Gods (Orlanth, Storm Bull, Humakt, and even the more peaceable Lightbringers) and their cults. It is also the source of her antagonism with the cults of Darkness (Kyger Litor, Zorak Zoran especially). The mastery of the Crimson Bat is a constant reminder of this connection.The Seven Mothers are NOT tainted by Chaos, but they helped bring her into existence. They aid the Red Goddess by wielding powers she lacks, and being able to interact with powers that reject her.Most Lunars believed that the Red Goddess shall free the world from bondage and liberate the minds and souls of all. This is her promise and much of the appeal of the Lunar Religion even in places like Sartar.Most Orlanthi believed the Red Goddess is one of the Lords of Terror, Gbaji reborn, and the harbinger of a new Gods War. This is why she is hated and feared and even rival gods are willing to cooperate against her.Both view points are likely true. Once the Lunar Way came into direct conflict with the Orlanthi, perhaps the Hero Wars were inevitable.
What drives the conflict is that the Red Goddess embraces Chaos and Orlanth rejects it. The Red Goddess is a Greater Goddess created within Time and Orlanth is pledged to the Cosmic Compromise. The Red Goddess is the daughter of Yelm (in some form or another) and her son is heir to his Empire. thus inheriting the ancient conflicts between Dara Happa and the World Council of Friends (repeated with the EWF and Dara Happa/Carmania).
My point is the origin of the cosmic conflict between Air and Moon is older and deeper than Justice or empire. It is seeded in the Gods War and it’s resolution, in the nature of the cosmos.
Themes In The Hero Wars
Several themes permeate this epic. You should not state these openly. They are long-term, ongoing challenges to the adventurers as they work their way through the end times of their world. They should be revealed through events, not didactic lectures or moralizing.
THIS IS YOUR LIFE
Early events in the campaign need to establish the everyday reality of the adventurers’ lives. Events are important at the personal and local level. Through play you should establish cultural norms, personal priorities, family and group relationships, friends and enemies, short- and long-term goals and otherworld connections. Rather than reward the adventurers with easily fungible coins, give them land and herds, rights and responsibilities. Ground them in the material reality of the setting, even as the campaign enters into mythic realms and magical conflict.Always play the campaign from these perspectives. Keep the players focused on their characters’ priorities.It is from this personal level that the campaign will take its epic scope.
THE OLD WORLD IS OVER
The adventurers live in a realm that is rapidly changing. It begins small and gets larger by degrees. The adventurers are concerned with their personal priorities first, and then these may work with or conflict with their social group. Then these may work with or against their social priorities; then their cultural norms; then their cosmic realities.As more time passes each of these levels of truth may come into conflict. And in fact, old priorities will change.
THINGS ARE NOT WHAT THEY SEEM
The Hero Wars initially appears to be a simple conflict between the expansionist Lunar Empire and traditional Orlanthi in Sartar. Such initial understandings are deceptive – the Hero Wars are a many-faceted conflict between the gods and Chaos, between two antagonists who are their respective Shadows, between the Elder Races and humanity, and a renewal of the ancient wars between Nysalor-Gbaji and Arkat. Sworn enemies will find themselves fighting side-by-side against former friends. Long-held sacred truths will be exposed to be untrue, and new truths unveiled.This complexity might only reveal itself after many sessions of play.
CONFLICT REVERBS ON MANY LEVELS
In Glorantha, the maxim “as above, so below” applies to most things. This is shorthand to explain the interaction between the gods and individual people. Everyone in Glorantha has associations which cause influence between the individual and the gods and these influences are always acting. The Glorantha Runes are one way of understanding this maxim. Thus, a feud between two tribes may echo ancient conflicts between gods, and peace between individuals may require re-enacting an ancient myth. Similarly, conflicts between communities may parallel and embody the larger conflicts of the Hero Wars.
YOU MAY BECOME YOUR WORST ENEMY
Each of us have our own “shadow” – that unconscious part of ourselves that remains with us although we consciously reject it. In Glorantha, this is cosmically true as well. In the Hero Wars, characters may find themselves embracing their shadows in order to survive; some heroquests, most notably the Lightbringers Quest, requires the participants to do so.During the course of the campaign, traditionalist Orlanthi may find themselves accepting Illumination and working with Lunar deities, and devout Lunars may find themselves working with rebel Orlanthi to destroy the Red Moon itself.
Any starting date works. 1621 is no better for that than 1625 or 1635.
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