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 Horse Rider and the Goddess
A common motif in parts of Western Sartar (particularly around Runegate and Chormsland) is the Horse Rider and the Goddess. Most stories associate them with King Yarandros or Derik Pol-Joni and Sorana Tor or Kero Fin, or else with the Feathered Horse Queen and one of her suitor-husbands (Sartar or Tarkalor most commonly), although many of these images likely predate the Dragonkill War. The Yelmalio cultists claim that this represents Yelmalio and Ernalda (or sometimes another goddess). Many correct interpretations are possible, as this motif exists on many mythic substrata.
Those who perform the Dragon of Thunder Hills scenario in the GM Pack might make other associations as well, and might end up with a new motif, perhaps more like:
A mistake that often happens is that people assume that there is a single correct interpretation of a mythic motif (and that usually whichever came first chronologically – which is obvious nonsense when dealing with the God Time) – but these symbols can be placed next to many others and still have power.
When I was in Sofia a few years back, I bought an icon with this motif. It was labeled as St. George and the Dragon, but I could see past the label and saw the Horseman and the Dragon.
And I gave it a different name – Yelmalio fighting the Dragon. And thus drew magical inspiration from it.But of course it is also St. George and the Dragon.
At some point old arrangements lose their power and the new arrangement becomes the default. So happened with our Thracian Horseman – he became St George and retained his power and perhaps gained even more. Same thing happened about four generations ago with Elmal. The old trappings failed but he gained new power as Yelmalio.
Myth is not disguised history
Myth in Glorantha (and dare I say in our world itself) is not disguised history. Rather it is a way of understanding how the archetypes and symbols of meaning fit together into a greater whole. The Runes, the Twins, Ouroborous, the Rival Brothers, the Mother and Child, and other archetypes are combined together in stories and make patterns, some eternal, some subject to change or reinterpretation.
One can learn and study myths but as their sources arise beneath the rational the best is to experience them yourself and assembly these symbols personally.
Magic in RuneQuest
In this video, Jeff explains the differences between the main types of magic that exist in the Gloranthan setting.
The Thunder Brothers
These are a collective of storm gods, numbered anywhere from a dozen to several score, who are sons (and at least one daughter) of Orlanth. They are worshipped as part of the Orlanth cult and not typically individually (although there are exceptions).
A good real world comparison is the Maruts who follow Indra and serve as his followers and companions. Socially they are a model for the companions of the Prince, to whom their deeds are often attributed.
The Bad Rain
In the Lightbringers Quest, the Bad Rain is summoned by all the participants in order to transform the ceremony into a heroquest.The Bad Rain is the Shadow of Orlanth – the brooding, repressed darkness within Orlanth such as kinstrife, murder, and wanton destruction – and terrible consequences of Orlanth’s deeds. Orlanth conquered the world, but in doing so he let Darkness and Chaos into the world. As the Greater Darkness approaches, Orlanth broods and the Bad Rain comes.In many stories this is linked with the emergence of trolls in the Middle World. When Harmast summoned the Bad Rains in 424, it was easy because “every rain we made was a Bad Rain then.” Angorsk Ig, a son of the Only Old One, was summoned, along with the “red trolls, the ones that came with heat” (Zorak Zoran cultists).The Bad Rain and its monsters attack the ceremony, and it is not uncommon for participants to be killed. Harmast himself killed Angorsk Ig with the Manthi Flints by accident, out of desperation.When Kallyr began her Lightbringers Quest, she also summoned the Bad Rain, which made manifest all of her subconscious fears and guilt. Many were killed, but the Bad Rain was driven off, and the ritual became a heroquest.
This recognition of the Shadow is key to the Orlanth cults heroquesting and a source of power. This approach was rejected by the Fire/Sky cults until the Red Goddess herself embraced her Shadow as part of her Goddess Quest.
Which ironically means that in many ways the Lunar religion is closer to the Orlanthi than they are to the Fire/Sky cults they grew out of and still dominate.
They’re both “Middle Air” religions aren’t they? You are missing the point. It is not Middle Air but about voluntarily confronting your Shadow.
Is the Bad Rain like a non-chaotic Ragnaglar? Ragnaglar is another. The Bad Rain is Orlanth’s Shadow. And differs depending on who is summoning it.It is perhaps more correct that Ragnaglar is Storm Bull’s Shadow. Storm Bull and Ragnaglar are locked in conflict far more than Orlanth is.
Is Urain is a Chaos personification of the Bad Rain? Urain is not a chaos deity. it was made a Chaos deity as a result of something slipped in a text by someone. Greg’s notes and explanation of what Urain was and served as makes it pretty clear he is not Chaotic.
Is the Shadow is different than the Invisible? as in Xentha is the Invisible of Yelm? The Shadow is a Jungian concept. It represents the repressed unconscious of the person. All the things feared, resented, etc.As the Sun, Yelm cannot see his Shadow until he is extinguished and sent to the Underworld.
Kallyr’s guilts, failures, and fears were great as well and she found it easy to summon the Bad Rain. Her fears of what she was bringing into the world – Darkness, Disorder, and Chaos – were made manifest and needed to be beat off at great price.Two decades later Argrath barely had to twitch to summon the Bad Rain and his heroquest took him deeper than the Underworld.The Orlanthi often say that a hero is made out of their failures, guilt, and fears. Without those, there is nothing to overcome and thus no hero.
This is a key to Greg’s storytelling. His protagonists – Harmast, Argrath, Arkat, the Red Goddess, Sartar, Tarkalor, etc., – all had failures, fears, and regrets that they needed to confront in order to be a hero. And that unconscious Shadow did not cease to exist as a result of the experience, but the hero could coexist with it and was no longer in danger of being destroyed by their own Shadow.In some cases, like Arkat, the confrontation with the Shadow was quite literal – Arkat embraced his own Shadow and became a troll in order to defeat Nysalor.
And we can also see this same thing with Greg’s take on Arthur.
So the question that should be on the mind is what was Kallyr’s Shadow – the embodiment of the Darkness that she has brought, her fears, her failures, and her regrets.
Argrath was able to embrace contradictions – his draconic consciousness is proof of that. Kallyr was literal and unwavering – perhaps that explains her Pole Star connection – which might not be the best approach to take when following in the footsteps of a creative destroyer like Orlanth.
Heortland in the Third Age
This is a series of maps Greg and I drew some years ago to visualize the changes in Heortland from the arrival of Belintar to the present day. One thing that is clear from this series of maps is that Volsaxar and Vandarland are going to have lots of ties and influences to Sartar. Marriages, shared cult, language, and culture, and trade are going to mean that the people of northern Heortland are virtually indistinguishable from Sartarites.And yet, Belintar is the beloved God-King here because he brought the God Realm into proximity of the mundane world. Heortland is part of the Holy Country, while Sartar is carved out of the wilderness.At the southern tip of Heortland, we have the Aeolians of Esvular, who are clearly influenced by both the Orlanthi and the Malkioni of God Forgot.Meanwhile in central Heortland many customs such as a mounted elite warriors that are selected from aristocratic families and their status approved in assemblies, are clearly influenced by the Malkioni, while at the same time the culture is very similarly to the Sartarites. These mounted elite warriors supported Rikard the Tiger-Hearted’s short lived kingdom (1618-1620) and now many serve as mercenaries.
So as of late 1625 Heortland is a mess. The Volsaxi and Hendriki are leaderless and look increasingly to the new Prince of Sartar for direction. Gardufar (the former Malkonwal) is leaderless and dealing with Chaotic outbreaks from the Print. And most of the Aeolians are now loosely organised as the Bandori centered on Refuge.
Following the sacking of the City of Wonders, the Wolf Pirates add to the disorder, with many raids plundering whatever they feel like.
Whenever we think about Heortland it is important to always remember how closely linked it is to Sartar by kinship, language, cult, and trade.
Heortland is the term used to describe the Sixth of the Holy Country that includes the lands between the Shadow Plateau and the Storm Mountains and between the Crossline to the Leftarm Islands. It is a geographic and sometimes administrative label.The Hendriki were a tribal group powerful in the Second and early Third Age.
The Hendriki are a tribe or group of tribes (that changes over the centuries) that date to the late First Age/early Second Age. Whitewall was an important magical centre for them. After nearly 900 years they had accumulated much magical power and traditions of independence but were defeated and their magic broken by Belintar. Their symbols of power were hidden behind guardians, etc.The Volsaxi are a tribal group around Whitewall. They formed during a rebellion (Orlanthi do that a lot) but were eventually defeated by the Kitori. The Kitori were defeated by Tarkalor and his Yelmalion allies and the Volsaxi reformed.
After Belintar disappeared, the king of the Volsaxi was able to regain the symbols of the Hendriki and proclaimed himself the king of that ancient group.About the same time a Seshnegi adventurer proclaimed himself the king of Malkonwal in central and southern Heortland. Think of this as the sort of stuff that happens when an old polity disintegrates (Spanish Americas after 1808, Austra-Hungary in 1918, Soviet Union in 1991, Yugoslavia 1992, etc).
Honor and Combat
Here’s a little snippet from the forthcoming Cults Book (more good news on that soon) that might be of interest:
Humakt demands that Death be wielded with honor and his cult upholds the code of honor in combat and war. This code is strictly adhered to by Humakti, but also generally followed by other honorable war gods such as Orlanth, Polaris, Yanafal Tarnils, Yelm, Yelmalio, and Yelorna.
Honorable combat is not fought for gain or selfish reasons. Although Humakti often serve as mercenaries for pay, that payment is not supposed to be dependent on the outcome of the battle.
The buildup and formation of battle lines is done with the full knowledge of the other side and no surprise attacks are made. In battle, two warriors may duel or engage in prolonged personal combat. Both combatants must be armed and may use Rune or spirit magic, allied and other spirits, elementals, etc. Groups of warriors may fight approximately equal numbers of foes. However, multiple warriors or magicians must not gang up on a single warrior.
A warrior who surrenders becomes a prisoner of his capture and is under their protection. At the same time, a surrendered warrior must not flee his captor until ransomed or released.Honor also dictates how warriors were to deal with noncombatants.
No one should attack an enemy who has temporarily lost or dropped their weapon. The lives of noncombatants, prisoners of war, and farmers are also sacred. Pillaging the land is forbidden. Failure to follow the rules of honor can trigger a test of a combatant’s Honor Passion or even result in immediate reduction to that Passion (as per RUNEQUEST, page 234). Failure to act honorably may also result in a visit from the Spirit of Retribution of the offender’s cult.
Despite all of the above, Glorantha songs and stories are filled with examples of where a hero chose to act less than honorably where some other Passion (Loyalty, Love, Hate, etc.) dictates behavior instead of honor. Such conflicts are at the root of many a tragic hero.
The rules of honor do not apply to animals, monsters, undead things unless they are capable of communicating or otherwise demonstrating that they do follow the rules of honor.
So you can ignore the edits against pillaging your foes, turn up with an army 8x the size, kill them all, and then execute anyone who survived and criticises your lack of honour! This usually means you need to go without your most useful war gods (Orlanth, Humakt, and Yelmalio). But if you want an all Storm Bull and Zoran Zoran force, go for it. Which is ultimately what Arkat went for when he invaded Dorastor.
I’m not 100% convinced Orlanth is more effective as a War God than ZZ or SB. You’ve never seen what massed thunderbolts can do to an army, or what wind warp can do to missile weapons.
Massed thunderbolts? Is this before SB and ZZ cast shield and then berserk? that’s 5 points of Rune magic, as opposed to 3 points for Thunderbolt. Or for 5 points, we can hit three people with Thunderbolt spells that blow past the Shields. Given that there are more than 35,000 Orlanth and 5000 Humakt initiates in Sartar, and maybe 3000 Zorak Zoran initiates in Dagori Inkarth, I can tell you what I put my money on.
The Crimson Bat is not honourable. YT makes exceptions where the Red Emperor commands. Most Lunars would agree that the Crimson Bat is not only dishonourable but evil. But it is much better that the Crimson Bat is subject to the Red Emperor’s command and fed on the bodies and souls of our enemies than used against us!
Like all Passions, most people are not fanatics about Honor and can make pragmatic compromises. But if your Honor passion starts getting in the 80%+ range, then you are a fanatic. So that Sword Lord with a 90% Honor is going to tell you that an ambush is not proper and he won’t participate in it. And those Humakti are going to say that civilians are outside the scope of combat and are not going to be harmed or else. Same with people who surrender.And most Orlanthi are going to agree with the Humakti in principle, but they still might decide that ambushing those Lunars is worth a little dishonour.
For many war leaders, having access to Humakt cult warriors is worth obeying the Rules of Honorable Combat.
The Lightbringers Religion
In the First Age, the Lightbringers Religion spread from its homeland in Dragon Pass across much of Genertela. These areas are where the Seven Lightbringers and their associates (Ernalda, Storm Bull, Mastakos, etc.) and friends (Humakt) are best known and recognized. In Prax, the Lightbringers entered in the first century of the First Age. In the later Second Age, many Praxians fled to the Wastes where Waha, Eiritha, and Storm Bull proved most useful. In most of these areas the Lightbringer deities have more or less the same names, although they often have local titles and variants. Nonetheless, an Orlanth worshiper from Sartar will be able recognize and participate in worship in Ralios or Fronela. Indeed, some of the most important historical developments of these cults occurred outside of the core homeland and were only later embraced in Dragon Pass (e.g. Orlanth Rex).
So what kind of early religions did the Lightbringers cult(s) displace? Whatever got the handful of survivors through the Great Darkness. Few of those spirits or minor gods provided much that was useful with the Dawn. The Theyalans brought social organisation, communication with outsiders, written records, agriculture and pastoralism, healing, and more. It is no wonder that the religion spread quickly across the Dawn Age landscape.
Would a Praxian Lodrili Man-and-a-half recognise and be able to participate in the ritual ceremonies practiced by the Lunar Lodrili in the Grantlands?
Yes, if they ever got to that point. But the Men-and-a-Half and the Pelorian Lodrilli first would have to engage in sufficient communication and trust to share magical secrets and then recognize the commonalities.The Dawn Lightbringers had people who specialized in doing just that, and had great experience in recognising shared symbols and communicating that with them. The Theyalan Missionaries were probably the most skilled and successful missionaries in Gloranthan history (more than even the God Learners or the Lunars).
So the Theylan missionaries were the hunting and waltzing bands? that’s the EWF version of the same.
The Theyalan missionaries are why sixteen centuries after the Dawn, you can call on “Orlanth” by more or less the same name from Junora to the Elder Wilds.
Does this means that the knowledge of pre-Dawn magical geography in places converted to the Lighbringers was lost or deformed in some way? Not really. Most mortals survived the Greater Darkness by holding onto a very few tricks or being aided by a helpful spirit or god (Yelmalio shows up a lot there). The Lightbringers didn’t contradict that experience, but showed people how they were part of a bigger whole (think I Fought, We Won). Your truth remains true, but it is now part of a much bigger story. And this process continued into the Broken Council and the Gbaji Wars.
Is the Lightbringers Religion something people worship, like the Seven Mothers? A collection of gods worshiped as a unit, rather than individually? Lightbringers Religion is that whole pantheon of gods and goddesses around Orlanth, his associates, and friends.
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